President Muhammedu Buhari and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa showered praises on the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), assuring labour leaders of freedom of association.
They urged them to embrace dialogue rather than confrontation in resolving industrial disputes.
Speaking on Thursday in Abuja at the 40th anniversary celebration of NUPENG which has the theme “Nigeria Oil & Gas Workers; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” President Buhari who was the Special Guest of Honour, noted that his administration believed in constitutionality especially as it related to Section 40 of the Constitution which he said allowed freedom of association.
The President, represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, lauded NUPENG for its contributions to the growth of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria and the actualisation of June 12 mandate commending Trade Unions for their role in the defence of democracy.
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He assured that the Petroleum Industry Bill before the National Assembly would be given speedy consideration once the National Assembly passed it.
Governor Okowa noted that labour leaders had achieved more using dialogue rather than confrontations in addressing issues.
He stressed: “I believe that the best unionists are those who learn to engage in dialogue and to that extent I must appreciate all the unions in Delta State for partnering with us through dialogue to help us derive peace and consolidate on the gains that have been made by previous administrations in our dear state.”
“Unionism is good and it is something that must be encouraged as a nation and in the various industries because without unions there will be chaos in work places. NUPENG is strong in pushing for the welfare of her members but we must have it in mind that as a union we have a lot of roles to play in the affairs of the nation whenever we gather to discuss,” the governor added.
While congratulating NUPENG on its 40th anniversary celebrations, Governor Okowa commended the organisation for its maturity in handling labour issues.
He stated: “NUPENG has been a very reasonable union in the course of administering her members in this nation because there are some people, when they do realise that they are a very important organisation as a union they can use it very wrongly to hold the nation to ransom but that has not been the drive of NUPENG and we thank God for that. That is why unions must partner with those in government in Nigeria in the interest of our nation.”
Chairman of the occasion, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in his welcome address lauded NUPENG for her role in the development of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria and urged NUPENG to address image challenges facing the union as most Nigerians see the union as a very powerful union that could hold the whole nation to a standstill over industrial strikes.
He recalled NUPENG’s contribution to fighting for the growth of democracy in Nigeria, adding that the sustenance of Nigeria economy depended largely on NUPENG’s contributions to the growth of the oil sector which remains largely the country’s source of revenue.
Ealier President of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha said the union had contributed immensely not only to the growth of the economy but in the enthronement of peace and development of the Nigeria’s democratic experience in the last four decades.
Meanwhile, Okowa has bagged NUPENG’s Award for Peace in recognition of his contributions to peaceful oil and gas exploration in the Niger Delta region.
Governor Okowa who was conferred with the award in Abuja during the 40th anniversary celebration of the union appreciated the labour unions, security agencies, traditional rulers, youths and all other stakeholders in the oil and gas industry for their positive contributions to the sustainable peace and development in Delta State.