BY DAYO ADESULU
The African Energy Chamber is calling on African governments and the judiciary to take actions to shield oil & gas companies and their workers from lawyers trying to take advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic to create instability in the workplace.
While most Africans are trying to cope with the uncertainty and issues of COVID 19 and low oil prices, the Chamber is concerned about trial lawyers that are hungry for big checks at the expenses of oil companies and their workers. In this context, it is critical that the judiciary does its best to limit frivolous labour claims to ensuring the stability and continuity of petroleum operations during these difficult times.
“African oil & gas companies have enough to worry about at the moment, and frivolous lawsuits should not be one of them. This is not the time for lawyers to see our industry as a dairy cow and try to get a big payday at the expense of companies and their workers,” stated NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber.
“We cannot love jobs and hate those who create jobs. Protecting jobs and fighting this virus should be our greatest priority. Governments have to send a message that investors and their investments will not be put at risk by greedy lawyers and bureaucrats. For Africa to come out of the twin crisis of low oil prices and the coronavirus stronger than before, we need everyone to show some common sense,” added Ayuk.
African energy companies and services companies operating onshore and offshore need to be given protection from unnecessary litigation. Most companies at the moment are focused on keeping operations intact with the right HSE processes, and ensuring that they can generate revenue for governments and protect the jobs they have created for every day Africans. This should remain a priority.
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The Chamber is pleased with the support that is being provided across Africa by oil and gas companies working together with governments across a range of support measures, and it is important to keep resources focused on fighting COVID-19, not lawsuits. The oil sector will remain a pillar in the fight against COVID-19. BP has made a significant financial contribution to the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for example, and Dangote Industries has done the same with the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19. NNPC on its sides has already donated six brand new ventilators to the University of Abudja Teaching Hospital.
Shall the situation on our continent worsen, we will be very relieved to have companies with the ability to provide such support the same way Total supports France and Eni supports Italy as thousands of lives are lost. During these times of uncertainty, frivolous lawsuits against petroleum operators and their associates could disrupt the essential role businesses must play in overcoming the crisis and in the recovery.
Consequently, the Chamber calls on governments of oil and gas nations like Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Cameroon, South Sudan, Libya, Senegal or Algeria to extend liability protection to medical professionals assisting workers on oil fields, protection from frivolous labour claims, and also assist oil companies with issues arousing out of their inability to honour rotation of employees due to lockdowns.