Fuel scarcity looms; ...PENGASSAN threaten strike

Nigeria may experience nationwide scarcity of petroleum products immediately after the yuletide if the threat to ground operations in the oil and gas sector beginning from January 1, 2014 is carried out by workers in the industry.

The workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees, on Tuesday declared that they would embark on strike from next year if the Federal Government fails to retract plans to privatise the nation’s four refineries.

This was disclosed during a peaceful protest held at the headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking on behalf of the workers, the President, PENGASSAN, Mr. Babatunde Ogun, said the union had given the government a one-week ultimatum to halt its plan to sell the refineries to private investors.

He said, “If between now and December 24 we don’t hear anything from the government, we will mobilise, and between that time and the end of the year we will expect a retraction but if they fail to retract, then rest assured that in the first week of January all oil and gas workers in Nigeria will go on a total strike.”
On whether the unions had met with the Federal Government before coming out to make public its threat, he said series of agreements had been signed in the past and stressed that “the government cannot be trusted again with agreements.”
Ogun added, “Instead of selling our national asset, we should implement the Petroleum Industry Bill for it will give us a direction. The PIB has been in the National Assembly for years waiting to be passed, but up till now nothing meaningful has happened.”
He wondered why the minister of petroleum resources was quick to announce that the privatisation process would be completed before the end of the first quarter of next year while “it had taken the PIB six years to be passed.”
He said the Federal Government and the National Assembly was not serious about passing the bill and alleged that they were “systematically looking at the number of years remaining for President Goodluck Jonathan to complete his tenure and sell our national assets.”

He said, “They come out to tell Nigerians that we cannot work and cannot do business. If Nigerians cannot do anything properly, it means the Presidency and others in the Villa cannot govern Nigeria. So let us go and look for people to govern us.