PENGASSAN calls for speedy passage of Petroleum Industry Bill

Helen Shok Jok, Abuja

Nigeria’s National Assembly has been urged to hasten the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill PIB before it.

The call was made on a Voice of Nigeria Flag Ship programme, IN THE NEWS, by the President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria PENGASSAN, Mr Francis Johnson.

He said the passage and subsequent implementation of the PIB will effectively address the problems of subsidy on petroleum products and reduce the incessant industrial action by oil workers.

When the present government took the reins of power in May last year, PENGASSAN had presented what it called a comprehensive roadmap to the government on its thoughts on how the industry should be. In the roadmap, PENGASSAN asked government to declare a state of emergency in the oil and gas industry.

According to the President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson “This is an industry that is grappling with a whole lot of issues, namely crude oil theft,  pipeline vandalism, backlog of Joint Venture Cash Calls, poor state of refineries, corruption in the importation of petroleum products, subsidy payment to marketers and  abuse of Nigerian Content policy….”

With the state of emergency proposal, PENGASSAN is of the opinion that all Nigerians could sit down together to discuss the problems and proffer solutions.

NNPC Reastructuring

Answering question on what the last industrial action by the oil workers was meant to achieve, Comrade  Johnson said that the strike was unavoidable because of “the statement made on air, television, electronic and print media by the honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and GMD of NNPC, Mr Ibe Kachukwu, and the statement I am referring to is the one which he made at the Olebiri lecture where he said that government was going to unbundle NNPC in thirty companies and scrap what is known as G.O.D…,” he said. Adding that, that has never happened in the organisation before.

PENGASSAN insisted that the Minister of State for Petroleum does not have the powers to announce the unbundling of the organisation. In his words “the creation of NNPC is an Act of Parliament of 1977, fortunately for us as Nigerians, the President and Commander in Chief of Nigeria was then the Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources when most of the refineries were set up….” Johnson said.

Speaking on the union’s position on the proposed restructuring of the NNPC, The President stressed that PENGASSAN was not in any way against the restructuring as long as it is done within the ambit of the law. He said that the union in the past had along with its sister union in the oil and gas sector, NUPENG, advocated what he called the “real” restructuring of the NNPC to make it more effective.

Government he said cannot successfully “restructure NNPC without first laying a solid foundation, by first removing all issues capable of posing problems or frustrating the exercise. The NNPC Act of 1977 that set up NNPC is still there. Just like any legal entity, for government to do anything like unbundling, that Act must either be repealed, or amended, to give a legal backing to that exercise.

“The unions are concerned that government seems not to be very open with what it wants to do with the NNPC, initially, it was talking about unbundling but, when there was so much pressure from the National Assembly, the Minister of State turned around to say government was not unbundling, but restructuring or re-organising.”

“ There is no way the unions or anybody would be against any decision that Nigerians are convinced would yield benefits to the people, provided such decisions are open, honest, transparent and with sincerity of purpose,”  The PENGASSAN President stressed.

Reacting to the question that the last industrial action by the union was selfish and did not consider the plight of the ordinary Nigerian, he said that organised labour does not have the resources to be sponsoring advertorials and reporting, adding that “ …even when we do write ups, they kill it they don’t publish it, so what do we do? We have to use the power we have to also call for attention. Now you are a mother, you have a baby of two months, the baby is crying, it is the duty of the parents to know if the baby is running temperature, growing teeth, you can’t say this is paining you and you leave the baby, the baby is calling for attention…,” the PENGASSAN President said.

He then advised the government to ensure that whatever policy it formulates and implements is to the benefit of all citizens saying “…ultimately, we are all Nigerians and we must all make sure that Nigerians don’t suffer unnecessarily.