The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has proposed that the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) should be merged with the Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (DPRA) after the passage of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
This position was presented to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) during one of its engagements with the national oil company in Abuja.
The union condemned the provision in the PIB, whereby PEF will be left at the whims and caprices of the Minister of Petroleum Resources after the passage of the bill into law. They argued that since the functions of the PEF are related with the DPRA, one of the regulatory agencies provided for in the PIB, the fund should be merged with the agency.
The current PIB has, in Section 100 Sub-section 4, provided that “Where the Government decides that Petroleum Products markets have been effectively deregulated, the Minister shall take the required action to ensure that the Equalisation Fund ceases to exist and its assets and liabilities transferred to the Government to be controlled and managed by the Ministry and at such time the provision of the sections of this Act relating to the Equalisation Fund shall stand repealed. “
Speaking on the fate of PEF post-PIB, PENGASSAN President, Mr. Babatunde Ogun, noted that the bill did not stipulate the time frame for PEF to be repealed and neither did it stipulate the fate of the workers of the PEF when the Fund is repealed.
“This should be clarified to ensure that the fate of the current workers, especially members of PENGASSAN and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) in the agency is adequately catered for.
“As a result of this observation, we have proposed in our position on the PIB that the agency should be merged with the DPRA as their current functions can still align with functions of the agency,” he stated.
He said further that the conditions of service after the merger should be similar to the conditions of service of the agency PEF will be merged with.
“We have presented this our position on the status of the PEF to the NNPC in one of our meetings with NNPC, where the Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production, Mr. Abiye Membrane agreed with us that provision should be made in the PIB to move staff of PEF to the Downstream Regulatory Agency post-PIB instead of leaving their fate hanging while the PEF dies a natural death.
“NNPC also agreed that since their functions will be transferred to the Downstream Regulator Agency, the workers should also be transferred to DPRA where they will be more relevant instead of moving them to the ministry where they may not be relevant.”
Other recommendations made by NUPENG and PENGASSAN on PEF in their positions on PIB include, that there should be one representative each of NUPENG and PENGASSAN on the board of the agency; the three persons to be appointed on the board of the agency should have not less than 10 years professional experience in the oil and gas industry.
The PENGASSAN President also said that appointment into the board of PEF post PIB before it fizzle out should not be based on the recommendations of the Minister of Petroleum Resources but should follow the process of appointment for other regulatory agencies such as the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) or Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and such appointment and removal should be ratified by the Senate, adding that such appointment should be for a specific term of Four years and renewable for another term. Such appointment, he stated, should be through competitive process of selection and open to all qualified Nigerians either home or abroad.
Ogun noted that the omission of PEF in the staff transfer in the PIB may be intentional, saying, “In the interest of industrial peace and harmony in the oil and gas industry, workers in the current PEF should be captured under staff transfer in the bill.”
He said the NUPENG and PENGASSAN have proposed that “From the date of vesting the assets and liabilities of Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), the staff of the PEF performing functions relating to such assets and liabilities being vested in the PEF or any other agency they are merged with shall be regarded as having transferred their services to the new PEF or any other agency they are merged with effective from that date on terms and conditions no less favourable than those obtaining immediately before the effective date unless they indicate otherwise before the expiration of three months after Effective Date,” be provided for the PIB.
Information from ThisDay was used in this report.