18 December 2913, Lagos – Two of the major labour unions in the oil and gas industry, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have officially kicked against the federal government’s planned privatisation of the four refineries in the country.
The government had recently disclosed plans to privatise four of its refineries, which have a collective installed refining capacity of 445,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, also noted that the government would carry members of labour unions in the oil and gas sector along in the privatisation process.
But PENGASSAN and NUPENG, which jointly staged a protest against the planned refineries privatisation at the corporate headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday in Abuja, also asked the government to within one week retract its recent disclosure of the sales through Alison-Madueke, who made known the plan in a media interview.
The unions stated that such privatisation plan by the government would not be acceptable to it in view of its claims that it ran contrary to the provisions in the yet-to-be passed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that is currently before the National Assembly for consideration and passage.
The President of PENGASSAN, Babatunde Ogun, stated in his address that the unions viewed the planned sales with some suspicions, especially with the provisions in the PIB for the creation of a vibrant National Oil Company (NOC), deliberation on heads of agreements reached with the government through the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on possible privatisation of the refineries as well as the ongoing refurbishment of the same refineries through the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM).
Ogun noted that the unions would give government a chance to think through its plans for the sale of the refineries from now till the end of the year, after which it would be forced to initiate a nationwide industrial action starting from January 1, 2014 to press home its displeasure with the refineries sale.
“By the first week in January, be rest assured that PENGASSAN and NUPENG will go on an indefinite strike; we need a retraction of that statement that said that the refineries privatisation would start by the first quarter of 2014.
“You cannot sell something without a model and without Nigerians knowing what you are doing; we have said it before that this industry is secretive and the nature through which they do business in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria is fraught with corruption, we have a PIB that we do not know its direction but we said there must be a retraction first,” Ogun said.
He further stated: “We do not want a retraction of the statement in the room, we want it to be before the whole Nigerian so that they know the plan is on hold until there is an agreement and if that is not done between now and the end of the year, be rest assured that by the first week of January, the strike will not be what we will be talking about.”
On the government’s claim that it was in touch with the unions on the privatisation moves, Ogun explained that the unions were not consulted by the government on the new development.
“We have a PIB that we wrote; the thrust of the PIB is not what the government is pursuing. We have had up to seven agreements with the government and nothing has happened so far but we do not trust the government anymore on this.
Anybody that gave that information is not putting out the actual thing, the minister has a total disconnect from us and we have people who work on her behalf that discuss issues like the GMD of the NNPC but there is no time that we have discussed this issue.
If the minister has gone on to announce in the newspapers of the privatisation plans, it means that they have a guideline already,” Ogun added.
– Chineme Okafor, This Day