–Fuel scarcity may spread across Nigeria from today as oil workers brace for showdown with the Federal Government over various unresolved labour issues.

Report of ongoing protest at Shell Industrial Area in Rumuomasi, staff’s are advised to keep off from the premises.

Authoritative sources told our correspondent that the oil workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association [PENGASSAN] and their counterparts in the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers [NUPENG], has commence nationwide strike today.

The decision to strike is sequel to sthe expiration of the notice to government for the resolution of some labour issues affecting their members as well as other national issues affecting the operation of the petroleum industry.

A national official of PENGASSAN, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said that some of the contentious issues include the decision of the management of Total Nigeria to sack the PENGASSAN zonal Secretary in Port Harcourt and the lack of promotion for workers of the Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF).

According to the official, the workers’ unions are concerned that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) sent to the National Assembly for consideration and approval more than two years ago is yet to be passed.

“We (the oil workers) have sufficient reasons, based on information available to us, to believe that the law makers are not prepared to pass the law, even as the state of the country’s petroleum industry has continued to deteriorate as a result of the absence of a regulatory and legal framework for the industry”, the official said.

Part of the information available to the oil workers, he said, have to do with a plot by the Senate to move a motion on resumption this week to demand the setting aside of further considerations and deliberations on the PIB till the next legislative session.

The PIB was one of the key draft laws handed over by the previous legislative assembly for deliberation and approval by the incumbent legislators.

“This does not augur well for the future of the country’s oil industry, as new investments would continue to elude the country, to the benefit of other oil producing nations around the continent, if the law is not passed. This is not acceptable,” the official said.

Besides, the oil workers said they have uncovered plans by the government to go ahead with the sale of the country’s four refineries, which has always met stiff resistance by Nigerians in recent past.
For some time now, the oil workers said crude oil allocation to the refineries for local petroleum products refining have consistently reduced from 60 to 30 per cent and then to zero.

The plan by government, the unions said, is to make the refineries appear unviable and their rehabilitation impossible as a way of making their eventual sale attractive to Nigerians.

The unions are also protesting against alleged poor funding to the Petroleum Training Institute [PTI], which was established as the technology training institution for the country’s petroleum industry.

Meanwhile the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), advised the Federal Government to address the grievances of oil workers unions that have already embark on indefinite industrial action from today.

This plea was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC, in Lagos. The communiqué was jointly signed by the TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, and General Secretary, Musa Lawal.
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, had issued a notice to commence an indefinite strike on Monday if their grievances were not addressed.

The communiqué said the strike would cripple the economy and bring untold hardship to millions of Nigerians who were managing to cope under the current economic condition.

“The NEC in session expressed concern on the reported attitude and response of the concerned management and government agencies to the barrage of national issues, oil and gas policy and institutional issues as well as cases of unfair labour practices.

“The NEC also notes the strong efforts made by NUPENG/PENGASSAN to internally resolve the reported grievance at the instance of the Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources and other agencies which the concerned managements severally frustrated.

“NEC therefore urges government to attend to all the reported issues as a matter of urgent national importance to avoid the backlash on the Nigerian public”, the communiqué said.

It said that the global fall in the crude oil price should be translated into the reduction in the pump price of refined products in the country.

“The congress expresses dismay that the prices of refined petroleum products have remained unchanged despite the significant fall of crude oil prices which the CBN Governor acknowledges as a steady one.

“We call on the government to direct the appropriate agencies to respond by adjusting the pump price of petroleum products as this will go a long way In ameliorating the impact on the purchasing power by the devaluation of the naira’’, it added.

The congress also urged the Federal Government and the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the PIB into law. It said that the congress would be left with no other option than to embark on an industrial action to press for the PIB passage

In a related development, the Managing Director, Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Haruna Mommoh, has commended President Goodluck Jonathan for transforming the nation’s oil sector through innovative initiatives and policies in oil and gas.

Mommoh made the commendation in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that the President had through the Minister of Petroleum Resources, reformed the energy sector in terms provision of new infrastructure, policies and programmes such as the local content initiative.

According to him, the new gas field development and the pending Petroleum Industry bill (PIB) among others, are some of the key initiatives of the Federal Government to transform the sector.

Mommoh said that the petroleum sector under the minister of petroleum resources was committed to continuous reforms of the energy sector to meet the needs and aspirations of Nigerians.

“When we came on board, more than two thirds of the petroleum depots were out of operation but as I am talking to you today, we have put more than two thirds of the depots back into operation.

“We rehabilitated them and made them functional and this has enhanced the capacity of the administration to make petroleum products available nationwide.
“I am happy to tell you that we are providing petroleum products to Nigerians regularly and without interruption.
“We have not had fuel supply crisis because of the upgrade of depot infrastructure and unbending determination of the administration to avoid any hardships fuel scarcity might cause Nigerians”, he said.

The managing director said that regular availability of petroleum products was a major achievement of the administration, saying that the few cases of scarcity were always due to labour action.

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