24 June 2014, Abuja – Labour and civil society leaders yesterday in Lagos, called on the National Assembly to expedite action in the passage of the protracted Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in order to save the nation’s oil and gas sector from collapse.
At a one-day interactive enlightenment workshop on PIB in Lagos, they expressed concern that the PIB, which is aimed at restructuring and redirecting the oil and gas industry towards achieving sustainable development of the country has been pending before the National Assembly years after its inception.
Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, represented, labour and civil society leaders insisted that PIB was adjudged to be one of the most important legislative bills in the history of the country due to the critical role of the petroleum sector in the nation’s economy.
In his speech, Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Mr. Issa Aremu, called on government to harmonise the grey areas insisting that the PIB must make provisions that recognise and uphold the interests and welfare of organized labour and workers in the oil and gas industry.
Represented by Mr. Ishmail Bello, Aremu said: “the Bill must Ensure that all companies operating in the Nigerian oil and Gas industry comply with all international labour conventions that have been ratified by Nigeria; the collective agreements with the labour unions and the extant labour laws as a minimum in all their dealings with the Nigerian workers and their representatives.”
The bill, he added must also ensure the mandatory recognition of the right to freedom of association and effective collective bargaining by all companies operating or doing business in the Nigeria oil and gas industry irrespective of where they are located.
According to him, the bill must ensure that all workers in the NNPC and other government agencies to be impacted by the PIB shall transit to the new companies/agencies on terms and conditions no less favourable than their present conditions.
This, he stated, is crucial to the successful takeoff of the agencies, the NOC and the PIB itself. Speaking further, he urged government to ensure that companies operating in the oil and gas industry do not use the PIB as a ploy to disengage Nigerians.
To this end, Aremu said the PIB should give the regulatory agencies the power to protect the jobs of Nigerians working in the oil and gas industry such that” no Nigerian will be relieved of his/her job without the approval in writing of the regulator.”
“The PIB is adjudged to be one of the most important legislative bills in the history of the country due to the critical role of the petroleum sector in the Nigeria economy. However, in passing the Bill, it must address critical issues. It must ensure strengthening of the Nigerian Content Act and policies, especially as relates to labour, training and manpower development.
“It must ensure all workers in the oil industry to be impacted by the PIB shall not be asked to leave service until a minimum of five (5) years after transition. In addition after five years, the union must be involved in re-organisation/right-sizing cum negotiation of exiting staff,” Aremu added.
In his remarks, Alison-Madueke, represented by Engineer Jonathan K. Okehs, explained that the PIB embodies the essential reforms that will put the petroleum sector on the path of robust growth.
According to her, Nigeria will be a significant hub in the African region for petroleum activities if the country adheres to the principles advocated in the Bill.
“The global economy is changing and Nigeria must adapt to these changes in order to grow a sustainable economy in the future. As a nation, we need to wean ourselves from dependence on natural resources and to diversify the economy to other important sectors. It is therefore my hope that the labour movement will adapt even as Nigeria adapts to global economic realities,” she said.
– This Day