Monday, September 27, 2010

Nigeria: Oil Workers Threaten Strike Over PI Bill

Lagos — Organised labour in the nation's oil sector, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have threatened to shut down all oil and gas installations in the country over what they called "insensitive passage" of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) by the Federal Government. If the two unions go ahead with the threat, the country would be launched into another round of fuel scarcity. National presidents of PENGASSAN and NUPENG Comrades Babatunde Ogun and Achese Igwe in a joint statement yesterday said their action is in resistance to the inimical legislative process which is aimed at spelling doom for the Industry and the nation's economy if the PIB is passed in its current state.

They said oil workers, who are the primary operators in the implementation process, were consciously excluded in the legislative and review processes.

They said several concessions and compromises have been made at the behest of powers that be, at the dictates of institutions and the privileged, and at the whims and caprices of the barons that can pay the piper.

The statement which was also signed by the general secretaries of both unions comrades Elijah Okougbo and Bayo Olowoshile said, "Both Unions are using this medium to inform the general public that several appeals and demands were made as organised labour in the Oil Sector to the Joint Committee on Petroleum, the Inter-Governmental Committee, the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Petroleum and Labour Ministers, and ultimately followed by our Save our Souls letter to Mr. President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR, drawing the attention of these institutions and authorities to the grey areas of utmost concern and interest to Labour and which in all ramifications serve to undermine the whole essence of Nigeria Content Development Act 2010 and other policy matters relating to local human capital empowerment, entrenchment of qualitative employment policy with career prospects, move to check the growing phenomenon of Casualisation and outsourcing trend in the sectors, and the exploration of potential capability of the Sector to significantly enhance job creation opportunity and Gross Domestic Product for the economy."

According to them, 56 changes were made due to the comments made by OPTS, 36 changes made in response to internal government agencies, 66 changes due to the other stake holders, some changes made to reflect indigenous participants' comments and additional changes made due to other external bodies but that PIB has undergone discrete and selective legislative processes leading to contentious interventions that have caused fundamental reviews of the original draft and the inputs from public hearing while keeping same off-the-shelves and from the website to forestall transparency and easy access.

They therefore said that the National Assembly should suspend the bill and ensure that the authentic bill that is being processed for passage is made public to ensure transparency in the process.

The unions said they are aware that the International Oil Companies and NNPC brought into the legislative process their preferred version other than the Dr. Rilwan Lukman-led OGIC recommended version that was adopted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on September 5, 2007 as National Oil and Gas Policy to be legislated and passed into Law.

They also said "the Joint Committee of the National Assembly and the Minister of Petroleum Resources should be compelled to engage the oil workers' Unions as a matter of utmost urgency".

They further said the National Assembly should adequately accommodate workers' concerns in the Bill to protect Nigerians, especially on matters bordering on job security, staff pension and gratuity, employee transfer and transition and other matters that impact on statutory and conventional provisions on employment contracts terms and conditions as well as staff welfare issues.

The unions said they got unconfirmed reports that Government may have jettisoned the idea of Incorporated Joint Venture (IJV) and other vital areas in the original bill.

They said, "According to our sources, changes have also been made to the redefinition and role of institutional frameworks and the fiscal regime as proposed in the draft policy to the National Assembly. We are blurred on the considered alternatives; we strongly believe that we ought to be privy to these changes before the Bill is passed into law."

"From the grapevine, PIB has been drastically bowed to essentially favour the interest of the International Oil Corporations (IOCs) against Nigerians' quests, ponders, questions and yearnings for the optimisation of our hydrocarbon resources," the unions also said.

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