Escravos Pay Dispute: Chevron Absolves Army Of Assault on Protesters
Says operation was a rescue mission American oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited, operator of Escravos Gas-To-Liquids (EGTL), may have absolved the Nigerian Army from the offensive unleashed on its Escravos facility in Warri South West Local Government Area of Delta State.
Chevron management said the army was deployed to free some of its contract workers who were allegedly locked down by their protesting counterparts.
Chevron's General Manager, Policy, Government & Public Affairs, Deji Haastrup, who stated this, said over 1000 junior contract workers of the establishment were allegedly locked down for five days against their will by protesting community workers.
In a statement obtained by THEWILL on Sunday, Haastrup said the Federal Government military Joint Task Force(JTF) in the Niger Delta was deployed to rescue the workers who were confined for days by the protesters.
The protesters who were mainly Nigerian community workers engaged by local contractors had grounded activities at the Chevron EGTL's facility, protesting unpaid salaries, allowances and pay-offs.
The community workers had accused Chevron's contracting firms working on the project of flouting industrial laws, as well as short-changing them in their salaries, pay-offs and other allowances.
Chevron management,which didn't address the cause of the protest,however said it will continue to advocate respect for the rule of law and the use of constructive dialogue in the resolution of all issues.
Chevron claimed that the protesters in the process of driving home their grievances had allegedly held hostage over 1,000 other junior contract staff in the facility.
This, it was gathered, prompted the oil giant to resort to military might to dislodge the protesters who had defied entreaties by the Delta State Government through its commissioner for oil and gas, Mofe Pirah, to call off the protest.
The soldiers attached to JTF in Warri, in a bid to dislodge the protesters and purportedly freed the locked down workers, had disrupted the tranquility in Ugborodo and Escravos both located in Warri South West Local Government Area.
Residents in Escravos had expressed fears and panic all through the night on Saturday following the alleged military incursion.
The soldiers allegedly forced themselves into the community, cutting the barbwire fence of the camp to gain access to the yard where hundreds of the junior workers including those protesting live.
This led to a serious commotion in Escravos on Saturday, as soldiers were alleged to have released cannisters of tear gas into the yard while they shot into the air in a bid to dislodge the protest.
It was learnt that the army had earlier warned the protesters to vacate the premises before 7am on Saturday, threatening that anyone found thereafter would face severe consequences.
Only about 500 of the community workers were said to have escaped the onslaught, as those caught at the deadline were tied and beaten by the men of the JTF before being forced out, a source said.
But Chevron management said the operation was a rescue mission.
The statement confirming the operation by Chevron's spokesperson, Haastrup, said; "Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), operator of the NNPC/Chevron Joint Venture, confirms that more than 1,000 junior contract workers locked down over the past five days in our Escravos Gas-To-Liquids (EGTL) camp have been freed.
"The workers had been held against their will by some protesting community workers employed by local community contractors.
"The Federal Government's security apparatus, the Joint Task Force (JTF) successfully set the workers free on Saturday February 15, 2014.
All the workers are safe and on their way home.
'We are happy that this has been finally brought to a peaceful conclusion.
"Many of the workers are now either back in Warri, Delta State or en-route to Warri to re-unite with their families.
"CNL has notified their employers of the successful rescue of their workers.
The Delta State Government and community leaders have all been continuously briefed throughout the duration of the lock down.
"CNL reiterates its commitment to treating all its contractors fairly.
We will continue to advocate respect for the Rule of Law and the use of constructive dialogue in the resolution of all issues.
"The safety of our employees and contractors remain our first priority in all our operations.
" Meanwhile, tension is mounting in the Delta waterways as indications emerged that the protesting workers who are mainly from the construction workforce integrated into the Project Maintenance Team (PMT) whose contract is expected to terminate shortly, will not be allowed access to the Chevron EGTL's facility.
Sources said with the Saturday incident, the over 2,000 community workers may have automatically lost their job and other entitlements after they were forced out of the facility in Escravos.
One of the protesters who gave a graphic details of their working condition contrary to claims that they are well paid said, 'We are supposed to be working two weeks in, two weeks out.
We suffer welfare.
We are aware each meal we are given cost N4,500, but we are fed and treated like slaves in our own country.
'But the foreigners enjoy exclusive welfare and attention, receiving millions in salaries while we who are exposed to extreme conditions and hazards have nothing to show for our efforts.