By Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
PRESIDENT-GENERAL of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, Comrade Peter Esele, has said he is in the Special Task Committee set up by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Petroleum on the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to among others, be a whistle blower to ensure that the interest of Nigeria is not undermined.
Comrade Esele told Sweet crude that he did not accept the offer for personal reasons and he consulted with his constituency in labour and the civil society organization, before accepting the work in the committee and that he was given the green light to accept.
He dismissed insinuations that the membership of the committee was meant to compensate him for perceived pro-government role the January anti-petrol price hike national strike.
According to him, “If we have decided to be puritans and we complain about the system, if every one of us is out of the system, how then can we change the system? When they made the announcement, I never accepted the offer. I told myself I was not going to accept the offer until I discussed with some of groups like labour, civil society, media and so on. It was some of these people that later called.
“Some people from the oil and gas called and asked why should I not take it? Their argument was that all this while we were talking about certain changes, we all know certain things are wrong, before it becomes law, make it public and let all of us know. So, if we do not have any responsibility there, what are we going to do? For your information I only accepted the offer last week (about two weeks ago) that was after about 15 to 20 civil society organizations, CSOs met in Abuja.
“They invited me to come to Abuja and I met with them, they told me reasons why they want me to accept the offer and I told them point blank that if they say I should reject the offer, I will. It was after I got their endorsement that I accepted the offer. I attended the first meeting of the committee on Tuesday February, 14 where we now had to adjoin for another two weeks to get a draft.”
“I have pledged that as soon as I get the draft, I will send it to the CSOs to let them know what may likely be coming to the public domain. I know there is a lot of suspicion in the country. No matter what your intentions are, we suspect everything. My only appeal is that, we should encourage good people to come out. But if every one of us start saying, Nigeria is so bad, Nigeria is so bad and we are complaining in our bedroom, and if we have an opportunity to change one or two things, we should do it.
“The first meeting I attended they did not give us any allowance. If they had given me any sitting allowance, I would have told you publicly. I can tell you that they did not even pay my flight ticket. My flight ticket to that meeting was paid by TUC and my hotel accommodation was also paid by TUC. So, if actually we are looking for where to make money, I can assure you that I have served in several committees, you will be shocked if told you what they paid as sitting allowances or accommodation.”
Speaking on whether as a lone voice he has capacity to push his view on PIB through, the President-General said “I am fully aware of this that is why I have also requested that we need representatives from labour and the civil society organizations. I said it my last presentation to the House of Representatives. I need some more people who would also understand my language, and know where I am going.
One other thing I have told the civil society organizations is that if they call and I don’t pick, they should send texts, if they send texts and I don’t reply, they should come and knock on my door, if I don’t open the door they should break down the door. Once I get my hands on the drafts, I will let them know immediately.”
“I am not sure we coming with a fresh Bill. There are also issues that have arisen as a result of global practice. We are going to put the Oil and Gas Industry Committee, OGIC, and the PIB bill together and compare and contrast. So if we find out that whatever they are adding will short change Nigerians, we will say no. But if we find out that it’s in the best interest of Nigerians, then we will take it.”
Comrade Esele expressed doubt whether a deregulated downstream could actually bring about the needed investment, he said though the argument could be completely faulted and said fine, government has an argument, but diesel is deregulated.
How many people have come in to say that they want to set up refineries for diesel? Aviation fuel is deregulated, how many people have come in to say that they want to make it their primary assignment? You can also say you want to concentrate on these other products.