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Oil, state-capital and labour : work and work relations in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

By Jimi O. Adesina


This study is, above all, about the men and women whose labour form the basis of\ud Nigeria's economy and social stability: the petroleum workers. Those we will come across\ud here, work in perhaps the most important single enterprise in Nigeria; the Nigerian\ud National Petroleum Corporation. The study itself was inspired by (i) an attempt to\ud understand what work and work relations mean for these people, and (ii) by my dissatisfaction\ud with the conventional wisdom in Industrial Relations analysis; which in the past\ud years has inspired the regulation of the working lives of these petroleum workers as much\ud as any group of employees in Nigeria.\ud The study is on the NNPC, with special attention to the NNPC Refinery at Warri.\ud The work itself is divided into three main parts; Part I, which is the Introductory section,\ud is further divided in four chapters. Chapter 1 explores the main conceptual issues of this\ud study, explains the research methods and examines some methodological issues that derive\ud from the fieldwork. In Chapter 2, the labour process literature is reviewed, and this\ud forms the analytical basis for the discussions in Parts II and III, while Chapters 3 and 4\ud provide the background information on Nigeria and NNPC respectively. Part U examines,\ud under four chapters, the nature of work and processes of shopfloor relations in NNPC\ud generally, with particular emphasis on the Refinery. Chapters 5 and 6 examine the nature\ud of work and the internal labour market, while Chapters 7 and 8 look at the specific forms\ud of relations on the shopfloor and their implications for shopfloor struggles. In Part III, I\ud focus on unionism in the industry and the processes of interest mediation within the\ud NNPC.\ud The study takes conceptual issues with the main contributions to the Labour\ud Process debate and argues for a more studied and coherent re-assesment of Braverman's\ud work, by recognizing its theoretical and methodological objectives. The study concludes\ud with a re-exposition of the main conceptual issues; first by emphasizing that it is only\ud within the framework of a rigorous conceptual redefinition of production relations that\ud we can overcome the limitations of conventional Industrial Relations discourse. Second, and central to this, is a re-conceptualized method of theory, which enables us to\ud understand the socio-cultural peculiarities of each national or regional context, and overcome\ud the limited vision of liberal-pluralist industrial relations ideology. In this sense, the\ud study places strong emphasis on Marx's method of abstraction, both as a method of\ud different levels of abstraction, and of one-sided abstraction.\ud The Refinery, where the bulk of the field research was done, is located in the\ud riverine belt of southern Nigeria. Although often referred to as Warri Refinery, the plant\ud is situated in the Ethiope local government area of Bendel State, outside Warri (see Map\ud A). This complication is a result of the settlement pattern in this area of southern\ud Nigeria; Warri, for instance, is surrounded by tiny pockets of settlements, each with\ud distinct lineage/clan history and traditional political autonomy. Two of such settlements\ud are Jeddo and Ekpan villages which share the north-western borders with Warri, but in a\ud separate local government area. It is on the territories of these two villages that the\ud Refinery is located, although I will continue to refer to the plant as Warri Refinery

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