No fewer than 22 offshore staff of Exxon Mobil were last Thursday night arrested in Rivers State, one of the leading oil-producing areas in Nigeria. 21 of the workers are members of the Petroleum & Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, while the remaining staff is the company’s, Chief Security Officer.
According to PENGASSAN Exxon Mobile Branch Secretary, Kingsley Udoidua, “At about 3:30pm on Thursday April 16, 2020, Rivers State commissioner of police with his team and a top Army commander intercepted the convoy (protected by the police) conveying 21 ExxonMobil personnel who are PENGASSAN members on their way to Intels, Port Harcourt, at Bori (Akwa Ibom/Rivers boundary). The commissioner rebuffed all explanations and forced them to move to Elekaya Stadium, Port Harcourt, where they have been detained, verbally assaulted and starved.”
In his response on Friday, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, said he is fully prepared for legal battle against ExxonMobil. Wike, who spoke while addressing a press conference at Government House, Port Harcourt, opined that Rivers state cannot leave corporate bodies who violated the state’s lockdown order to go free, whereas, petty traders like Akara and Groundnut sellers are charged to court for the same violation. Reassuring his people of his unflinching commitment in protecting lives and properties, Wike said he does not take orders from anybody, noting that he would do everything to stem the spread of coronavirus in the state.
Speaking further at the media briefing, Wike said; “Yesterday, it was ExxonMobil that brought 22 people into Rivers State. Although, service commanders, including the Commissioner of Police, are pleading that we should allow them to return to Uyo. I know their predicament because they take orders from Abuja. “But, this one, I will fight it. I have told the Attorney-General to prepare; we are going to Court against them. We will fight this fight legally. ExxonMobil cannot bring in 22 people illegally into Rivers State. “ExxonMobil does not operate in Rivers State. They only make use of the Onne Port. We are not sure of the health status of the people they brought into the state because they can enter Eleme and Onne communities. “We cannot leave corporate bodies who are not obeying the laws while akara and groundnut sellers are being charged to Court in Lagos. This ExxonMobil matter will expose those in Abuja. I am ready for them. Rivers State is not a pariah state and we will not be.”