Fuel scarcity may spread across Nigeria from Monday as oil workers brace for showdown with the Federal Government over various unresolved labour issues.
Authoritative sources told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday 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], are set to commence nationwide strike Monday.
The decision to strike is sequel to the 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, told PREMIUM TIMES 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.