By Victor Ahiuma-Young
IN what can be described as a u-turn andÂ Â complete departure from the view of their umbrella bodies, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), leaders of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and its Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) counterpart, have declared support for the planned full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry if it wouldÂ guarantee products deliveries to Nigerians and open up the industry for growth and job opportunities for Nigerians.
Leaders of the oil workers however said their support for this policy is on the ground that it must not be import-driven and that the enabling environment and criteria that would open up the market for competition devoid of cartel must be guaranteed.
Vanguard gathered this was part of the communique reached by leaders of NUPENG and PENGASSAN at a joint emergency National Executive Council (NEC), meeting weekend in Abuja.
According to Vanguard source, â€œthe joint NEC of the two union agreed that the lack of completion in the downstream sector of petroleum industry, has stalled growth and jeopardized job opportunities. Therefore any policy that guarantees competition and deliveries of petroleum products to consumers will be encouraged on the ground that enabling environment and criteria will be guaranteed.â€
The NLC, TUC and their civil society allies which NUPENG and PENGASSAN are affiliated to, have been waging war against full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry and have been currently organising protest rallies across the country against the policy.
Commenting on what obviously is a u-turn and departure from the of NLC, President of NUPENG, Comrade Peter Akpatason, said as oil workers, all they are interested in is the growth of the sector and un-interrupted supplies of products to Nigerians.
According to him, â€œthe government has complained that a four-member cartel has held the sector to ransom and has refused to name the cartel. We now reasoned that if the nation must be freed from the cartel, the sector must be opened up with all enabling environment guaranteed. We must discuss the government deregulation so that we can make our view known to the government. It is not about a u-turn or a departure from the view of our umbrella body. It is about the growth of the sector, the guarantee of products to Nigerians.
We need to engage the government to ensure that the policy is not import-driven. They have said that it is only deregulation that will bring in new refineries. We want to discuss these terms so that, they can give us a time frame with which the new refineries would come on stream. We need to make government know that we would not accept import-driven deregulation.â€
Corroborating Comrade Akpatason, Deputy President of PENGASSAN, Comrade Wali Mustapha Nuhu, said their support for deregulation is based on the condition that all enabling environment, like the pipeline, railway network, power supply and other infrastructures are put in place.
He said: â€œ We will not accept an import-driven deregulation, but a deregulation that is based on local refining capacity. We are in the industry and all we want is the growth of the sector and job opportunities for Nigerians. If opening up the market for greater participation of more people will ensure that and make products available.