Thursday, 7 July 2016

Nigeria oil workers insist on strike, vow to shut down all operations

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said on Wednesday it would go ahead with its planned nationwide strike from Thursday.

The group’s spokesperson, Emmanuel Ojugbana, said chairmen and secretaries in its four zones and branches have concluded plans to ensure a complete shutdown of the country’s oil and gas industry operations and activities.

On Monday, PENGASSAN had directed its zonal leaders to sensitize members about the planned strike over “unresolved issues” affecting the smooth operation of the oil and gas industry.
Mr. Ojugbana said since the directive, its members have been meeting to fine-tune strategies towards the strike, with its key officers holding their final meeting on Wednesday.
“In the meeting, the method of the gradual shutdown of the industry was critically examined and adopted by the members. The action, which will cripple all activities and operations in the oil and gas sector, will affect all the sub-sectors.

“Our members in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Monitoring Board) PEF (MB), Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), oil majors, labour and contract services companies, and petroleum products marketing companies will join in the action,” Mr Ojugbana said.

PENGASSAN accused the government of deliberately frustrating efforts to resolve the issues by failing reconvene a meeting after two inconclusive negotiations on June 23 and 30 were put off.
Urging Nigerians and industry operators who would be affected by the action to show understanding, the spokesperson said the industrial action was critical to the survival of the oil and gas industry, which remains the mainstay of the country’s economy.

The acting general secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, later told PREMIUM TIMES that the association’s demands were not selfish, as they bordered on issues that would guarantee the continued survival of the oil and gas industry and the country’s economy.

Mr. Okugbawa listed some of the issues to include backlog of cash call arrears dating back to 2014, which he said had greatly hampered the ability of the joint venture partners with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to discharge their obligations both to the industry and their workers.

Other issues include the poor state of the country’s refineries and the massive waste of resources on turn around maintenance (TAM); continued importation of petroleum products; on-going industry reforms and NNPC restructuring as well as the politicisation of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

“Nigerians must understand that without government’s counterpart funding to the joint venture budget (the cash call), there is no way the industry will grow. Where the NNPC and its partners are not able to meet their obligations to the JVs, the first casualties are the workers, who are our members,” Mr. Okugbawa said.

He said the era when the IOCs carried 100 per cent the funding obligations of the JV and recoup from the proceeds was gone, saying the government must wake up to its responsibility, by meeting its counterpart funding to the various JVs in the country.
The current gale of divestment by IOCs from the country, he said, was another way of rationalising the industry workforce and throwing more people into the labour market, pointing out that where the IOCs fold up, because they could meet their obligations, their workers would be sacked.

“The irresponsible behaviour of government is negatively impacting the economy and the operating environment. In the last two months, at least 50 workers in various service companies, namely Halliburton, Schlumberger, Sapetro, Fugro, Frontier, Universal, Arko, have been laid off by the IOCs, because they do not have the means to continue to engage them,” Mr. Okugbawa said.

He cited the case of Nigeria Agip Oil Company, which has not been able to engage the services its partner, Arco, for over three years, resulting in the sack of most of services firm’s workers.

On the insecurity in the Niger Delta, Mr, Okugbawa said the renewed attacks oil facilities by armed groups in the region have exposed most of its members to danger, as many of them lost their lives in recent attacks on Agip, Chevron and other companies in the region.

He decried the lack of involvement of oil workers in the on-going restructuring in the Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), PPPRA, DPR, and PEF, saying the two unions should be consulted in the planning and implementation of such polices.