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Lockdown: 22 oil workers arrested by Rivers Government freed

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The 22 oil workers arrested by officials of the Rivers Government have been freed, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports.

The oil workers, who were detained at Elekahia Stadium, comprised of 20 men and two women.

NAN reports that the workers were arrested on Thursday at Akwa Ibom/Rivers border over alleged breach of the lockdown order imposed by Gov. Nyeson Wike, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state.

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They were heading to an oil facility in Bonny, operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN), a subsidiary of U.S. energy firm, ExxonMobil.

They were subsequently taken to a stadium where they were detained and were to be arraigned.

Mr Lumumba Okugwagba, Secretary-General, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), confirmed the development to NAN on the telephone on Sunday morning.

Okugwagba said that PENGASSAN had frowned at the detention and inhuman treatment meted out to the oil workers rendering essential services and issued an ultimatum to shutdown the oil industry if their members were not freed.

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“We have information that our members have been freed and they are on their way out of the stadium, but we are monitoring their movement.

“These oil workers are Nigerians and the way they were treated and detained in a stadium is not decent at all. There are two women among them and you know the trauma they have gone through since Thursday.

“The union had given notice of shutdown by midnight of Sunday if the workers were not released. We do not understand why they should be held when the Federal Government says the oil industry is exempted from the lockdown.

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“The Attorney General of Rivers just addressed them. He says the case against them has been dropped. He has told them that they are no longer going to court and they should leave.

“The convoy is about to leave the stadium now (morning),” he said.

NAN reports that the resolution of the issue has doused fears of an industrial dispute as the oil workers union had threatened to shutdown the industry if their colleagues were not freed.

Contacted, Mr Ogechi Udeagha, the Manager in charge of Public and Government Affairs, MPN, said the oil firm had no comments on the development “at this time”.

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