Gone are the days of labour unionism as serious pressure-mounting groups in this country. What we have these days is a bunch of self-seeking people that carry themselves not very different from the gang at the National assembly whose only interest is their self-aggrandisement to the detriment of the entire peoples of the country including the very workers such unions/associations were meant to protect.
First, it was a threat by the oil workers senior staff association (PENGASSAN) to shut down oil operation in Nigeria following the federal government insincerity in the negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU). Interestingly, the oil workers union suddenly remembered to pull force with ASUU almost eight months after our universities were shut down.
While Nigerians were still trying to figure out this sudden PENGASSAN nationalist jinger, the association again issued another threat to embark on a nationwide strike over rising cases of oil theft and pipeline vandalism. Suddenly also, the oil workers senior staff association realised after well over seven years of stealing with impunity that oil thieves are crippling efforts by Nigeria to meet its OPEC allotted production quota.
Kudos to these patriots in PENGASSAN, or don’t they deserve our praise?
Addressing a press conference in Abuja, recently on the theme, ‘Chasing Oil Thieves and Vandals Out of Business’, PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo, said government must gather political will to chase out oil thieves vandalising the nation’s pipelines. He noted that oil theft has crumbled the economy, insisting the union will no longer sit back and watch.
To make this threat real, the PENGASSAN President said the union will organise rallies in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Kaduna and Abuja to show its anger over the menace. He lamented that due to oil theft, Nigeria can no longer meet the OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels per day, even as the country struggles to produce a million barrels.
Osifo said the association’s serial dialogues with critical stakeholders, agencies of government and service chiefs on how to curb the menace had not yielded desired result because cartels are feasting on the economy.
His words: “This is a menace that is overtaking the country. This is the reason Nigeria keeps borrowing to finance the national budget. Enough is enough! We have to add our voices to the current struggle. It is not going to be a one-off thing. Companies are shutting down; our members are losing their jobs in services and production companies.”
Do we need anyone to tell us now that PENGASSAN as workers’ union has become a completely useless pressure group? Even the conduct and carriage of executives of the association tells it all about what the priorities are for the leadership of the group. You see them in Abuja and Lagos, they carry themselves as senators of the Federal Republic and live the same lavish lifestyles of unchecked affluence. These are supposed to be labour leaders of the order of Pa Imoudu. No wonder PENGASSAN national elections are fiercer than even Nigeria’s general elections. Aspirants canvass and get sponsorship from governments and major oil producing companies in the country to win elections in a group that is supposed to be the watchdog/police to the unwholesome activities of the government and oil producing companies in the nation’s oil and gas sector.
Labour unionists used to be identified by their moderate lifestyles characterized by glaring self-denial of anything that can be called comfort not to talk of affluence. No, not with P ENGASSAN national leaders we have today. Any function they have in Abuja, they must either stay in Transcorp or Fraser Suits. These are labour unionists, abi?
My questions for PENGASAN and its leadership: First, does anyone in your association (leadership and other members) know with certainty the actual cumulative volume of crude oil pumped from our oilfields (onshore and offshore) on daily basis? Can you guys direct us to any office in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (NUPREC), NNPC or your respective producing companies where we can get such figures on a one-stop shop?
And if you don’t know the actual cumulative production volumes by companies (onshore and offshore), why threaten to shut down Nigeria because oil thieves are depriving the nation from meeting its OPEC allotted production quota? Does it not occur to PENGASSAN leadership that the real thieves may actually be the multinational producing companies some of you work for and work in?
Does it occur to the leadership of the Association that the first step to addressing this menace that’s rubbishing Nigeria as a nation of serious-minded people is to have a-near true idea of what we actually produce so we can extrapolate to know the percentage that has been missing between the wellheads and the loading facilities especially those FPSO in the deep and ultra-deep offshore arena?
In the first instance, who are the people that actually man the nation’s critical oil infrastructures including crude oil pipelines/trunklines in both offshore and onshore? Are they junior staff in the different companies or members of PENGASAN by virtue of the ranks in their respective organisations in the IOCs and even in the, NNPC (NAPIMS, NPDC, JV Operations etc)?
The various export terminals and the fleet of FPSO loading bays that litter our offshore arena, are they not supervised/managed by PENGASSAN members who take instructions from the “bigger thieves” in their various places of work?
Even onshore, is it possible for oil thieves to breach any pipeline with the people at the flowstation control room not immediately observing a pressure drop and who are these staff on those facilities, are they not PENGASSAN members? Have they ever done anything to save the situation? Of course, how can they do anything when they are part of chain in the stealing joint venture!
PENGASSAN should be told in any language they understand that the problem of crude oil stealing in the magnitude that’s being reported can only occur from loading facilities and the major percentage of the volume is being stolen from storage and loading facilities were the association’s members work (onshore and offshore), some in supervisory position.
The tapping of onshore/swamp pipelines requires complicated logistics that involves barges, tugboats going to offload on smaller vessels that can move closer to the shore which in turn goes farther offshore to offload into ocean going vessels that take away the stolen crude to their destinations. So onshore tapping is not where and how over 700, 000 barrels of crude (as we were told) will be taken away on daily basis.
Of course the illegal refineries (kporfire) in the Niger Delta oil region have their own place in the nuisance chain, the volume we are been told is stolen on daily basis can only be possible from loading facilities offshore and at our various export terminals. PENGASSAN cannot pretend not to know this fact but they decided to look the other way because the culprits are their employers.
If PENGASSAN is sincere with the claim that they are now ready to fight for the interest of the nation, the association should begin to reveal the particulars including the owners of the vessels (large and light) and the barges that have been freely berthing and loading crude oil from most of the facilities these unionists work and superintend.
The odds that crude oil stealing in Nigeria can be stopped look woefully long. Truth be told, the crime of oil stealing in our facilities is being perpetrated by the ‘big thieves’ in collaboration with Nigerian senior staff in the nation’s oil and gas industry who are all members of PENGASSAN. Let’s call a spade what it is! God bless Nigeria!
IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja and can be reached on: email: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)