Oil Workers Suspend Nationwide Strike

Oil workers

Nigeria’s oil workers’ unions have suspended their nationwide strike earlier embarked on in protest of several unresolved issues with the government.

The decision to call-off the strike was arrived at on Friday in a close-door meeting in Abuja between representatives of the union and the Federal Government delegation. The meeting lasted almost 12 hours.

A joint communique was issued at the end of the meeting by the leaders of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the government’s delegation led by the Supervising Labour Minister, Tanimu Turaki.

Nigerian Oil workers had commenced an indefinite strike to protest alleged unfair labour practice and non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.

According to officials of the NUPENG and the PENGASSAN, the government have refused to implement agreements reached with the unions on these issues.

At the meeting, the Supervising Minister promised the unions of government’s commitment to resolving all issues they raised, but the striking workers expressed doubt on the willingness of the international oil companies to implement resolutions of their meetings.

Long queues returned to petrol stations in Abuja, the nation’s capital city and other cities including Kaduna, as motorists engaged in panic buying of petrol, while unionists continue to chant solidarity songs, promising to enforce their industrial action unless government takes steps to address the issues.

The House of Representatives says the petroleum industry bill will be passed before the end of the 7th Assembly.

The spokesman of the House, Zakari Mohammed, told reporters on Thursday that the PIB report would be considered when the House resumes from its recess on January 13.

On June 2, the House of Representatives said it would do its best to ensure that the Petroleum Industry Bill “is passed soon”.

However, since that promise was made at the 3rd Downstream Stakeholders’ Conference of the House Committee on Petroleum Downstream in Abuja on Monday, the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Emeka Ihedioha, till date, the Bill has still not been passed.

 

NUPENG, PENGASSAN Reverse Strike Decision

The Trade Unions in the oil and gas sector would not be embarking on the industrial action, in protest of the Federal Government’s plan to sell the country’s refineries.

The leadership of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association PENGASSAN and NUPENG reached this decision after a 5-hour close door meeting with the Ministers of Petroleum and Labour.

Reading the communiques after the meeting, the Minister of Labour, Mister Emeka Wogu, said that Government would not sell the nation’s refineries.

In his reaction, the President of PENGASSAN, Babatunde Ogun told Channels Television that the agreement would serve as evidence to Nigerians that they (unions) are not trouble makers if the government decides to go back on its promise. He expressed confidence that the Federal Government can effectively manage the refineries if it makes the required investments and decisions.

“If government cannot keep to agreement, it means that government is not really serious…. If you are supposed to do something and you don’t do it for almost 10 to 14 years, then you cannot say government cannot run it (refineries),” he said, adding that “if they have challenges about funds, we can always look for funds.

Also, President of NUPENG, Igwe Achese said the “materials for the turn-around maintenance of the Port Harcourt refineries are on ground already and that’s why we are confident that in this first quarter, the Port Harcourt refinery turn-around maintenance will be concluded and then we can be thinking of the next one.”

FG Denies Plan To Sell Refineries

The reported approval by Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, for the sale of the nation’s four refineries has been denied by the Presidency.

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, told journalists at the Presidential Villa that President Goodluck Jonathan has not given and does not plan to give approval to that effect.

The oil and gas workers unions had threatened to embark on a nationwide industrial action following the announcement that the four refineries had been slated for privatisation in 2014 by the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE.

Mr. Abati, however, dismissed the threat by the oil and gas workers, insisting that if the reason for the proposed strike is the issue of the refineries, then the action would not take place.

An attempt to sell the refineries was first made during the administration of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, but the decision was reversed by his successor, the late President Umaru Yar’adua.

Also, a presidential committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of the corruption scandal in the oil and gas industry had recommended the sale of the refineries as a way to avoid the wastage of government funds.

There had been news that the President has approved the constitution of a steering committee chaired by the Minister of Petroleum Resources with 13 members including the Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Minister of Power, Minister of Labour and Minister of National Planning, to oversee the privatisation process.

The national bodies of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers, (NUPENG) had announced plans by their associations to commence an industrial action in the first week of January 2014, if the Federal Government failed to rescind its alleged decision to privatise the refineries.

They claimed that the planned privatisation was an attempt to hand over the nation’s refineries to cronies of the Federal Government.