Oil work­ers be­gin strike ...meet­ing with FG fails to hold

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniel Adugbo, Mustapha Suleiman (Abuja) & Mo­hammed Shosanya (Lagos)

Oil work­ers’ strike com­menced yes­ter­day with the with­drawal of their mem­bers from off­shore, load­ing bays and flow sta­tions na­tion­wide.

Last minute ef­forts by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pre­vent the strike col­lapsed as the meet­ing be­tween the min­is­ters of labour and petroleum re­sources with the work­ers’ failed to hold yes­ter­day in Abuja.

The meet­ing called by Sen. Chris Ngige and Ibe Kachikwu to put a last­ing so­lu­tion to the lin­ger­ing prob­lems in the sec­tor was post­poned till to­day due to the Sal­lah hol­i­days, a state­ment by labour min­istry spokesman, Sa­muel Olowookere, said.

The Na­tional Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (PENGASSAN), Com­rade Em­manuel Ojug­bana, told our re­porter on phone that there was no meet­ing with the gov­ern­ment

be­cause the in­vi­ta­tion came late and no date had been agreed with the gov­ern­ment.

“In other words the strike con­tin­ues,” he said.

Ojug­bana in a state­ment later said the strike com­menced de­spite the Eid el-Fitr hol­i­day.

“Our mem­bers, es­pe­cially those in of­fices and down­stream sec­tor, will join to­mor­row (Fri­day) as they re­sume from the Eid el-Fitr hol­i­day,” he added.

He said me­dia re­ports that the strike had been called off or sus­pended was false.

“As we speak now, some of our mem­bers that are in the off­shore have been with­drawn, while oth­ers who are on crit­i­cal equip­ment have com­menced grad­ual shut down of such equip­ment be­fore their fi­nal dis­en­gage­ment,” he added.

Why the strike

The work­ers’ ma­jor griev­ance is the is­sue of Joint Ven­ture (JV) fund­ing and cash call debts owed In­ter­na­tional Oil Com­pa­nies (IOCs) by the gov­ern­ment.

Nor­mally, two-thirds of Nige­ria’s oil is produced un­der var­i­ous JVs with IOCs like Shell, Chevron, Agip, etc, with the NNPC hold­ing ei­ther a 55 or 60 per­cent eq­uity in­ter­est in each joint ven­ture.

Cash call pay­ments are each part­ner’s share of the op­er­at­ing and cap­i­tal ex­penses con­trib­uted by both part­ners to fund joint ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment, through the an­nual bud­get process, pays the cash call, but has not funded it ad­e­quately as the NNPC has for years amassed multi-bil­lion dol­lar cash call debts.

Ojug­bana said around $7bn was owed the com­pa­nies as cash call ar­rears and that had meant de­layed projects, no in­vest­ments and sack­ing of union mem­bers by the com­pa­nies.

Other rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to the work­ers, in­clude lin­ger­ing ir­reg­u­lar lack of clear cut di­rec­tions on the Petroleum In­dus­try Bill (PIB), force­ful co-op­tion of gov­ern­ment agen­cies in the in­dus­try into the In­te­grated Per­son­nel Pay­roll In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (IPPIS) and a spate of re­dun­dan­cies and re­trench­ments in the oil and gas in­dus­try.

NUPENG to join strike

Nige­ri­ans may grad­u­ally be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence fuel short­age in the days to come if the sit­u­a­tion is not ur­gently ar­rested, as PENGASSAN said it had got the sup­port of its sis­ter union, the Nige­ria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Work­ers (NUPENG), to join the strike.

Our cor­re­spon­dents gath­ered that rep­re­sen­ta­tives of NUPENG were at yes­ter­day’s botched meet­ing in sol­i­dar­ity with PENGASSAN.

The strike could crip­ple ac­tiv­i­ties in the Depart­ment of Petroleum Re­sources (DPR), Petroleum Prod­ucts Pric­ing Reg­u­la­tory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equal­i­sa­tion Fund (Mon­i­tor­ing Board) PEF (MB), Pipe­lines and Prod­ucts Mar­ket­ing Com­pany (PPMC), Na­tional Petroleum Investment Man­age­ment Ser­vices (NAPIMS), oil ma­jors, labour and con­tract ser­vices com­pa­nies.

Although union mem­bers in­sisted that the ac­tion orig­i­nally com­menced yes­ter­day, there was no ev­i­dence of a strike in NAPIMS, PPMC and DPR of­fices when our cor­re­spon­dent vis­ited there yes­ter­day be­cause of the ex­tended Sal­lah break.

The Lagos Zonal chair­man of PENGASSAN, Com­rade Abel Agarin, told our cor­re­spon­dent that there was no go­ing back on the plan by the union to protest the chal­lenges in the sec­tor.

Agarin said there was noth­ing con­crete on ground in the im­me­di­ate term to sug­gest that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment wanted his mem­bers to di­a­logue on the is­sue and mar­shal strate­gies to re­solve them. Ac­cord­ing to him, PENGASSAN has car­ried out in­ten­sive mo­bi­liza­tion to en­sure that the in­dus­trial ac­tion is suc­cess­ful.

Con­tra­dic­tory tune

But the News Agency of Nige­ria (NAN) re­ports that the Petroleum and Natural Gas Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (PENGASSAN) and NUPENG have post­poned the meet­ing with Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment over their planned strike till July 11 and as a re­sult, the unions put the planned strike on hold. Al­haji Tokunbo Korodo, the South West Chair­man, Nige­ria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Work­ers made this known in an in­ter­view with the News Agency of Nige­ria (NAN) in Lagos yes­ter­day. Ac­cord­ing to Korodo, the meet­ing which was sched­uled to take place yes­ter­day was shifted due to pub­lic hol­i­day. The chair­man, who is one of NUPENG’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said both par­ties had agreed to meet on Mon­day, July 11 to de­lib­er­ate on the is­sues af­fect­ing the unions. Our cor­re­spon­dent re­ports that PENGASSAN lead­ers how­ever dis­puted the claim, say­ing the strike would go on.

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