01 December 2013, Lagos – WORKERS in the oil industry have explained their resolve to frustrate the sale of the four government refineries, saying well-meaning Nigerians must join hands with organized labour to ensure that the refineries are not handed over to fronts and cronies of the Presidency.
Under the umbrella of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and its Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, counterpart, the workers insisted that government officials deliberately sabotaged the Turn-Around Maintenance, TAM, and supply of crude to the refineries to have reasons to sell the refineries to their cronies.
Operating under the aegis of NUPENGASSAN (a fusion of NUPENG and PENGASSAN), the unions proposed the option of strategic partnership between government and Organised Private Sector, OPS, or the modified Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, model with a national oil company, NOC, as owners of the four refineries holding a 49 equity share, while core investors hold 51.
“This planned outright sale is uncalled for, inimical to economy and Nigeria as a nation. It will only benefit the officials of government who are pushing for the sale as their fronts and cronies are already being positioned to buy the refineries as scrap. We have said no to it and we will continue to say no. If government refuses to listen to voice of reason, we will have no other option to do the needful (shut down the sector) to protect these assets for generations unborn,” PENGASSAN president, Comrade Babatunde Ogun, said.
“We (NUPENG and PENGASSAN), made our position on this known for a very long time. Even in our position paper on Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, we also started what should be done to the refineries. As soon government woke up and made known this repulsive planned sale of the refineries, NUPENG issued a statement denouncing it and we also issued a statement advising government to jettison the idea to avoid unnecessary industrial unrest in the sector. The planned sale is anti-Nigeria, anti-people and will not benefit the drivers and their cronies.”
It would be recalled that while reacting to the announcement of the planned sale of the refineries in 2014, Ogun threatened that the workers would resist the privatisation of the refineries because it was against national interest.
He insisted that government should deal with the problem of pipelines vandalism that hamper supply crude oil to the refineries as well as carry out TAM and see whether the refineries would not work.
According to him, the issue of the privatisation of the refineries had been on the front burner since President Olusegun Obasanjo regime, when the government through the Bureau for Public Enterprises hastily sold the refineries, recalling that because of public outcry, the sale was reversed by the late President Umar Yar’Adua.
*Victor Ahiuma-Young, Vanguard