By Victor Ahiuma-Young
ORGANISED labour in the nation’s petroleum industry, has called on the Federal Government to give Nigerians a definite time frame to end fuel importation and gas flaring in the country.
Under the umbrella of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, labour said it is aware of the clandestine moves by the Bureau of Public Enterprises, BPE, to sell the public refineries despite the agreement reached between the Federal Government and organised labour. It warned that selling off the refineries without the consent of labour will throw the industry into unprecedented industrial turmoil.
The association also alerted the Nigerian public that the Federal Government has refused to reconstitute the board of the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, and has therefore been unilaterally running the agency, preventing other stakeholders from scrutinising its subsidy claims.
Babatunde Ogun, immediate past President of PENGASSAN, told Sweetcrude that “PENGASSAN plays key role in the downstream sector of oil and gas operation, and policy issues. Our inputs to policy formulation have been of help in the management of emerging and difficult challenges in the sector. The association supported downstream liberalisation to foster private investments, participation and competition in petroleum products refining, storage, marketing and distribution.
“We noted that a lot of work is required to stimulate private sector participation, encourage investment through the promotion of fair and healthy competition. In all these, the consuming public and businesses need protection against the severity and vagaries of market forces and exploitation of consumers through overpricing.
“It is curious to note that, two years ago, the Federal Government dissolved the Board of the PPPRA and have up till now not reconstituted the board. What this means is that government has decided to run this agency alone without stakeholders input. Thus, making it impossible to ascertain the amount of subsidy it claims for petroleum products. We call on the government to immediately constitute this board.”
He commended the efforts of the Dangote Group and other private investors who have indicated interest and strong commitments in building refineries to improve local refining in the country. He also called on the government to provide enabling environment as well as a level playing field to ensure their efforts come into reality.
Ogun however said, “We condemn vehemently attempts by government to sell the four state-owned refineries in Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Warri after several failures to do the Turn-Around-Maintenance (TAM) on them. We have noted government’s insincerity in implementing the agreement reached with Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and PENGASSAN during the January 7, 2014 meeting on the sale of refineries.
“We are watching closely all the subterranean attempts by the BPE to go ahead with the sale of these refineries in spite of our engagement and agreement with the government. We earnestly yearn for stronger commitment and push to improve and increase local refining with specific date to end importation of petroleum products and gas flaring.”
Speaking on gender issues, he said “gender issues have in the last three years gained more attention and dominance both in terms of activities and participation in local and international programmes. The WIP chairperson’s position has been elevated as a member of the Central Working Committee (CWC), while the first Annual Women in PENGASSAN Conference was held in Lagos from March 24-25, 2014. We now have more female comrades occupying leadership positions in the Association, although there is more room for improvement in this regard.”