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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Union Statements

Nigeria: Union Statements
Date distributed (ymd): 980407
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: West Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains several recent updates from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) concerning imprisoned trade union leaders, international oil companies and the human rights situation in Nigeria.

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Individual ICEM UPDATE items can be supplied in other languages on request.

Our print magazines ICEM INFO and ICEM GLOBAL are available in Arabic, English, French, German, Russian, Scandinavian and Spanish.

Visit us on the Web at

ICEM avenue Emile de Beco 109, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium. tel.+32.2.6262020 fax +32.2.6484316 Internet:

Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer Publisher: Vic Thorpe, General Secretary.

No. 25/1998

3 April 1998

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):


Pressure for the release of two Nigerian oilworkers' leaders will further increase at a conference to be held by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Pretoria, South Africa, on 13-18 April.

Union leaders from all over Africa will press the continent's employers and governments to help secure the release of Milton Dabibi, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union PENGASSAN, and Frank Kokori, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union NUPENG. They have been detained without charge or trial in Nigeria since 1996 and 1994 respectively. Both unions are affiliated to the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), which is campaigning for the two men's release and has put the Nigerian government on notice of targeted international action against Nigerian oil exports unless Kokori and Dabibi are freed.

Both men's health is deteriorating, and they are being denied access to the medical treatment that they need. Both are recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

The OAU's Labour and Social Affairs Commission will be hearing more about their cases at its meeting in Pretoria. The commission includes African union representatives, as well as employer and government delegates from across the continent. In his report to the meeting, Hassan Sunmonu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), will raise the Kokori and Dabibi cases and other violations of trade union rights by the military-led Nigerian government.

The OATUU "has repeatedly tried to send a delegation to Nigeria to discuss these issues," Sunmonu told ICEM UPDATE from the OATUU's headquarters in Accra, Ghana. But the Nigerian government had responded in exactly the same way as to similar approaches from other organisations, including the ICEM and the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). In other words, it had not responded at all.

"The trade union rights situation in Nigeria must be addressed by Africa as a whole," Sunmonu, himself a Nigerian trade unionist, insisted. He has just returned from the ILO Governing Body meeting in Geneva, where the OATUU fully backed a decision to set up a special ILO commission to investigate the Nigerian situation (see ICEM UPDATE 21/1998).


No. 23/1998

30 March 1998

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):


Shareholders are pressing US-based oil multinational Mobil to review its investments in Nigeria in the light of continuing human rights violations there.

Two institutional shareholders announced today that they will be tabling a human rights motion at Mobil's annual shareholders' meeting on 14 May. In particular, they want the company to push for the release of two detained Nigerian oilworkers' leaders.

The Mobil shareholders' move is a further step in the world trade union campaign to free Milton Dabibi, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union PENGASSAN, and Frank Kokori, General Secretary of oil and gas workers' union NUPENG.

Kokori has been detained without trial in Nigeria since 1994 and Dabibi since January 1996. Both are in poor health, and their condition is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. They are still being denied access to the medical care that they need. They are also barred from contact with lawyers and with their unions, which are being run by government-imposed administrators. Dabibi and Kokori are both recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

The two Mobil shareholders tabling the motion are Franklin Research and Development Corporation, a US-based socially responsible investment firm with 500 million US dollars in client assets, and the Service Employees International Union Master Trust. They have jointly filed a resolution asking the Mobil board of directors to review and develop guidelines for company investments in countries where "there is a pattern of ongoing and systematic violation of human rights; a government is illegitimate; there is a call by human right advocates, pro-democracy organisations or legitimately elected representatives for economic sanctions; and Mobil's long-term financial performance may be potentially threatened by international criticism, economic sanctions and boycotts by consumers and local governments."

The resolution notes that all of these factors are in place in Nigeria. Mobil is in direct partnership with the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and has made payments, including royalties, fees and taxes, to the military government. The resolution further notes that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found Nigeria in violation of internationally-accepted labour standards and has demanded the release of union leaders Frank Kokori and Milton Dabibi and others held incommunicado without charge or trial.

Last week, the ILO voiced "outrage" over Nigeria's continued flouting of basic labour rights. The ILO, a UN agency in which the world's unions, employers and governments are represented, has now set up a special commission to investigate worker rights in Nigeria, notably the situation of the imprisoned trade unionists.

"It is past time for Mobil to take action on behalf of Kokori and Dabibi," said Andrew Stern, President of the 1.1-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "Reports from Nigeria indicate that these union leaders are very sick and may die in jail." Mobil, he insisted, must "use its influence with the Nigerian government to seek the release of the duly elected leaders of its Nigerian employees."

"Mobil's complete lack of action on human rights in Nigeria has exposed the company to considerable business risk," said Simon Billenness, senior analyst of Franklin Research and Development Corporation. "Until democracy is restored there, Nigeria provides an unstable business climate."

The two shareholders have a combined investment in Mobil Corp. of 49,500 shares, worth more than 3.9 million US dollars.

Leading the world trade union campaign to free Dabibi and Kokori is the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), to which PENGASSAN, NUPENG and the SEIU are affiliated.

The ICEM has called for full UN economic sanctions against Nigeria, including an oil embargo, unless the ILO commission is permitted to enter the country and Dabibi and Kokori are released without further delay. Meanwhile, the ICEM is maintaining its own preparations for targeted action against Nigerian oil exports into a number of key countries - including the USA, which is the biggest importer of Nigerian crude (see ICEM UPDATE 21/98).

The inclusion of the shareholder resolution on Mobil's proxy statement follows meetings on this issue between senior Mobil management, institutional shareholders and other concerned organisations.

Corporate human rights policies have already been discussed at the global level between the ICEM and a number of multinationals, including Shell.


No. 21/1998

27 March 1998

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM):




Escalating its pressure on the Nigerian government, the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) has launched a Commission of Inquiry to investigate trade union rights abuses there. Earlier, in unusually strong language, a key ILO committee had voiced "outrage" over Nigeria's continued flouting of internationally recognised labour rights.

The Commission of Enquiry was set up yesterday by the ILO's Governing Body, in which the world's governments, employers and trade unions are represented. Significantly, the commission was established under Article 26 of the ILO Constitution, whose provisions are invoked only in the event of persistent and serious violations of international labour standards and the repeated refusal of a member state to bring its labour practices into line with ILO rulings. Such a commission's findings are final. According to international lawyers, its conclusions can then be challenged only in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has repeatedly called on Nigeria's military-led government to release imprisoned trade unionists, end harassment of trade unions and take measures to guarantee respect for the civil liberties essential to trade union rights. In recent findings, the Committee underscored the persistent deterioration of trade union rights and denounced the non-respect of civil liberties in Nigeria.

In its current session, the Committee expressed its "outrage" at the way in which the Nigerian government has ignored repeated requests to modify its labour regime and allow a special mission into the country to examine the state of trade union rights and visit imprisoned trade unionists.

The Committee said the Nigerian government has repeatedly ignored calls for a mission to examine trade union rights in the country and to visit trade unionists detained without trial, "at least one of whom has been detained for over three years."

This is a reference to Frank Kokori, General Secretary of Nigerian oil and gas workers' union NUPENG. Kokori has been held since 1994. His colleague Milton Dabibi, General Secretary of Nigerian oil and gas workers' union PENGASSAN, has been in jail since January 1996. Neither has been charged with any offence.

The two Nigerian labour leaders are recognised as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Their health is reported to be deteriorating. They have been denied access to adequate medical care and legal assistance. Their unions are being run by government-imposed "sole administrators." Union bank accounts have been frozen, and the check-off of union dues has been frozen. Many oilworkers sacked on government orders after the 1994 strike in the Nigerian oil industry have never been reinstated.

This is not the first time the Nigerian government has been in trouble at the ILO recently.

Nigeria was seriously embarrassed in full view of the world's oil companies, oil unions and governments last month at an ILO world conference on industrial relations and freedom of association in the oil refining sector.

Conceived as a mainly technical meeting, the conference was in fact completely overshadowed by the cases of Dabibi and Kokori. The two democratically elected oilworkers' leaders had been invited by name to take part in the talks, but the Nigerian government refused to release them so that they could attend.

The workers' group at the conference, consisting of oilworkers' leaders from all continents, was disgusted by the presence of Nigerian government representatives there while the Nigerian oil unions are under government control and their elected leaders are rotting in jail. This was, after all, a UN-backed world conference on how to promote freedom of association in oil refining ...

Coordinating the workers' group was the 20-million-strong International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM), to which the two Nigerian oil and gas unions are affiliated.

The workers' group kept Nigeria at the top of the agenda throughout last month's conference and intensively lobbied government and employer representatives. As a result, the governmental, oil company and oil union delegates to the meeting adopted a formal conclusion referring specifically to the ILO's ongoing Freedom of Association case 1793 (Nigeria) and calling on the ILO Governing Body to resolve problems. Yesterday's Governing Body decision is in part a response to that call from the world's oil industry and governments.

"The Nigerian government is thumbing its nose at the UN and its specialised agency, the ILO," commented ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe today. "It is therefore cocking a snook at the world community. The ILO commission must be permitted to enter Nigeria without delay, and Milton Dabibi and Frank Kokori must be released now. If not, the only adequate UN response will be the introduction of full economic sanctions against Nigeria, including the imposition of a world embargo on Nigerian oil exports."

In the meantime, Thorpe said, key ICEM affiliates would maintain preparations for targeted international action of their own against Nigerian oil. This readiness includes stepped-up campaigning by oilworkers in the USA, the world's biggest importer of Nigerian crude (see ICEM UPDATE 19/1998). The campaign to free Dabibi and Kokori is supported by the world trade union movement as a whole, including the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF), which organises seafarers and port workers worldwide.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.

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