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Labour lists relief measures on impact of deregulation

Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
TRADE Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, has identified among others, seven major areas government should focus as relief measures to mitigate immediate negative impact of full deregulation of the downstream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry on the Nigerian masses.

Comrade Peter Esele, President-General of TUC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State Governor, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, of Ondo state and his Bauchi State counterpart, Alhaji Isa Yuguda, at the TUC conference. Photo: Victor Ahiuma-Young

The umbrella body for senior staff associations in the country, said the attendant impacts of petroleum subsidy removal on the cost and standard of living, and consumer price index could be minimized by the improved road networks, transportation boost for persons and goods, standard medical diagnostic laboratories standard medical hospitals capacity building and research development.

At the just concluded 8th triennial delegates’ conference of TUC, held recently in Benin, Edo state, its President-General, Comrade Peter Esele, also declared that organised labour is pushing for the Federal Government to set up Excess Crude Trust Fund, ECTF, to cater for the identified priority areas as identified.

He argued that membership of the fund should include civil society organizations, organized Labour comprising TUC, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN and its National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG counterpart, as well as  relevant government ministries, departments and agencies.

According to him, “every attempt to fully deregulate petroleum products prices by previous and current administrations have been resisted by labour based on the strong conviction that perennial product scarcity is caused by government’s failure to take the appropriate decision as regards the democratic dividends that should accrue from our endowed oil and gas resources.

The fact that NNPC was left to monopolize the downstream petroleum refining and marketing indeed worsen the situation as the major multinationals that should have been drafted by enabling legal and policy frameworks were not inspired until 2002 when the downstream operations became less attractive globally. Petroleum products remain the major source of energy for industrial and domestic operations.

The pressure n petroleum products has been further heightened by the unstable energy situation and yet no solution in sight. y the thrust of the  Petroleum Industry Bill, government appears resolved to redirect the legal, policy and institutional frameworks towards commercial orientation.

NNPC is to be transited to self sustaining, commercially oriented and profit making holding company with full capacity to seek fund from foreign and local money/capital market for its operations. The above indicates that government is abdicating its socioeconomic obligation and limiting its role to policy formulation and regulation. NNPC will operate autonomously and compete with other companies in the sector.”

“In this respect, government must be sensitive to the plight of Nigerians in this transition from regulatory price environment to fully liberalised frameworks. We strongly believe that if the above recommendations are implemented, deregulation can in the medium term stimulate economic growth and backward linkages into other sectors of the economy.

Given the strategic importance of petroleum products to our socio-economic survival and the fact that deregulation would be largely driven by imported petroleum products for the time being, it is important to ensure that relative socioeconomic relief measures and stimulus are put in place.

The attendant impacts of petroleum subsidy removal on the cost and standard of living, and consumer price index can be minimized by the following basic socioeconomic infrastructures: improved road networks, transportation boost for persons and goods: standard medical diagnostic laboratories standard medical hospitals capacity building and research development to accomplish the above socioeconomic goals, we urge the Federal Government to set up Excess Crude Trust Fund to cater for the identified priority areas as stated above. Membership of the fund shall include Civil Society Organizations, Organized Labour _ TUC, NLC, PENGASSAN & NUPENG and relevant government ministries, departments and agencies. Publication of quarterly audit of the fund should be made, and copies lodged the EFCC and ICPC to ensure transparency and accountability of this public fund.”

Key concerns of labour on PIB
Speaking on what he perceived as the major concerns of organised labour on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, Comrade Esele, said: “We have also observed the need to avoid pitfalls that may ensue with labour at such a critical period such as the passage of the Oil and Gas Reform bill if we collectively fail to address the following grey areas: Clause for employment transition arrangement for the Nationals in the existing Joint Venture (JV) companies. Need for alignment of the Petroleum Industry Bill with the Nigerian Contents Development Bill and Expatriate Quota Administration Agency Bill that are awaiting enactment in the National Assembly.

Resuscitation of NNPC Refineries and other subsidiaries for global competitiveness and investment attraction with immediate attention to installations/infrastructures issues including the Pension Fund gaps. Representation of Labour (as workers’ representatives/strategic partners) in the Board of the various structures and institutions of the Petroleum Industry. Their participation and inputs will go a long way, Downstream Sector Reforms.

Reforms bordering around this sector must always hold the Protection of citizens and the economy from the severity of imported petroleum product paramount as this is a major concern to labour.”

TUC calls for the following as fundamental: Government commitment to the provision of basic infrastructures and the accompanying socioeconomic relief measures to assuage the impact of full deregulation. Come up with an enabling policy that will foster public-private partnership and boost domestic production efficiency within a defined and monitored time frame. Immediate dredging and expansion of products loading and receiving facilities at the terminals, jetties and depots to overcome delays and demurrage which further aggravate the persistent artificial scarcity. Provide an affordable mass transit buses, rails systems and water transportation systems to serve as alternative means of transportation. Give immediate attention to maintenance and repair of roads.

Review of Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA price template which must be purged of demurrage and port charges in view of the limited loading capacity of our jetties and terminals to cope with the required level of efficiency. Improved performance of the industry regulatory and enforcement agencies for product quality controls without Safety compromises, and to ensure that consumers are adequately protected against marketers’ sharp practices tendencies.”


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