The recent outcry by the president of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Igwe over the continued deteriorating employment situation and the working conditions in oil and gas industry has made oil industry players in the country to call on the parliament to urgently pass a landmark energy bill that would solve the problems, including corruption, in the sector.
Achese, speaking on ‘Reform in the oil and gas industry: Catalyst for national growth and development’ at the just-concluded 3rd NUPENG Quadrennial delegates’ conference held in Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, emphasised that the continued struggle by the workers to ensure that the lost glory in the sector returns in the industry invariably made all members of NUPENG public enemy in the country.
“Beyond our immediate concern and worries over the continued deterioration of the employment situation and working conditions in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria due to the increasing precariousness of jobs, we are doubly worried and concerned because even the oil and gas industry that everyone ordinarily expects to deliver quality and decent jobs in large numbers is increasingly deteriorating in all ramifications,” he said.
“The number of Nigerians working in the industry with decent income is very negligible, and our numerous struggles have invariably made us public enemy number one.”
While calling for urgent need to change the face of the petroleum industry in Nigeria, the labour leader recalled that the proposed Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) if signed into law, “would provide comprehensive piece of legislation that would overhaul the oil industry and rewrite Nigeria’s over five decades relationship with international oil companies (IOCs) operating in the country”.
According to Achese, the government and the oil sector operators have, over time, confirmed that the growth of the Nigerian petroleum industry is dependent on sweeping reforms that will take into consideration the various extant challenges –funding, environmental, accountability, transparency and efficiency – in the industry through the PIB.
“This is because it is believed that the proposed bill will usher in a new vista in the oil industry by ensuring that Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources are utilised for the benefit and welfare of Nigerians, through increased participation of local communities in the process,” he affirmed.
The NUPENG president, who reminded the National Assembly (NASS) members and the nation’s leaders of how the oil workers’ patriotic struggle would continue till victory is won, however, said: “The PIB is designed to capture and address potential environmental and operational hazards associated with the oil and gas industry and is largely expected to provide for a transparent regulatory framework and competitive fiscal rules of general application.
“It would also see that Nigeria’s crude oil reserves and production are increased through improved investments in exploration and production, within a competitive business environment.”
On his leadership of NUPENG, Achese said: “We have in the last four years in office had opportunities for productive employment, a direct policy goal, systematically operationalised, including through inclusive access to ensuring that such policies respond effectively to rooting policies for employment creation in a foundation of respect for fundamental principles and rights at work in the oil and gas industry.”
Achese, who lamented the increasing loss of jobs in the industry and the alarming cases of unfair labour and employment practices in the sector, however, called on the Federal Government to urgently arrest the situation before it became too late.
Awards and honours were given to eminent personalities who include Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as Grand Reformer of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry, and First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan for her motherly roles.
The other awardees include president/chief executive of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote (Award of Excellence as leading Employer of Labour), as well as Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr. Andrew Yakubu (Award of Excellence as Labour-friendly GMD).
Governors Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Rochas Okorocha of Imo, Adams Oshiomole of Edo, Babtunde Fashola of Lagos, RamallanYero of Kaduna and Theodore Orji of Abia received awards of excellence as labour-friendly governors.
Other awardees were Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) president, Abdul Kadir Aminu, as friend of the Union; president emeritus of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele; as a friend of the Union.
Pan Ocean Oil Corporation was given Special Award of Excellence as the friendliest CEO in the Oil and Gas Industry; Eleme Petrochemicals Company Limited (EPCL) got award for labour-friendly organisation; and Mr. Dimla Joel was made Friend of the Union Award.
Meanwhile, Dangote, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Joseph Makoju, declared that the dream to refine and produce petroleum products for export in Nigeria will not come to fruition unless the Federal Government musters the political will to drive to their logical conclusion the ongoing reforms in the oil and gas industry that would end fuel importation and stop corruption in the industry.
“Our Dangote Group has also been attracted by these ongoing reforms in the sector with our recent decision to invest in a mega project in the downstream sector,” he added
“We are building a $9 billion mega refinery/petrochemical/fertiliser complex in Olokola Free Trade Zone. The refinery will have the capacity to refine 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, while the petrochemical plant will produce 600,000 metric tones per year of polypropylene and 625,000MT/year of slurry/raw material for carbon black.”
According to Dangote, the PIB is a bold step that was initiated to correct perceived flaws in the industry, as it is intended to address structural, policy and managerial issues in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.
“The bill is designed to enhance the value of the sector as well as seek to plug identified loopholes in policies and management agreements, and by so doing improve transparency and efficiency of the sector for the Nigerian people.
“When the PIB is fully signed into law, it is expected to address observed weaknesses and abuses by operators and stakeholders, eliminate corruption and restructure the industry to make it more responsive to social and economic needs of both Nigerians and the investors in the sector.
“We are estimating that the project will engage up to 25,000 people over a four-year construction period and will create about 3,500 permanent jobs when completed,” he said.
Also, Governor Amaechi, who was represented by his deputy, Tele Ikuru, urged NUPENG to use all necessary instruments at its disposal to pressurise the National Assembly and executive arm of government to ensure the quick passage of the PIB.
He said: “We urge NUPENG to use all necessary instruments at its disposal, be it strike or protest, to ensure a successful passage and signing of the PIB into law, as it is vital to the growth and development of the Nigerian petroleum industry.”
In his goodwill message, president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar, called on NUPENG to pressurise the Federal Government to expose oil thieves in the country, stressing that oil thieves are the greatest threat to the corporate survival of Nigeria.
His words: “We urge NUPENG members to pressurise the government to expose oil thieves and the culprits brought to book because oil stealing, unfortunately, is perpetrated by a combination of dark forces in our polity and these forces are more of a threat to our corporate entity than any other force that you may think of.
While urging NUPENG to drive the reform process in the petroleum industry to its logical conclusion, Omar said: “The average oil worker is at risk, from hostile environment to the threat of kidnapping and assassination. Like other workers, workers in the oil and gas industry have the right to peace and security at the work place. This is even more so with the goose that lays the golden eggs that the oil workers in Nigeria are.”
Stressing that the production of oil has substantially dropped for various reasons, while the crude oil theft has risen to an unacceptable level, the labour leader said: “The challenges, therefore, are many and the tasks require our collective resolve to excel as a nation.
“We must, therefore, rise to state that our government must take the lead by acting rather than lamenting.”
The labour leader, who argued that another challenge in the oil and gas industry is the issue of domestic refining of our crude, which will guarantee availability and affordability of products, and above all, create jobs for our youths, said: “We are worried that, today, local refining is carried out in several illegal local and improvised refineries.
“This underscores the dire need for domestic refining of the products.
“That is why I am using this opportunity to commend the indefatigable business mogul, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, for taking up the challenge of establishing a refinery in Nigeria.”
Information from Daily Independent was used in this report.