13 March 2014, Abuja – The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG), Wednesday asked the federal government to concentrate its efforts on getting the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which is currently before the National Assembly passed into law, rather than seeking to privatise the country’s four major refineries.
The union in a reaction to comments by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, on the suspension of the privatisation of the refineries, stated that a functional PIB will rather engender a competitive oil and gas industry and also encourage investments in refineries by private investors.
It said in statement last night that it will not accede to any attempt by the government to privatise the refineries, adding that Alison-Madueke’s comments on the refineries at a recent meeting in the National Assembly were uncalled for.
“NUPENG takes serious exception to the comments made by the Minister of Petroleum resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke that the nation’s refineries must be privatised.
The minister’s comments are uncalled for, unnecessary and a mere diversion to the failure of the ministry to address the perennial problem of scarcity of petroleum products currently being experienced in the country,” it said in the statement that was signed by its president, Igwe Achese.
It further explained that it will not condone any attempt by the federal government to go back on agreement signed with the unions on January 7, 2014 in Abuja in which it was said that the nation’s refineries will not be privatised.
“In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) reached at that meeting, the two trade unions in the oil and gas sector, NUPENG and PENGASSAN agreed with the federal government to engage in social dialogue to develop viable and workable business models for the nation’s refineries.
“The union makes bold to say that billions of naira had been budgeted and purportedly spent on the Turn-Around-Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries with nothing to show for it,” it noted.
While making demands on the government, it said: “We state that the refineries must be rehabilitated to work optimally, which will account for at least seventy percent of domestic production, instead of selling the nation’s strategic assets.
The minister should concentrate more on how the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) should be passed so that the oil and gas market will be opened up to enable investors come and establish more refineries and those already given licenses to come on stream.”
NUPENG also stressed that a quick passage of the PIB would ensure transparency and accountability in the industry and at the same time, boost investors confidence.
“Rather than allowing the current massive importation of petroleum products, which a few cabal are benefitting from at the expense of the nation, the union believes that the transparency agenda of Mr. President on job creation should be enhanced by allowing interested investors set up private refineries, like the Alhaji Aliko Dangote example in free trade zone in Ondo/Ogun States, which will generate about 85,000 jobs.
“We warn that the union will not guarantee industrial peace and harmony if the threat by the minister to privatise the refineries is carried out by the government, when it should spear head the establishment of mini and mega refineries to complement what we already have and make sure the old ones are rehabilitated,” NUPENG added.
– Chineme Okafor, This Day