By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and its Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, have identified some grey areas in the in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, recently passed by the National Assembly, NASS, warning that ther could be crisis if they are not addressed before Presidential assent.
The two unions in the nation’s petroleum industry, also fumed over the restriction of import license of products to only few refiners in the country, describing it as major drawback of passed bill.
In a statement by the leadership of the NUPENG and its PENGASSAN counterpart, they also insisted on single regulator in the sector in the best interest of the nation and the industry.
According to them, among others, some of the grey areas included Board membership of Unions, restriction on import license, single regulator in the industry, provision of incentive for investment in local refining, enhancement for manpower development and training, indecent employment especially casualisation of workers, and investment in alternative energy.
The statement signed Prince William Apkoreha, and Afolabi Olawale, President and General Secretary (NUPENG), and Festus Osifo and Lumumba Okugbawa, President and General Secretary (PENGASSAN), respectively, the unions hoped that the grey areas, especially monopoly to be granted to few refiners, should be addressed by both houses of the Assembly before the Bill is sent to President Muhammad Buhari for assent.
The oil workers believe that if the grey areas were not addressed now before the Presidential assent to the Bill, it would hinder the full potential of the bill.
According to the oil workers, “inclusion of PENGASSAN and NUPENG on the board of the industry regulator(s) is crucial for the attainment of one of the key objectives of this bill, which is to ensure accountability and transparency in the industry.
“All civil societies and labour strongly clamoured for the inclusion of the two Unions in the sector to be on the board of the regulators for reasons of global best practice currently being practiced in most climes.
“The needs and justifications for this are many and enormous as it will also ensure that the regulators are further strengthened in ensuring that issues bordering on the welfare of workers would have been championed from the cradle of the bill.
“The leadership of the two Unions calls for caution and serious rethink on the provision in the bill that restrict import license of products to only few Refiners in the country.
“This provision will stifle price competition and leave pricing to be solely dictated by a few local refiners which is against the spirit, letters and intent of this bill.
“The bill should be crafted in manner that will engender competition while also encouraging local refining. We should avoid running from one ugly scenario to an uglier situation that is avoidable.
“The oil workers have advocated a single regulator in the industry and are still of the strong view that this would be in the best interest of the industry and the nation at large as it would serve as a one-stop-shop for current and aspiring investors as far as regulatory steering is concerned; as it’s currently applicable in other industries such as banking, pension, insurance, telecommunication etc.
“Research has shown that few countries that started with dual regulatory agencies in the oil and gas industry had merged into one; having seen the benefits accruable in having a single regulator.
“As a patriotic Association that puts Nigeria and Nigerians first in all its thoughts, we advocated that the PIB should provide sufficient incentives to International Oil Companies, lOCs, and indigenous oil producers to invest in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry.
“NUPENG and PENGASSAN strongly believe that such incentives will help in driving the much-needed local refining.
“Petroleum training institutes and Federal University of Petroleum Resources are two key institutions that provide manpower to the oil and gas industry.
“These institutions have been poorly funded over the years and hence we posited that operators in the Nigeria oil and gas industry should be mandated to dedicate 10 percent of their annual training budget to provide training for their personnel in these institutions.
“Such promulgation, as the PIB, will reduce the funding gap in these citadels of learning and also reduce the pressure on federal appropriation as these institutions depend largely on national budget to survive.
“As part of our presentation during the public hearing, we alluded to the fact that casualisation of workers in the oil and gas industry is gradually killing the industry and we advocated for a clause in the PIB that would help in curbing this trend.
“In the wake of energy transition, we advocated that the objective of NNPC include research and development, especially into alternative and renewable energies.
“In the submission we made to the National Assembly numerous justifications were given in each of the subject stated above yet they were not captured in the bill that was passed by both Chambers.
“As the Conference Committee of the National Assembly meets, we strongly advocate that these issues are taken on board as they would further enhance the bill and ensure it meets the yearnings and. aspirations of Nigerians.
“The leadership of NUPENGASSAN wishes to draw the attention of stakeholders to the need for the Unions to be fully represented in the Transition Committee.
“This is to ensure that the issues bordering on workers are effectively taken on board from the onset. This is the only way we could avoid an industrial crisis that could arise if all the l’s are not dotted and T’s crossed.
“NUPENG and PENGASSAN will resist with all its arsenals should it be overlooked during the Transition Committee.”
They, however, appreciated the lawmakers for the passage of the much-awaited Bill, saying “The journey of the passage of this much-awaited bill begun over twenty years ago, met several stumps and miscarriages on the road and it is finally sailing to its destination.
“It is an undeniable fact that NUPENGASSAN over the years consistently advocated the passage of this bill, as we firmly and strongly believed that the PIB is a singular piece of legislation that could further unlock the fortunes of the oil and gas industry, even as the world is positioning itself on the energy transition that will revolutionise different energy mix.
“Without any iota of doubt, we affirm the fact that the gains that will be accruable with the passage of the PIB will be enormous and pivotal to greater growth and development of the industry and the nation at large.”