ELUONYE KONYEGWUAEHI 17 August 2014, Sweetcrude, Lagos – The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, has called for a total restructuring of the nation’s petroleum industry as soon as possible to move the sector forward.
The union said the starting point for the restructure would be the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, into law by the National Assembly.
President of NUPENG, Comrade Achese Igwe, in an interview with SweetcrudeReports, insisted, however, that before the passage of the PIB, excessive powers given to the Minister of Petroleum, must be expunged, contending that even for a minister, there should be checks and balances to avoid dictatorial tendencies that could hamper the growth and progress of the industry.
He said: “The PIB will address the issue of divestment. The issue of PIB will address corruption. Another issue we are looking at in terms of divestment processes is the labour issues where Nigerians and their jobs must be protected by virtue of their God-given right as citizens of this country. I want to say that the PIB must be passed. The PIB should also be able to create a forum where Nigerian investors today, by virtue of the local content act, give power for Nigerians to invest in the oil and gas sector.
“We fought for it as a union – both NUPENG and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). It is now negatively being implemented in the sector, where people want to take over investment, the next thing is that they are sending Nigerians working there back into the labour market even though they know that there is high rate of unemployment in the country. When we are passing the PIB, and to ensure necessary corrections, these are areas that we have to look at and see how we can create an enabling environment for all stakeholders – workers, investors, government – to be meeting. Stakeholders must have a platform for dialogue to discuss the way forward.
He noted that since the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, assumed office the labour unions had been calling for a stakeholders meeting, but that, instead of this, she would hold meetings with “major investors”. Igwe queried: “Who are major investors? What do they have to do with issues facing Nigerians? Our way of living is different from that of the Americans or British or other parts of the world. We have chiefs, have extended family relations and you cannot run away from them. In the UK or America, it is not so. We must begin to look at our peculiarity as a people, and how we can protect our cultures, just like the British are protecting theirs. We are somehow myopic in looking at these issues. We must begin to trace back our existence and look at our environment. Surely, we will pass away, but what are we leaving behind?”