14 February 2016, Abuja — The federal government on Thursday in Abuja accused oil majors operating in the country of not being sincere in their plans to downsize their workforce, stating that profit motive is the main aim in their quest to sack workers.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, at a parley with labour and oil companies criticised some foreign oil firms operating in Nigeria, stressing that their motive for profit usually supercedes the need to give back part of their proceeds in the sector.
“While this administration welcomes foreign investments,especially in the oil and gas sector,we expect the oil majors to plow back some of their profits,rather than thinking of laying off workers,we all know there are dwindling revenue coming from oil but we can explore other means to sustain the workforce,”the minister said.
The accusation came on the heels of impending crisis in the oil and gas sector,where oil majors like Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil and Total have threatened to lay off some of their workers owing to dwindling global oil prices.
Ngige who was accompanied by the Minister of State, James Ocholi (SAN), also lambasted both indigenous and foreign contractors in the oil and gas industry, accusing them of being responsible for some of the challenges bedeviling the petroleum industry.
The minister explained that precautionary measures would henceforth be taken by the the government, which will make it “mandatory for labour contractors to obtain recruiters’ license before they can recruit staff on behalf of oil firms.”
Speaking, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) President, Achese Igwe, expressed labour displeasure with the move by oil majors to downsize.
He said: “I’m very worried about what they feel on the crisis. None (oil companies) said what the issues are. We believe strong in dialogue, in partnership to face the challenges in the industry.
“Nigeria is not the only country that is producing oil, even Angola, those countries are not experiencing the job loses Nigeria is experiencing,” Igwe said.
He further called for a sitaution where “contractors should be asked to obtain licence from Ministry of Labour and Employment.” He explained that most agreements signed were never respected; “none of the MoU have been respected or implemented by the IOCs. There is no way we can stand and see our members lose jobs, we will react and we will react strongly,” he added.
On their part, the oil majors, represented at the meeting said the move to downsize was tied to the dwindling global oil price in the international market.
Oil majors representatives who spoke include Clay Neff of Chevron Nigeria, Nicolas Terraz of Total Nigeria, Udom Inoyo of ExxonMobil and Stere Ojeh of Shell. In his presentation, Terraz explained that it was in the interest of the oil companies to maintain “industry harmony in the sector. We are facing difficult times globally, everybody is aware that low global oil price is responsible for this crisis.”
Ojeh of Shell told the gathering that “the challenges that face us is global. It is in the interest of government to keep jobs, it is also in our interest. But If you can’t invest tomorrow, then, there is no business.”
Other organisations represented at the meeting include the Ministry of Interior, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) among others.
*Paul Obi – Thisday