Tuesday 17 November 2015

Oil workers backs conditional subsidy removal

In a rather sharp contrast to the position of the larger central labour house, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has reiterated its support for the removal of subsidy on petrol by the federal government.

PENGASSAN said shortly after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja that it would rather than support government’s continuation of subsidy on petrol, ask that a gradual withdrawal of the policy be adopted by the government while it steps up efforts to ensure in-country refining of petroleum products.

Stating its reasons for such stance, the National President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson said the association would not continue to support government’s resort to importation of petroleum products into the country.

Johnson explained that continuing with such policy would in a matter of time crumble the country’s domestic refining industry.

He noted that if the country’s refineries were fully in operation, the country’s reliance on imported petroleum products would be cut to very minimal levels while more jobs would be created in the downstream petroleum sector.
“On the issue of subsidy, we said that we are not averse to it but abrupt removal will have negative impact on Nigerians and so for it to also be seen that Nigerians don’t benefit from it, we must have timelines for it and we are also saying that we are averse to importation of products and if our refineries are working, then you will see that our level of importation will be low. The government has also said that we should diversify our sources of revenue and pretend as if we don’t have oil and gas so that other sectors of the economy will grow, we look forward to this,” said Johnson.
Continuing, he said: “On the issue of refineries, when this government came on board, the new minister of state for petroleum refineries has said that there is a timeline for turnaround maintenance of the refineries and if these timelines are met, pipeline vandalism is tackled, the refineries will work effectively.
“Let the government see how the refineries can work and not about selling them, licenses have been given for new refineries but how many of them have been built or operating? If the pipelines are fixed, the refineries are working and crude oil theft is addressed, we are sure that the industry can do well.”
He spoke on reforms in the industry through the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the union’s latest resolve on same.
According to him: “It has been in the National Assembly for years and if the government is going to say that before the end of 2016 they will pass the PIB, we are going to set up a committee to liaise with the government on this, we are also going to meet with the senate.
“We are setting up a committee that will look at the PIB so that we will be carried along. We must look at labour issues which must be addressed for the welfare of our members. If there is a legal framework for PIB, then there will be more jobs. The minister also said that we are losing huge money from the lack of PIB, so whatever that needs to be done for the interest of Nigerians we will support to make sure that things are done.”
Johnson also said that PENGASSAN will not allow the government reforms and other industry related issues to affect the job security of its members.
“We believe that this government has said that their major priority is job creation and so when you are talking about job creation, we will not accept it. We are also saying that whatever policy the government is bringing in the oil and gas sector, we as stakeholders must be involved and carried along.
“As for job losses, we are not going to take that because whatever that is happening in NNPC, we must be aware of it. In most of the IOCs’ operations, the NNPC controls a larger percentage in them and so whatever is happening there we must be aware. As labour leaders, we are about job security and welfare of our member. We must be carried along in any policy that will have negative impacts on our members,” he added.

Credit: ThisDay

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