Unless there is a quick solution to the face-off between the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN and Dr Ibe Kachikwu, the Minister of State for Petroleum, there are indications that the nation may be thrown into another energy crisis as from midnight tomorrow.
Chika Onuegbu, the Rivers State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, and former National Industrial Relations Officer of PENGASSAN confirmed the planned strike to journalists in Port Harcourt on Tuesday.
He disclosed that all branches of the union were on high alert waiting for the directive of the national executives.
According to Comrade Onuegbu, PENGASSAN and its members have been facing challenges recently due to the mass sack of its members by various oil and gas companies and after deliberations and consultations, it was found out that the companies have been facing serious challenges due to poor crude oil prices, militant attacks on oil and gas facilities and above all federal government’s inability to fund the Joint Venture partners in the oil industry.
Onuegbu further revealed that the Federal Government is owing the JV partners about 7 billion US Dollars piled up from the indebtedness of the previous administrations, which was about 5 billion Dollars before it added up to about 7 billion as at today.
“As we speak now, we are not going on strike for strike’s sake, but we are going on strike to attract the attention of the federal government to address the concerns of workers on the debt to the JV Partners and also address the lingering labour issues in the industry.
“Government should be able to do that by midnight of Wednesday. Failure to do that, we will mobilize our members to close offices from Wednesday to Friday this week and by Monday next week we will stop the crude oil production.”
He explained that during the previous actions, what people complained about is the inability to see petroleum products for consumption.
“But that is minor to what is coming. People only complained when there are attacks on oil facilities. And even at that crude oil production is still going on. As far as we are concerned, we are going to shut down oil facilities, shut down oil production because there is no need producing oil for the country and government does not fund the oil and gas sector and does not care about the welfare of those who work in that sector. Are we going to continue to be sacrificial lambs? If the government enjoys the money that comes from the oil sector, they should put their money where they are getting their money.
“Since the year 2000, the government has been promising to reform the oil sector, to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, but till date, it has been motion without movement. The only thing they succeeded in doing is to allocate oil blocs to cronies and the masses are suffering,” Onuegbu lamented.