18 September 2014, Lagos – The strike embarked upon Tuesday by workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) over unresolved pension issues and problems with the refineries may affect crude oil exports.
Spokesman for the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mr. Babatunde Oke, said all junior and senior workers of NNPC are on strike over a disagreement with the government on pensions and problems with the refineries.
“It will not have any impact on production but it can have an impact on exports,” he told Reuters. “All export terminals manned by our workers could shut down.”
There was no immediate comment from the government.
Nigerian oil workers often strike or threaten to, and there has not in recent history been any major impact on exports or production.
An official at one oil multinational said shutting down exports would be a drastic action and he doubted if the union could do it.
Oke insisted that “it could affect the supply of crude by Nigeria to the world markets”.
“Until we have a commitment from the government” on demands such as fixing crude supplies to refineries and the pension gap, “the strike stays on,” he said.
Already, the four refineries and depots operated by NNPC were shut down Tuesday.
At the Warri refinery loading depot operated by the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), tanker drivers who reported for their routine operations were politely turned back at the main gate leading to the depot.
Other depots located in other parts of the country were also shut down by the NNPC workers.
The oil workers had threatened industrial action if the management of NNPC failed to heed their requests.
The workers were, among other issues, requesting the management to broker an agreement with them on how it intended to adequately fund the in-house pension fund operated by the corporation.
The development followed the withdrawal of the licence to operate the said in-house pension fund by the National Pension Commission (Pencom).
As at December 2012, the deficit in the pension scheme was N133.56 billion.
Owing to the industrial action embarked upon by the NNPC staff, the House of Representatives Committees on Petroleum (Upstream, Downstream and Gas Resources) have summoned the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Joseph Dawha.
Also invited are the leadership of PENGASSAN as well as that of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) over the looming crisis in the oil and gas sector in the country.
The invitations were contained in a press statement signed by the Chairman, Petroleum (Upstream), Hon. Muraina Ajibola, Chairman, Petroleum (Downstream), Dakuku Peterside and Chairman, Gas Resources, Hon. Bassey Ewa.
The committees stated that their action was aimed at stopping any strike that could cripple the nation’s oil and gas sector.
“The Joint Oil and Gas Committee of the House of Representatives is concerned by the strike, as reported in the media by staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),” the statement read in part.
“Our concern is driven by the major role oil and gas plays in our economy; and the enormous damage any disruption in the system will entail for the Nigerian people.
“Alive to our constitutional responsibilities, the Joint House Committees on Oil and Gas have decided to intervene in this matter with a view to resolving whatever the issues may be.
“Accordingly, we have invited the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources, and the affected unions and relevant stakeholders in the sector to a meeting for tomorrow Thursday, 18th September 2014 (today) at 11.00 am at the House of Representatives.
“Given the urgency of this matter, it is our hope that the relevant parties will attend this meeting.
“We enjoin the parties to work with us to resolve their differences in the overall interest of the nation,” the statement concluded.
– This Day