By Victor Young
A few days ago, a non-governmental organization, AfriTAL, founded by former President of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Dr. Brown Ogbeifun, as part of Webinar series on “Post COVID-19: Oil and Gas Industry Challenges and Prospects” under our Save Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry initiative programme, held the first virtual session focusing Managing industrial relations in challenging times and Repositioning the oil and gas industry for post-COVID-19 recovery.
No fewer than 36 participants, drawn from Civil Society Organizations, CSOs including organised labour and the Media participated in the online engagement.
In his welcome address, Ogbeifun noted that “the only way Nigeria can reinvent herself after COVID 19, reduce the unemployment situation in the country and make her oil and gas industry attractive to investors, is not by borrowing, but by plugging all the haemorrhaging points in her economy. This would enable her to generate more funds to divest from oil and also properly develop the oil-producing communities.
Nigeria’s projected workforce in the next 10 years is about 122 million, which is nearly as high as her current total population. Except for the present socio-economic downturn imposed by COVID 19 is reversed, to cater for the country’s rapidly expanding population, there is a hidden time bomb, waiting to explode in the near future.
He said: “One way the nation can reinvent the wheels is through serious investments in gas-based industrialization projects. Unfortunately, this is one area the nation has overlooked for so long. For instance, Nigeria has huge gas reservation assets, which she is currently managing the way it managed the nation’s crude oil from independence. Nigeria has over 600 trillion cubic feet (TCF) or 17 trillion cubic metres (TCM), which is made up of associated and non-associated gas. Instead of creating value in the gas chain, the nation flares most of her gas for several reasons.
“Unfortunately, the country has about 179 Flare sites with very disastrous negative impacts on our socio-economic growth, environmental and human impacts on the oil-producing communities of the Niger Delta and employment generation opportunities. COVID 19 is beckoning on us to change the narratives so that our teeming youths can be employed, the Niger Delta can benefit from a clean environment, which they rightly deserve and at the end earn much-needed revenue for the country.”
While Dr Steve Ojeh, an oil and gas industrial relations’ expert; Israel Aye, a Lawyer, energy advisor and an entrepreneur of repute, presented papers on Managing Industrial Relations in Challenging Times and Repositioning the Oil and Gas Industry for post-COVID-19 Recovery”, respectively, Presidents of PENGASSAN and NUPENG, Nduka Ohaeri and Prince Williams Akporeha, respectively served as panellists.
In his remarks, Ohaeri in accepting to cooperate and collaborate with critical stakeholders called on them to stand up to their responsibilities saying “though the unions have the responsibilities of wearing both the national caps and looking at the business, we shall, however, not be cowed or cajoled into taking actions or speaking for government or speaking for our employers, because they all have their responsibilities. But be rest assured that our responsibilities are not lost on us as a union. When necessary, we will wear the national cap. At other times, we shall wear the cap of labour unions in matters relating to the welfare of our members.”
Similarly, Akporeha said “Though everybody is saying that the unions should cooperate with the companies to survive, that survival should not be translated into redundancies all the time on the part of the Unions. Our members have been asked to stay at home. Companies are using the COVID 19 situation to close out contracts without recourse to the subsisting collective bargaining agreements.
“Worse still, the unions are not being consulted under the guise that they cannot be reached. This is unacceptable. On removal of subsidy and the PIB, we believe the government still has so much to do. As a union, we can only cooperate on matters that we are engaged in and that which respects the sanctity of our collective agreements as a basis for collaboration”