…to meet PENGASSAN, NUPENG officials today
In a bid to avert the planned strike by members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, the Federal Government on Wednesday summoned a meeting with the oil workers today.
The meeting, according to a statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, will discuss the modalities for ending the lingering crisis in the petroleum sector.
The terse statement said the meeting would take place at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources’ Board Room at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Towers in Abuja by 10am.
It further said that the meeting would be attended by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
Others expected at the meeting are representatives of the Organised Labour, including PENGASSAN and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers.
The union had earlier on Wednesday declared that it would halt the supply of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, across the country from today (Thursday).
It also threatened to ground activities at the NNPC, all PMS depots, refineries and international oil companies where it had members, stressing that Nigeria would face another round of severe petrol scarcity as the strike would be in full force.
The Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojugbana, said the strike would hold as the government had not made efforts to address the lingering industry issues despite the notice given by the union.
When asked if the union had met with the government in order to shelve the strike, the PRO replied, “Nothing has changed. The strike will hold. Actually, it is going to be a total shutdown and, of course, will cause fuel scarcity. Our members at the depots have all shut down and nothing will work once we start the strike in full; you will see. It is going to be another serious shutdown of activities across the country.”
“There were series of meetings between us and the government, but these meetings did not yield the desired results. The meetings did not meet our expectations; they were not fruitful; they were not productive.
“In fact, up till now, we have not seen any visible commitment on the part of the government to addressing the critical issues that were put on the table. The worst of all was that we were to have a meeting with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, on June 30, 2016 after two postponements.
“All of our members flew into Abuja for this meeting only for us to be told that the minister was not available. So, we felt they are not taking the issue as seriously as we had discussed in our previous meetings. Therefore, we have no option but to embark on the strike; perhaps they will see reasons with us.”
One of the issues PENGASSAN wants resolved, according to the union, is the settlement of cash call indebtedness by the Federal Government to the IOCs, which has grown to about $7bn.
This huge debt, according to Ojugbana, had made it impossible for some of the IOCs to pay the salaries of their workers, while many others had told PENGASSAN that the option before them was to sack their Nigerian employees.
“We are tired of the level of redundancy in the sector. In fact, our major work in the last two to three months has been to fight against redundancy from one company to the other. And the cause of this is that the government is not keeping to its part of the joint venture funding and cash call obligations with the IOCs,” he said.