By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Workers in the nation’s petroleum industry have rejected the provision in the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, recently passed by the National Assembly, NASS, that restrict import license of products to only few refiners in the country, warning that it is one of the major drawbacks of passed bill.
Vanguard gathered from the leadership of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and its Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, that the restriction of import license of products to only few refiners in the country is one of the grey areas in the recently passed Bill by NASS that NUPENG and PENGASSAN are not comfortable with.
According to sources, NUPENG and PENGASSAN are hoping 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 are not addressed now before the Presidential assent to the Bill, it would hinder the full potential of the bill.
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Some of the grey areas include 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.
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.
They said: “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 of the 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 Associations that put 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.”