Oil workers' leader still jailed


By Norm Dixon Frank O. Kokori, general secretary of the Nigerian oil workers' union NUPENG, remains in detention without trial. Most other union leaders detained since mid-1994 were released in December, according to reports that have reached the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions. The ICEM, representing 20 million energy and mining workers worldwide, has demanded of the Nigerian government that Kokori be either freed or brought to trial with full rights to a legal defence. The Nigerian oil and gas workers' unions NUPENG and PENGASSAN and the National Labour Federation NLC have suffered severe repression ever since the 1994 oil strike. Many trade unionists were arrested and held without trial. Workers were dismissed by decree. Union premises were occupied by armed police and troops. Union bank accounts were frozen, and automatic pay deduction for union dues was banned. Elected union officers were barred from their offices, and in many cases either detained or driven into hiding. Government-appointed "sole administrators" took charge of unions. The ICEM is also demanding that "administrators" be withdrawn and that free and fair union elections take place. On January 8, the Nigerian press reported that labour minister Uba Ahmed has pledged that union leadership elections will be held "by the middle of the year".