By Ismail Aniemu
Integrated Logistics Service Limited, one of Nigerias foremost oil and gas logistics service provider has resumed massive job cuts with the recent sack of about 300 Nigerian workers and over 20 expatriates members of staff in September 2016.
This is in addition to 800 workers earlier sacked which has reopened unemployment pressure on many communities within the Onne, Eleme and adjoining towns where some youths were engaged from.
Recent sacks according to inside sources are connected with the recession that has hit the national economy and massive decline in shipping activities. The company, sources say, have commenced moves to lay off additional 1700 Nigerian and foreign workers in its employ before December 2016.
Most of the oil and gas concerns and oil servicing companies using the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone where its major operations are domiciled have stopped operations partly due to the economic downturn and resumed unrest by militants.
Also affected are workers in its Warri operations in Delta State and Calabar Ports in Cross Rivers State. Isidore Sambol, a former spokesman for Intels who was affected by the September sack had told journalists in April that the company cannot afford to sustain a bloated workforce with lesser jobs to do and lean income to sustain their wage bill.
The company has also been battling with the problem of lesser number of ships calling at its various facilities across the country. This development has created in a lull in Onne where the company is a major player and highest private sector employer of labour.
The labour body had indicated intention the resist the mass sack but went mute ostensibly after being convinced on the rationality of the downsizing move.
Attempts to get Intels to comment on its ongoing restructuring were abortive as the company was said not to have appointed a spokesperson to replace Sambol as at the time of doing this report.
The company had opened talks with organized labour bodies under the aegis of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria and Nigeria Labour Congress to determine the mode and severance package to be paid to affected workers.
Subsidiary companies under Intels are shutting down while retained workers are made to operate at its main outfit. Prodeco Nigeria Limited, a construction company in the Ol and Gas Free Zone Onne closed down. Activities at Prodeco at its lowest since its creation over 12 years ago.
The company only retained a few workers in the Prodeco store and security personnel to safeguard its properties.
Most offices and residential accommodation it constructed which used to host beehive of activities are now a shadow of itself.
West African Machinery Services (WAMS) another subsidiary of Intels which handles and maintains its machinery including cargo equipment recently ceased to operate. Orleans West Africa Invest, another subsidiary of Intels which does most of the companys interface with foreign partners and serves as a holding company now does nothing too.
All retained employees whose fate is uncertain are made to await the implementation of the compiled list of workers to be disengaged. The company, some sources say, is making arrangement to bring in some Chinese investors that will help model its operations to look like some ports in the United Arab Emirates to attract more patronage and stimulate economic activities.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is widely believed to own substantial interests in the company in partnership with some Italian investors led by Simone Volpi. Intels is managing three ports in the country on behalf of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA). It has a 25-year concession with the NPA (starting from the year 2006) with an extension opportunity for another 25 years. It manages a four-kilometer stretch of jetties in Onne, with drafts ranging from eight meters to 14 meters.
The company got approval from government to invest approximately $500 million in Phase 4A of the Onne project. The company is the most prominent player at the Onne Port which holds two terminals- the Federal Ocean Terminal (FOT) and the Federal Lighter Terminal (FLT).
The total length of the quay around 1,670 meters is gradually idling away. The second, third and fourth berths have been deepened to an eight-meter draft but underutilised.
The decline in intels activities has impacted a chain effect on over 50 other companies within the Free Zone in Rivers State as some of the companies are closing shop. Its status as number one free zone in Africa may slip off should this trend stay sustained, watchers aver.