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Exxon Shuts Nigerian Office Over Workers’ Protest Standoff

ExxonMobil has shut its Nigerian headquarters after oil workers’ unions barricaded the office to protest the sacking of 150 local staff, Nigerian media reported on Thursday.

Members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) besieged Exxon’s office to express disagreement over the way the oil company handed pink slips to workers while negotiations over employment issues were still ongoing. Union activists told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the strike action was just beginning and would continue into 2017 if the government fails to find a solution to the international oil companies exploiting workers.

Speaking to NAN, Exxon’s local media and communications manager Oge Udeagha said the group is committed to treating its employees with respect and in accordance with applicable law. A relatively small number of employees would be affected by this limited program, the manager added, noting that Exxon would pay special benefits to the employees affected, as per labor agreements.

“We respect the rights of our workforce and will continue to engage with them to resolve this situation,’’ Udeagha said, as quoted by NAN.

Exxon’s employee troubles come off a year of turmoil for its Nigerian operations after militant attacks on oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta started crippling the country’s production and affecting export terminals operated by foreign oil majors, including Chevron and Shell. Exxon has had troubles with its Qua Iboe terminal, which handles the largest crude stream in the country at 300,000 barrels per day.

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Reports emerged in May that Exxon had declared force majeure on Qua Iboe crude after an accident the company said was unrelated to militant attacks. Then in July, another force majeure at the same terminal followed, after Exxon’s unit detected a “system anomaly” during a routine inspection of the loading facility. In October, the company lifted the force majeure.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s oil output has recovered in recent weeks and is now around 1.8 million barrels of oil daily, up from an average 1.63 million bpd in the third quarter of the year. The current rate of production is still 400,000 bpd below the peak of 2.2 million bpd before the militant attacks on oil infrastructure started in the Niger Delta.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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