Oil workers in Nigeria have warned the Federal Government to stop any attempt to secretly sell the four state-owned refineries without following due process and taking care of all labour concerns.
Reacting to a recent media report in which the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, said the sale of the refineries is the best option and that the Federal Government will soon put them on sale, the President of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Comrade Babatunde Ogun, and the General Secretary, Comrade Bayo Olowoshile, warned the minister against heating up the polity of the country with her utterances and carefree attitude.
They explained that labour opted for the adoption of the Strategic Partnership Model, just like Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas model, for the ownership structure of the refineries, where core investors shall take the 51 per cent golden stake and sector unions and workers shall join the government and others to buy into the remaining 49 per cent to reduce government’s undue interference in the running of the state-owned edifice.
PENGASSAN noted that the issue about the sale of the refineries had been laid to rest during a tripartite meeting among the labour, government and other stakeholders.
Comrade Ogun wondered why Alison-Madueke likes broadcasting important policies and issues such as the sale of refineries to the public without discussing it with relevant stakeholders in the oil and gas industry.
The PENGASSAN President argued: “The minister is fond of talking to the public before discussing with relevant stakeholders and at the end of the day after discussing with stakeholders, such polices that she had announced will be put on hold. Due process should be followed in doing things in this country.
“The first time she talked about the sales of the refineries was in London at an investment forum, when she said that the refineries will be privatised before April and at the end of the day, the Presidency halted the process for the sales.”
Ogun said that even if the government will release the minority shares, the refineries must be 100 per cent functional by carrying out a Turn Around Maintenance, with a guaranteed supply of crude, which is the feed stock of the refineries.
He added that adequate security should also be provided for all oil and gas infrastructures, especially pipelines supplying crude to the refineries and those transporting refined products to depots and terminals throughout the country.
Comrade Olowoshile argued that the Petroleum Minister’s statement that the government could no longer sustain subsidy and the fuel shortage currently being experienced was a cursor to the government’s several moves and attempts to shield itself from the commitment it gave to the Nigeria public to ensure that the oil sector industry reforms are consciously and fairly followed through without creating attendant socio-economic pain and another any adverse reaction from labour and the Nigeria masses.
He said: “During the engagement held with the oil workers’ unions, the government and oil workers jointly agreed to ensure the TAM of Port Harcourt Refinery is carried out in the 1st Quarter of 2014, while lasting solution is being found to ensure regular crude supplies to make all the refineries operate at their full capacity.
“Oil workers strongly believed that the current fuel shortage is a psychological warfare being mounted to make the people cave to the perfected plans to sell the oil industry strategic assets and facilities including the refineries to cronies who has been jostling to acquire them at scrap value when in the true sense, these assets are still very viable with sustainably long life span and mouth-watering commercial value.
“We have seen publications credited to the government that plans are almost concluded to get the buyers for the refineries between June and July this year, which invariably undermine the agreement to exhaustively dialogue with the industry’s unions on the most feasible and viable options rather than outright sale of these strategic assets.
“All things being equal, both unions is prepared to back the government using the Strategic Partnering Model, where core investor shall take the 51 per cent golden stake, while sector unions and workers shall join the state government and others to buy into the remaining 49 per cent. Thus a stake sharing in ownership and risks of the assets as well as placing the joint obligation of efficient and profitable running including the timely maintenance on these stakeholders.”
The union leaders said that the minister could have allowed the PIB to be passed into law before making her pronouncement, as there are aspects of the law that will take care of issues surrounding the operations of the refineries.
They argued that the inability of the refineries to function now was a deliberate attempt by some people in government, who did not allow the TAM to be carried out on the refineries, saying that some of the materials and technicalities needed for the TAM are already in the refineries or being ordered by the government.