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Stakeholders give terms over Senate’s move to unbundle NNPC

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NNPC Headquarters

NNPC Headquarters

NUPENG threatens strike over ‘unresolved’ labour issues

Some stakeholders have given conditions for supporting the Senate’s move to unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as the lawmakers took the matter to the public domain yesterday.

It was at a public hearing on the contentious Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB). Among the stakeholders were the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), oil producing communities and the NNPC.

The host oil communities kicked against the use of ambiguous words and phrases in the aspects of the bill that capture the petroleum producing areas. The group known as Pan Niger Delta Forum led by a former Akwa Ibom State Governor, Obong Victor Attah, told the Senate committee that the use of ambiguous words could create crisis in the region in the future.

Although the group was later told that a separate law was being prepared to accommodate the host community issue, it stressed the need to “make the clauses more explicit, paying special regard to the standards expected by the beneficiaries.”

“First, the term ‘petroleum host community’ appears absurd and degrading to the petroleum producing communities. Just as it would be inappropriate to refer to Nigeria as a ‘petroleum host country,’ it would equally be out of place to use the term ‘petroleum producing community (PPC)’ to refer to the communities that make Nigeria an oil producing country,” the group said.

PANDEF, therefore, recommended that the beneficiaries of the fund should appropriately be called “petroleum producing communities.”The representative of PENGASSAN and NUPENG at the public hearing, Comrade Chika Onuegbu, said the two unions would not accept a PIB document that does not pay sufficient attention to labour issues, guarantee the rights to freedom of association and comply with international labour standards and laws.

“Clearly, the PIGB is intended to privatize, as much as is practicable, government interest in the petroleum sector. This, if not carefully handled, will lead to serious labour issues,” he submitted.

“The position of the PENGASSAN is that staff of the NNPC and all other agencies that will be impacted by the PIGB must not lose their jobs or be allowed to be transferred on terms and condition of service less favourable than what they currently have under any guise.

“A major challenge that will confront the workers in the organisations and agencies that will be impacted by the PIGB, especially the NNPC, is the transition from a more socially-focused organisation to a profit-focused firm. The severe changes that these organisations will bring will suddenly catch up with the workers like those of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) successor companies.

“A good example is the swift changes in behaviour and orientation that will be required from the workers. This is a huge change and challenge, and it is important that the process and transition be properly discussed ahead of PIGB passage with the workers and the unions that represent them.

“The position of the PENGASSAN is that wherever matters concerning or connected with the workers, such as remuneration, pension, welfare, transfer and deployment are mentioned, the unions (PENGASSAN and NUPENG) must be involved and collective bargaining agreements must be respected and clearly included in the law.”

In his presentation, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, welcomed the plans in the PIB to unbundle the corporation.The corporation said the new bill would serve as a ‘‘necessary prelude to the enactment of subsequent legislations on upstream, midstream and downstream fiscal, commercial and operational framework for the oil and gas industry.”

The PIGB, which focuses mainly on administration and privatisation of the petroleum industry, splits the NNPC into three different entities–the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC), National Petroleum Assets Management Company (NPAMC) and Nigeria Petroleum Company NPC).

Baru made some suggestions which he wanted the National Assembly to incorporate into the bill.They include assigning NPRC the roles of administering royalties, rentals, fees and other petroleum revenues. He also said the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) should retain its roles as the collector and administrator of petroleum profit tax (PPT), corporate income tax and other taxes.

In his opening remarks, the chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum (Upstream), Tayo Alasoadura, noted that PIB had been lingering in the National Assembly for over a decade. According to him, the Eighth Senate had opted to deviate from the norm by making PIGB “one of the key landmarks to revamp the economy and make petroleum industry more efficient.”

He added: “If we must get out of the present recession and get the economy on the steady path of growth, the petroleum industry must be made efficient and more profit oriented.”

Opening the public hearing, Senate President Bukola Saraki said PIGB was conceived to serve as the platform for the reform of a segment of the petroleum industry “by introducing international best practices that have led other countries to success in the development of their various oil and gas sectors.”

Meanwhile, NUPENG has threatened to embark on a three-day warning strike nationwide in January to protest some unresolved labour issues with multinationals operating in the oil and gas industry.

Already, the union has issued a 21-day ultimatum for the Federal Government to intervene over non-payment of terminal benefits and termination of appointment of its members by the oil multinationals.

NUPENG’s president, Comrade Igwe Achese, who disclosed this yesterday said the agreement was reached at the end of the National Executive Council (NEC) in Port Harcourt, while the union had started mobilising its members for the industrial action.

He said the three-day warning strike would be preparatory to a nationwide action if the government failed to call the firms to order.Achese, who said the executive would meet to agree on the January date for the industrial action, directed all members to start wearing red bands to work from next week.



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