The Chairman of Obijackson Group, and an indigenous oil and gas conglomerate, Dr Ernest Azudialu, says that labour unions do more harm than good for the oil and gas sector.

Dr Azudialu was speaking in Lagos, Nigeria, where he called on union bosses to work with international investors rather than piling on demands of investors to ensure future success.

He was speaking as workers picketed the offices of Neconde Energy Limited, the exploration and production (E&P) arm of the Obijackson Group. They were demanding transfer benefits and upward review of severance benefits to match those of international oil companies (IOCs) such as Shell and ExxonMobil, following the relocation of the head office of Neconde to Warri from Lagos.

The Obijackson Group, one of the fastest growing business conglomerates in Sub Saharan Africa, has made vast investments in its operating divisions such as: oil and gas exploration and production, pressure vessel fabrication, power generation, dredging and marine logistics, aviation, civil and infrastructural construction and real estate.

Neconde is one of the 12 subsidiaries in the Group and it is the operator of the oil mining lease (OML) 42 located in Delta State, which moved 400 km from the capital city to Warri.

Azudialu urged the labour to consider firms and the prevailing challenges in the sector and the economy.

He was reported as saying: “The management of Neconde despite the myriad of challenges it faced, ensured the workers’ salaries and benefits were paid, therefore, it would be unfair to stifle private firms that borrowed money from banks to create jobs for Nigeria and force them out of business.

“We battled for the operationship of OML 42 with our partner, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), an arm of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Since we bought Shell’s stakes in the oil field in 2012, the battle for operatorship lasted till this year (January 2017). We were confirmed the operator of the asset in March 2017.

“As we were about coming out from operatorship battle, the oil price collapsed. At a point we sold oil at $29 per barrel. Amid fallen oil price, militants blew up the Forcados pipeline, which is the only means of transporting oil from the fields to the terminal on February 13, 2016. With this, the output from the asset estimated to produce 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) at the time of purchase dropped to 15,000bpd and at a point, production dropped to zero.”

Managing Director, Neconde Energy, Frank Edozie, backed Azudialu stressing that despite the challenges the firm faced from the time Shell’s stakes in the oil field was bought in 2012, it had placed the welfare of its staff a priority.