The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline surveillance and security contractors have cried out over the nonpayment of their salaries for 10 by UTM Offshore Limited.
Some of the workers, who spoke exclusively to our reporter but pleaded anonymity, said that as a result of the situation, life had become very difficult for them.
“Life has been difficult and frustrating. Throughout Easter celebration, we didn’t get anything. In this COVID-19 period, we have not gotten any palliative from anybody. We don’t have gloves or protective wears, yet we are expected to work.
“Some of the workers find it difficult to pay their children’s school fees. When their children fall sick, it is difficult for them to buy drugs or even take them to hospital for treatment. Some of us go borrowing in order to sustain our lives,” one of them said.
The man also said that unfortunately, their fellow workers accuse them of collecting money for their salaries and depositing them in their bank accounts for selfish interests.
He said, “Those workers suspect us a lot. They think we have been paid but decided to deposit the money in our personal accounts to yield interest for us. But the truth is that we have not been paid. At times, the workers confront us physically. Some of us go borrowing to sustain ourselves. It is a painful experience.”
A female contractor said, “It is very difficult to cope without being paid for many months. It is even more difficult for the workers we employed. This is because they are at the receiving end. They are the people that suffer most.
“Can you imagine a situation in which a man leaves the house for work but he is not paid for several months? His wife and children will begin to make mockery of him. Each time the workers have problems they still have to run to us as if we were the cause of the situation at hand.
“The problem is telling on our integrity. It is unfortunate that you employ people but can’t pay them. It has even made some of the workers to leave. That’s the experience we are having; and it has not been pleasant.”
The security men, otherwise known as service providers/security guards contractors, who monitor petroleum pipelines from Ishiagu in Ebonyi State to Emene in Enugu State, also gave UTM Offshore Limited, the major contractor, a seven-day ultimatum to pay their 10-month salary arrears or be ready for whatever action they would take within the ambit of the law.
In a protest letter to the company’s chairman/chief executive officer, dated June 2, 2020 and signed by their counsel, J. I. Olinya, the surveillance contractors asked why UTM Offshore would continue to owe them. They said their counterparts in the western and northern parts of the country had been paid their entitlements up to date.
According to them, through their services, the NNPC was able to move petroleum products from Port Harcourt to Enugu depot, after over 15 years the depot was abandoned.
Also, in a letter our correspondent obtained on Saturday, the security providers appealed to the NNPC to prevail on their contractors to pay them their salaries.
The letter was entitled, “Protest on Refusal/Non-payment of 10 months Arrears of salary for service providers/security guards contractors of the petroleum pipeline, leading through Ishiagu-Ebonyi State to Emene, Enugu State by UTM Offshore Limited.’’ Parts of the letter read, “The service providers/security guards contractors appreciate the NNPC for finding UTM Offshore Limited worthy for the award of such contract.
“They are also happy and confident that UTM as a company performed creditably in the cause of delivering its service to the NNPC, by bringing to life and operation, the Port Harcourt-Enugu petroleum pipeline, which was in a moribund state, abandoned and forgotten, prior to the contractual intervention of the UTM.
“It is also a verifiable fact that UTM was able to move oil products from Port Harcourt to Enugu depot after over 15 years it was abandoned and forgotten. All these are to the credit of the UTM, through the help of services rendered to her by the service providers/security guard contractors of Ebonyi/Enugu State.
“Why then should our clients not be paid their 10-month arrears of salaries, which are their entitlement and rights after such excellent performance?’’
According to Olinya, “If the UTM claimed it incurred losses, was it traceable to the negligence of our clients in any way? Or should our clients suffer losses that were not connected to their services?
“We are reliably informed by our clients that their counterparts from western and northern Nigeria had been paid without storytelling from any quarters, even when it was recorded that their western and northern counterparts incurred some losses, more than the UTM company. Why should our clients’ case be different, if it is not injustice and a ploy to sabotage the effective functioning of the Enugu depot again?
“Our clients are entitled to their remuneration. We are effectively demanding that they be paid and given all their entitlements within seven days of reception of this letter or be made to have good understanding with the UTM management before the situation degenerates further.”
When contacted on the matter, the general manager, Public Affairs of the NNPC, Dr Kennie Obateru, said UTM is not one of the corporation’s contractors. He said the contractor monitoring the pipelines around that axis was Lateejay.
He, however, said the commission had received a report on the non-payment of salaries and the allegation was under investigation.