PENGASSAN to Protest Non Passage of PIB

Francis Johnson, president, PENGASSAN

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria is threatening to down tools over welfare issues including the delay in passing the Petroleum Industry Bill

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec. 22, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE three-day warning strike issued to the federal government by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, is causing panic buying of petroleum products in Lagos, and its environs. PENGASSAN warned that it had concluded plans to embark on the strike to protest the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, and other anti-labour activities of employers in the oil and gas sector. The action follows the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum given to the federal government and other stakeholders in the oil and gas sector by the National Executive Council of PENGASSAN. The union observed that the ultimatum had since expired without any meaningful resolution of the issues or commitment from either the government or the concerned employers’ and agencies.

The issues listed by the oil workers include delay in staff promotion in the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF, non-standardisation of nomenclature and collective bargaining agreement of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency, NNRA, in line with what obtains in other agencies in the oil and gas industry, refusal of the management of Addax/Petrostuff Nigeria Limited and Chevron/Sudelletra to recall sacked staff, Petrobras managment unprocedural release of staff and its refusal to renew expired collective agreement and the unjust termination of the appointment of the Port Harcourt zonal secretary and treasurer of PENGASSAN and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, respectively.

The workers are agitated about the perilous state of the nation’s strategic and industrial roads and highways, non-beneficial deductions of National Housing Fund, NHF, from workers salary, un-abating measures of addressing pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft, and divestments by International Oil Companies, IOCs, without clear guidelines to check the resultant arbitrary job losses and heightening insecurity of members/families in the troubled parts of Northern Nigeria.

A statement issued by the PENGASSAN said all organs of the union have been fully mobilised for the industrial actions that would affect every value chain in the upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas industry. The union and NUPENG are in the final stages of mobilising their members to embark on a nationwide industrial actions that would disrupt operations in the oil and gas sector until the federal government show genuine intention to earnestly attend and resolve the issues of industrial dispute.

According to the union, the purported termination of the appointment of its Port Harcourt zonal secretary, the NUPENG zonal treasurer was an ill-conceived act of victimisation by their employers, which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, federal ministries of petroleum resources, labour and productivity, the Department of Security Services, DSS, and the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, had advised their management against this act but they remained unbending.

On crude oil theft and vandalism, PENGASSAN alleged high level collaboration of the security agencies, politicians and highly placed Nigerians in the buccaneering racket of oil and gas installations, adding that the ugly trend signifies a looming extinction of the oil and gas industry with attendant job losses. The association described the deduction from workers’ salaries for the National Housing Fund, NHF, as sheer exploitation and demanded that the deduction should be stopped forthwith. It warned that it would resort to whatever necessary action it deemed appropriate to protect its members from further exploitation of the non-beneficial policies that did not serve the interest of its member.

It is not only the union’s threat to go on strike that is causing fuel shortage in Lagos. On December 3, the Punch reported that some oil marketers were reluctant to import petrol because of the alleged non-payment of subsidy arrears and the subsequent reduction in loading activities at the Apapa depots.

Tokunbo Korodo, chairman, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, Lagos zone, was quoted as saying that the number of trucks loading fuel per day had reduced. He said loading of fuel at the Coconut area of Apapa, Lagos, had been disrupted following the road construction work along the axis. “Any marketer that has product along that corridor will not be able to load. Most depots are fast drying up. That is why there is a slight unofficial increase in the price of the product that is currently being sold at the Apapa depots. From N86 per litre, we now see some marketers selling for N90 to N91 without trucks,” he said.

According to Korodo, despite claims that the fourth quarter import allocation and its supplementary had been approved by the government, the non-payment of subsidies to marketers could make nonsense of the move as importers would not be willing to do further importation. “Marketers need money to bring in this product. They put down a lot of money to import the product, and may not be able to do additional importation if they are not paid as and when due.”

But the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, has assured Nigerians that there are enough petroleum products in the country to last for the next 50 days. Lanre Oladele, spokesperson PPPRA, attributed the current challenges in the fuel supply to the construction works going on along the Apapa axis, adding that this did not mean that the product was not available. He confirmed that the fourth quarter import allocation as well as its supplementary allocation had been approved by the government.

The federal government appears to be looking into the grievances of the union going by the utterances of David Mark, senate president, who recently assured Nigerians that the PIB would be passed into law before the end of the current legislative year. He said Nigeria must as a matter of urgency pass the Bill because oil companies are beginning to get worried, stressing that the situation might drive away investment in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

The PIB when passed, will update existing laws in the petroleum industry and also guarantee a win-win situation for oil companies and the Nigerian government. According to him, Nigeria is on the losing side as a result of the delay in the passage of the bill, maintaining that this is why the country must accelerate the passage of the bill into law.

The proposed Bill in essence is a reform legislation which aims to establish in place of the existing myriad of legislative and administrative instruments, an omnibus legislation that seeks to establish clear rules, procedures and institutions for the administration of the petroleum industry in Nigeria.

Only time will tell if the threat by PENGASSAN will persuade the National Assembly to pass the Bill when they resume on December 16.