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PIGB: Security of jobs not negotiable — Oil workers, others

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By Victor Ahiuma-Young

THE second edition of “Save The Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry” round table conference organised by African Initiative for Transparency, Accountability and Responsible Leadership, AfriTAL, held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, could not have come at a better time.

Similarly, the resolutions by the participants including leaders of the two unions in the Petroleum industry; Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, among other stakeholders, are equally needed at a time like this when Nigerian leaders appear to be at a crossroad socio-economically and politically, where the issue of job losses, unfair Labour practices,  and sales of public assets despite its unpalatable experiences over time, seems the easiest way out of the challenge of bad leadership confronting the country.

The round table conference was convened as an initiative of Dr. Louis Brown Ogbeifun, a former President of PENGASSAN, and former Industrial Relations Manager, Nigeria National Petroleum Cooperation, NNPC. He was also a deputy President of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and Chartered Institute of Mediation and Conciliators, ICMC.

After robust deliberations on issues, prospects and challenges facing the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, the participants at the two day event, noted and agreed that the Nigeria oil and gas industry was facing a very gloomy future and therefore needed urgent actions to save it by all stakeholders.

Participants among others, called on union leaders in the sector to use their positions to rescue the industry and place it on an enviable path of progress, saying the unions should begin to examine, engage, and interrogate policies, legislations in line with international best practices with the view to achieving accountable and transparent oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

Operations of the refineries

As union leaders, they are aware that Government has commenced the restructuring of the NNPC as evidenced by the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, PIGB, with the final aim of privatizing the operations of the refineries. However, Government should be guided by the positions of NUPENG and PENGASSAN at all times.

“The unions must insist that the security of workers’ employment and focusing on the optimum capacity utilization of the refineries that would protect the interests of the workers and Nigerians are not negotiable. The unions should constructively and regularly engage government and all stakeholders at ensuring that the oil and gas is repositioned for the good of all stakeholders. The roles of Research and Development (R & D) should be made more visible, vibrant and more effective within the unions’ administrative processes, to enable them deliver efficient services to their members, the public and for the purpose of constructively engaging the chieftains of the oil and gas industry and government.

According to the resolutions, “the unions should urgently develop appropriate strategies for engaging relevant stakeholders in anticipation of the organisational change processes that would follow the PIGB and or the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The unions should be more pro-active in engaging and interrogating emerging issues in the oil and gas industry. Arising from the Conference and with the urgency of the possible passage of the PIGB in the next few weeks from today; the unions should raise a formidable lobbying team to ensure that the positions and interests of the Unions; and that of the public are included in the PIGB before it is passed.”

Funding through capital market: On the issue of funding, the participants were of the view that  the previous funding arrangements led to the cash call arrears, almost grounded oil and gas operations, led to delays in projects and the gross underdevelopment of the Oil and Gas industry and insisted that there was sufficient local funding in the Capital Market for the financing of the oil and gas industry activities.

The participants contended that “the easiest and most straight forward way of getting funds that would be beneficial to the economy, Nigeria and Nigerians is through the Capital Market. The Unions should embark on constructive engagements with all relevant stakeholders to consider the Capital Market funding model as a source of the JV funding.

Oil and gas funding should never be on adhoc basis but should pass through appropriate legislations to avoid ambiguities, unnecessary legal challenges in future, short changing Nigeria as well as interferences by political class.

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