Udom Inoyo Was Akwa Ibom’s Voice In ExxonMobil – PENGASSAN Chairman

… Says experience and antecedents should determine who emerges Governor in 2023

…Opens up on ExxonMobil’s operations, recruitment processes

Priscilla Christopher, December 8, 2021

The Branch Chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) for Mobil producing Nigeria, Kings Udoidua has disclosed that the immediate past Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil Affiliates in Nigeria, Mr. Udom Inoyo was Akwa Ibom’s worthy representative throughout his period of service with the oil firm.

Udoidua said this in an exclusive interview with journalists recently when he spoke about his administration as PENGASSAN Branch Chairman for ExxonMobil in the last one year. The Chairman who gave kudos to Mr. Udom Inoyo for leaving an indelible legacy behind informed that Inoyo’s laudable deeds would never be forgotten by staff of the organization and those of Akwa Ibom origin particularly.

Describing the immediate past Vice Chairman as a man of rare exemplary leadership virtues, Udoidua recalled how Mr. Inoyo interceded in several attempts by the Union to shut-down the oil firm’s operation over the ill-treatment of workers.

“Once, we had an industrial relations challenge and the Union threatened to shut down if certain things were not implemented. I was opportune to be chosen by my branch to represent the Union to honour an invitation from the Ministry of Labour at the time. So, from Lagos, I boarded the big men executive flight which had Mr. Udom and others on board. I and Udom were the only Akwa Ibomites on the flight. So, being on the management side and I on the Union’s side, he started engaging me on why we want to shut down, why we shouldn’t shut down; that before any other thing, I’m first of all an Akwa Ibomite, and that this is the only source of resources for the state. He was very passionate about it but that didn’t move me because I play my roles through management by objective. My objective was to represent the union, not Akwa Ibom government or anybody, so we got to Abuja and presented our facts and that was that. From that period, I don’t think I as a person was happy with the company because they cheated us out of what was deserving of us. But he was in management and the beautiful thing is that he didn’t take it personally”, he recalled.

“Inoyo always felt that what affects ExxonMobil affects the State which is a genuine interest everybody should have but then, our interest was not to shut down the company but to get the company’s attention. It was always easy to spot that he was interested in the economy of the state”, Udoidua said.

Speaking on ExxonMobil’s terms of engagement with workers, the Branch Chairman noted that the relationship between the Union and Management is bound by Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), backed-up by labour laws and ILO conventions. The Labour Act he said, gives the power to a body of people to represent the interest of the workforce.

“We go into agreement with the company and say, this is how we want to run. So, when we have those things laid out, it becomes an agreement signed and sealed and the engagement continues. Part of the things we do as union leaders are that we interface and become the conscience of our members. Sometimes, when we go to negotiations with the management, we document some ground rules so that everyone is equal on the table. At that point, you are not my boss, I am not your boss; we have equal rights to engage and reach decisions”, he said.

Udoidua who furthered that ExxonMobil is not run haphazardly like some road-side businesses stressed that there were laid-down processes expected to be followed strictly by all members of the organization.

“The company is not like Udoidua and sons whereby if somebody does not like you, he will deal with you; the company has its own disciplinary process. If you don’t like the way people are treating you, you can put it up and people will investigate and look at it. If I raise a grievance against any management person, it will be looked at. So, everybody does their work according to the books. Whether or not you have an audit running, the company’s eye is always on everything so that their business would stay. There are so many implications to any decision anybody takes including legal implications, community implications, and loss of finances, goodwill, and reputation so, if people don’t understand these concepts, they will think that Kings Udoidua, for instance, doesn’t want to help anybody”, he stated.

Dispelling notions that Akwa Ibom people have been shortchanged by the oil giant in terms of employment, the PENGASSAN Branch Chairman informed that Akwa Ibomites are the majority of workers in ExxonMobil. He also faulted claims of personality influences and nepotism by the organization’s management, stressing that no one had the power and will to employ behind the company’s back.

“Wherever you have people, there will always be some elements of interpersonal relationship issue, but we are talking about an organization and its policy, and how they run their business; and when you are involved in an organization, you will want to run the business the way the business owners want you to run it as documented in their processes and policies”.

“It’s one thing to be qualified for a job and recommended based on qualification and anybody can do that. I do that as well. If I hear of an opening in the company and then encourage somebody to apply, it is left for the person to go through the required scrutiny. If the person passes the test or exams, I can then appeal for him/her to be shortlisted. As a matter of fact, this is permissible under labour law. Not that you bring in somebody into the company with no proven knowledge and expect the person to be taken in just like that. Nobody does that. As I said, it’s not Udoidua and Sons Company where anything goes. You must pass through laid-down processes. As a Union chairman, there are people who have come to me and said, now that you’re chairman, you need to help me push my business, use your power to do this or that and I say, I don’t have such power. It sounds nice to think that I can change things because I’m chairman. Even if I try to do that, it’s probably not going to work. The way ExxonMobil works, people think they can bribe their way in, but they are not going to do it. Personally, if I have a business, I don’t think I’ll want to bring people simply because I know the father or other. Otherwise, my business won’t survive…if an organization has lasted for more than 150 years, you should be sure that there is something they are doing that is right”, he maintained.

While encouraging people of the State to always verify claims about the firm before drawing hasty conclusions, Kings Udoidua restated that ExxonMobil was built on policies and processes. “I’m bold enough to talk because I’m talking from the standpoint of people who lead people in engaging openly for people, not only just for our members. As a labour leader, we are the conscience of the people. Facts are stubborn things, and you can’t deny facts when it faces you. So, when you come out and say, this person is cheating me, I would have gotten a job, but this person didn’t allow me; when questions are asked to bring the facts, your story will fall flat; it is not going to stand the test of time”, he cautioned.

Away from ExxonMobil, the Branch Chairman of PENGASSAN and Ward Coordinator of the Maintain Peace Movement (MPM) in Eket, has called on Akwa Ibomites to have a renewed perception of political, economic and social happenings around them. He condemned the idea of feeling entitled and rather sued for responsibility of action.

“I’m the Ward Coordinator of the MPM in Eket. To maintain peace means that people must be gainfully employed, engage their minds and thinking. Peace rides on the back of justice and equity; opportunities equitably distributed but most importantly, developing people. The ideology of our society of always wanting handouts is destroying us, worse than what the politicians are doing, and we need to tell people this truth. We should stop having an entitlement mentality. You want someone to distribute money to you, and then you turn around and ask the person to build infrastructures? No, you’re being selfish. You’re the problem”, Udoidua emphasized.

Bearing his mind on 2023, the Union leader averred that his choice Governor would be a person with a proven track record of sincerity, trustworthiness and capacity to deliver.

“I would judge the performance of a politician first, by your words. What you said you will do, have you done it? What you say you will do, will determine whether I will stand by you. What is your value proposition? What are you bringing to the table? What are your antecedents, your history? What did you do before you came into governance? If you’ve just finished school and then became a politician, chances are that you don’t have experience in building capacity, the state, and the people. So, we’ll look at your history. If you have always been depending on politicians all your life, and you feel people should depend on you when it is your turn, that amounts to a dead end. We want people who can empower people to stand on their own so that people can take their minds off politics. If that is done, things would change”.

“We will do what we can do to ensure that the person that would lead the state emerges. For now, we are waiting for interests to be declared officially. When those interests come out, then we will hear and say ok, that is the person to vote for so that this state can evolve from where we are to where we ought to be”, he submitted.

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