NIGERIAN oil workers, under the umbrella of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, have threatened to shut down the country should the federal government go ahead with its plan to sell national assets to fund the current budget.
The Trade Union Congress, TUC, on Sunday, September 25, promised to join the PENGASSAN to shut down the country should the government insists on its plan to sell some of the national assets.
Emmanuel Ojugbana, national public relations officer, PENGASSAN, in a statement on Sunday, September 25, said the government should look into other ways to increase its revenue base while plugging loopholes and leakages in government’s finances.
The union described the plan to sell the national assets as a self-destructive move for Nigeria. It said: “The plan meant to solve short-term financial obligations is targeted at handing over our collective wealth to a few individuals and further impoverish the rest of our countrymen and women.”
The PENGASSAN said it would not sit back and watch the sale of national assets, especially those in the oil and gas industry, such as the Nigeria LNG that had become a huge revenue-earner for Nigeria; refineries and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations being shared among those in power and their cronies.
It warned: “Any attempt to sell these national assets will be met with stiff resistance from the association, as PENGASSAN will galvanise every support, including that of our sister union and labour centres to shut down this country by ensuring that every activity in the oil and gas sector is brought to a complete halt.
“Some opportunists in the clothes of businessmen and short-sighted politicians had earlier advocated the sale of public assets such as the NLNG, four state-owned refineries, Nigeria’s stakes in the Africa Finance Corporation, the nation’s airports and reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations and this was approved by the National Economic Council.”
According to the union all that the governments at all levels need to do is to pump money into the economy through the execution of capital projects and payment of workers’ salaries to revive the economy.
In his view, Ojugbana said the sale of the assets would further compound the economic and security problems in the country, arguing: “They should tell us what will happen after the recession if we have sold the assets to greedy individuals. Will the country go cap in hand begging those individuals who bought the assets and borrowing from them?”
He described the plan to sell the assets as “is ill-timed and unwarranted as it does not serve national interest,” adding that no nation could develop, survive or feel secure after selling all its national assets.”
On his part, Bala Kaigama, president of the TUC, said in an interview on Sunday that the congress would join hands with the other two major unions in the oil sector to oppose the planned sale of the national assets. He said: “TUC will solidarise with NUPENG and PENGASSAN to shut down the country.”
Kaigama said the reasons being advanced by the government to sell were flawed. Besides, he argued that if those who invested in the assets had sold them, the current administration would not have met them.
He urged Nigerians, especially those who have been faithful with their tax returns to pay, saying that if they paid appropriate taxes money would be available to government to run the economy.
— Sep 26, 2016 @ 15:25 GMT