According to a report by Punch Metro, there was a mild drama on Sunday at the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company in Ekpan, in the Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State, where support staff members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation had been protesting the non-regularisation of their engagement since last week Wednesday.
As they await the intervention of the management of the NNPC, the protesters took their case to God by holding a church service on the protest ground.
The service, which held amidst downpour, saw the workers singing worship songs and engaging in prayers to seek divine intervention.
The service was held in front of the entrance and exit gates, as the workers appealed to the management of the NNPC to meet their demands.
Sunday made it the fifth day of the protest, which has continued to be peaceful, though the entrance and exit gates to the refinery were still under lock and key, with tents mounted at the entrance to prevent vehicular movement into the complex.
However, there were alleged plots by the management of the WRPC to use military force to break up the protest and dislodge the protesters from the facility.
According to one of the protesters, who identified himself simply as Uche, some military personnel led by a captain had visited the premises.
Uche stated, “What we are doing here today (Sunday) is to hold our interdenominational church service here not minding the heavy rainfall. What we are demanding is that the NNPC and the management of the WRPC should regularise our engagement and pay us our outstanding salaries.
“We just got some information that the management of the WRPC had concluded plans with the military to force us out of here, but it won’t work. We have been peaceful with this protest. Any use of force may cause problems.”
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the WRPC, Mohammadu Abali, said the continuous protest and shutting down of commercial activities could make the NNPC to reconsider selling the refinery to prospective buyers.
Abali, who spoke while addressing the protesters during a meeting on Friday, said with the protest, top officials of the corporation might have doubts about their conversion into full staff members.
He stated, “What is happening now is that the people in Abuja are looking at it that; are these the people you want us to bring in? The solution for us is to work together. If we are fighting each other, then we are going to allow those that want to buy this place to win.
“I have very few years left; so, it is up to us. It is either we work together and do it or we allow them to come, because they are ready; they have their money and are the ones who are even in charge. I beg you, let’s apply wisdom; let us not allow people who don’t have what we have to take it away.”
The Executive Director, Services, WRPC, Dr Ololo Sokare, on his part, appealed to the protesters to exercise more patience, adding that the management was expecting certain funds that would take care of the issue they were protesting about.
He said, “We are waiting for the funding. When we have the funds, the community project will be taken care of. We are pleading with you to just give us a little time.
“Our top management, once they do the handing over, the chief operating officer is going to come here and be able to tell you what the management has in mind. Let us sheathe our swords and wait and see in the shortest possible time what we will be able to do for you.”