Workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) have closed the gates of the NNPC Towers Abuja to protest the unilateral decision by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, to unbundle the national oil company into seven units and 20 companies.
The workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), were at the gates leading to the NNPC Towers as early as 6.30am to prevent people as well as other workers from entering the towers.
According to them, the protest against the unilateral decision of the minister to unbundle the NNPC without carrying along any of the stakeholders, especially the two trade unions in the oil and gas industry, PENGASSAN and NUPENG.
The unions had earlier expressed their opposition to the unbundling when it was first hinted by the Minister during the Annual Oloibiri Lecture on March 3 that the NNPC would be unbundled into 5 Regional Corporation and 30 companies by next week as part of the ongoing restructuring at the national oil company.
They described the plan as an arbitrariness of the executive power by the Minister, adding that the Minister unilaterally declared the unbundling of the NNPC without consultation with other critical stakeholders, including PENGASSAN and NUPENG.
They alleged that all attempts to ensure that the Minister attend to their concerns on labour issues proved abortive as he refused to meet with the workers.
Speaking on the action, acting General Secretary of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Lumumba Okugbawa, said that the move by the government will be tantamount to policy summersault on the part of the government.
Okugbawa said the unbundling plan will stave off investors from the nation’s oil and gas industry at this time when the nation needs foreign investment most to grow the industry, which currently is the mainstay of the economy.
He explained that the government did not take into consideration the existing law that established the NNPC before planning to unbundle the corporation.
He said, “There is an existing NNPC Act of 1977 that set up the NNPC. This Act has many provisions that deal with structure and operations of the corporation.
“There are many issues such as pensions and transfer of the employees, which are provided for in the NNPC Act of 1977. What will happen to all these provisions of the law?
â€œFor the government to do anything with the current NNPC, the Act must either be repealed or amended to accommodate the planned restructuring. If not done, it will equal to lack of respect for the rule of law on the part of the government.
â€œThe Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that is expected to be the legal instrument for the ongoing reforms of the Oil and Gas industry will be meaningless if the Government should introduce plans outside the reforms, The PIB is germane to the development of the nationâ€™s Oil and Gas Industry.
â€œAbove all, the various stakeholders, especially the unions should be involved before any major change is carried out in the organisation and before any unilateral statement capable of heating up the industrial climate is made.â€
The PENGASSAN acting General Secretary reiterated the Associationâ€™s call for an all-inclusive Stakeholdersâ€™ Forum where all issues confronting the industry can be looked into with solutions proffered to them.