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Dutch and Belgian unions call boycott of Nigerian oil. US oil workers put on alert
ICEM Update, 26 November 1997
Dutch and Belgian unions today called on their members to boycott Nigerian oil arriving in the ports of Rotterdam/Europoort and Antwerp.
And American oil workers have been put on alert to block the offloading of Nigerian oil reaching the USA.
The calls are part of a worldwide campaign by the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) to secure the release of Nigerian oil workers' leaders Milton Dabibi and Frank Kokori. Both are being held without charge or trial by the Nigerian military regime.
Most Nigerian oil exports go to the USA, where the ICEM-affiliated oil, chemical and atomic workers' union OCAW has alerted its members to the boycott campaign.
Europe is a further major destination for the oil exports, which are the Nigerian regime's biggest source of income. More than 90 percent of Nigeria's export earnings come from oil.
Rotterdam/Europoort is the main Northern European port of entry for Nigerian oil, and Antwerp would be a likely port of diversion for shipments that could not be offloaded in Rotterdam.
The Dutch boycott call was decided last night in Dordrecht, at a meeting of the oil, chemical and allied workers' Industriebond FNV and the transport workers' Vervoersbond FNV. Addressing the meeting were, among others, Ben Roodhuizen, who is the Industri ebond's National Secretary for the oil industry and is a member of the ICEM Executive; and ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe. The Industriebond is affiliated to the ICEM and the Vervoersbond is an affiliate of the ICEM's sister organisation the Internatio nal Transport Workers' Federation (ITF).
To secure implementation of the boycott, the Dutch unions have called a further meeting on Nigeria for 11 November. Attending the meeting will be shop stewards in the sectors directly concerned. Speakers will include Lodewijk de Waal, the President of the Dutch national trade union confederation FNV.
The boycott call in Antwerp has been launched by a number of unions including ICEM Belgian affiliate the Algemene Centrale ABVV/Centrale Generale FGTB.
The worldwide boycott is directed against the Nigerian regime and its Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and not against the oil multinationals. However, oil belonging to major companies will inevitably be affected by the measures. The unions involved will be contacting the companies to explain the reason for the action and to seek their help in securing Dabibi's and Kokori's release.
The NNPC pumps some 2 million barrels of crude oil per day in joint ventures with the leading oil multinationals. A large proportion of Nigeria's share of the oil earnings is unaccounted for. The equivalent of some 200,000 barrels per day is reportedly di verted into accounts controlled by the military. Capital reinvestment in Nigerian refineries has sunk to a level where oil-rich Nigeria is forced to import petroleum products in order to keep the economy ticking over.
Meanwhile, according to Nigerian newspaper reports yesterday, the NNPC is preparing to sack 4,000 more workers.
Frank Kokori has been detained without trial since 1994, and Milton Dabibi since January 1996. Both are in poor health and are being denied proper access to medical treatment. They have also been denied access to lawyers and to their unions. Visits by the ir families are severely restricted. Dabibi and Kokori are both recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience. Nigeria's own National Human Rights Commission is understood to have recommended this September that Dabibi, Kokori and a numbe r of other detainees be released on humanitarian grounds.
PENGASSAN and NUPENG have been subjected to severe repression ever since the Nigerian oil workers' strike of 1994. Police and troops occupied the unions' offices. Many union leaders were arrested or driven into hiding. Government-imposed "sole administrat ors" were sent in to run the unions instead. Union bank accounts were frozen and the check-off of union dues was banned. Many of the oil workers dismissed for taking part in the strike have never been reinstated.
"Now is the time to release Milton Dabibi and Frank Kokori, and now is the time for the oil companies and governments to insist on their release," commented ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe today. "Now as always, the ICEM is ready to discuss this matter with the Nigerian authorities at the appropriate level."
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Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer
Publisher: Vic Thorpe, General Secretary.