May 22, 2024
How FG, others should tackle PIB, Refineries, Gas Utilisation, Insecurity, others in Nigeria
How FG, others should tackle PIB, Refineries, Gas Utilisation, Insecurity, others in Nigeria
– By Alison Godswill

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How FG, others should tackle PIB, Refineries, Gas Utilisation, Insecurity, others in Nigeria

By Festus Osifo

On behalf of the Central Working Committee (CWC), Members and Staff of the Association, I welcome you all to the first National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of our great Association this year (2021). There have been many challenging moments since our last meeting in Uyo, as many industry-wide and political issues have affected us both as Union members and citizens of this great Nation. We have continued to wither the storm and shall continue to do so. We thank God for his sustenance and most importantly, the journey mercies granted our members who came to participate in this meeting.

We are gathered here today to re-assess the implementation of our plans towards the improvement of the welfare of our members as well as the furtherance and growth of our Association. This meeting is expected to effectively deliberate on strategies to achieve the aforementioned goals.  Also, we shall review some of the interventions we have made to ensure that Government policies on the Oil and Gas industry benefit not only our members but also engenders economic growth.

As you are aware, the Covid 19 pandemic which is in its second wave considered to be deadlier, impacted negatively on our Industry and source of income resulting in job loss, redundancy, salary cuts, and legal issues between the Management and Staff of some Organizations.  In the face of these challenging times, it is imperative that we stand together and ensure that no member is left in the cold, irrespective of the reason adduced for his or her job loss. Permit me to say that it is time to review our strategies, advocacy initiatives, and approach of engagement to re-align them with the current realities even as we strive to protect our members’ jobs and that of other Nigerians who may not have a platform like ours to speak for them.

Consequently, there is a need for internal cohesion to foster greater solidarity while projecting objective perspectives on issues affecting our members. We must take control of the narratives and speak with one voice because if we fail to do so, we will continue to grapple with the unfolding scenarios in our industry where unjustifiable redundancies are the order of the day.

This is a wake-up call to all members as the days ahead look bleak but the good news is that if we rally around our leadership at this critical point in time, victory is not only guaranteed but assured.

INDUSTRY ISSUES

There are ongoing reforms and development within our industry that will have far-reaching effects on us as important stakeholders in the Oil and Gas Industry. We have made our position as an Association known on some of them while engagement is ongoing on others which includes:

PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL (PIB)

For over 20 years, stakeholders in the Oil and Gas sector have clamored for an enabling law for the industry, and only recently, there seems to be a semblance of determination on the part of the Government to finally do the needful and we welcome the proposed PIB though with some reservations. Thankfully, during the recent public hearing by both Chambers of the National Assembly, we alongside our counterparts in the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) submitted a joint memorandum, detailing our position and recommendations. Also, I your humble servant spoke on behalf of both Unions during the public hearing where we canvassed for PIB that will attract more investments to the Oil and Gas sector and lay more emphasis on local content which will, in turn, create more job opportunities for our members and Nigerians in general. May I use this opportunity to commend the PENGASSAN PIB Committee members led by Comrade Owan Abua for their sacrifices in articulating a comprehensive position for the Association?  We are hopeful that at the end of the day, the PIB that will be passed, will have the key recommendations from us, and to achieve that, we have continued engagement with relevant stakeholders alongside our NUPENG counterparts.

REHABILITATION OF REFINERIES

We have continued our advocacy on the need to fix the Nation’s refineries and our inclusion in the Steering Committee as set up by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) places a moral burden on us to continue the agitation for the rehabilitation of the four refineries. This will not only increase our revenue base but will also provide more job opportunities to our youths. We can confirm that some significant milestones have been achieved in this regard. Our commitment is to ensure that agreed specifications are adhered to by the contractors and we shall live up to expectation in this regard while working with other relevant stakeholders.

CASUALISATION AND CONTRACT STAFFING ISSUES

This is an area we are focusing on and we shall continue to constructively engage companies who are involved in such anti-labor practices. To be on a high moral standard, we as an Association have converted the remaining secretariat staff who were hitherto not on full employment to full-time employees thereby ensuring that we practice what we preach. Though issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may be a stumbling block in our quest to stamp out modern-day slavery in the industry, we shall mount the pressure, collaborate and negotiate where necessary to ensure that we achieve good traction in this regard.

GAS UTILISATION PLAN

Nigeria’s gas reserves currently estimated at 182 TCF (trillion cubic feet) with a projected growth rate of over 70% by 2025 have the potential of being a key player in the emerging global natural gas market in the world. Sadly, even with this huge gas reserve, not much has been achieved in areas of effective exploitation and utilization for both commercial and domestic purposes. With electric power generation at its lowest ebb, an army of unemployed youths, climate change caused by greenhouse emissions from flare-out, it becomes imperative that we must exploit the gas reserves now and use them to tackle some of the listed challenges. While we commend the Government in its efforts in boosting gas utilization through various gas initiatives and projects, it is pertinent that we hasten the pace of work as the sector has the huge potential to create thousands of jobs, solve our domestic gas needs while increasing revenue for the improvement of our economy.

 

STATE OF THE NATION

 

INSECURITY IN THE COUNTRY

We are currently at a precipice and if nothing drastic is done, we may be heading to a total breakdown of law and order. In Nigeria today, no one is safe anymore as the surge in ethnic militias who are brazenly issuing threats and quit notices as well as the activities of criminals masquerading in various alias like Bandits and Kidnappers, Armed Herdsmen, Boko Haram is very worrisome. It was with great relief that we received the retirement of the service chiefs as we have clamoured for that and we hope that the new ones would bring fresh ideas to the security challenges in Nigeria. Beyond the change in the service chiefs, we want to see the government paying more attention to intelligence gathering, personnel capacity building improved motivation, etc. There is also an urgent need for collaboration and synergy among all security agencies.

The welfare of our security personnel should be improved in terms of insurance coverage, medical allowance and other necessary allowances for them and their families as this will boost their morale. We call on the President to go a step further in overhauling the entire security apparatus while ensuring that our security men are constantly trained and re-trained in the modern security trend in the world, to help in preparing them for the current and future security challenges. And as a forward-thinking nation, it is time we consider having state police which will go a long way in tackling most of our security challenges. It is our belief that locals who would be recruited have a better understanding of their terrain and the criminal elements within their communities.

BROKEN INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOCIAL/HEALTH AMENITIES

We are seriously worried about the high level of decay in infrastructural facilities, especially roads, healthcare, and education in our country as we are yet to see any well-thought-out plan to improve them. Most of our roads are in terrible shape and can best be described as death traps. We are not unmindful of the achievement in rail development and we commend Government’s efforts in that direction and hope that we connect all major cities in Nigeria to a rail track for ease of transportation.

The Nigerian budgetary allocation to the educational and health sectors are just a drop in the ocean and we appeal for at least 25% of the total budget to each of the aforementioned sectors. The current pandemic has exposed the rot in our health sector, and we must be intentional in our approach. Take, for instance, we can decide to build a world-class hospital in each geo-political zone within the next five years and when achieved, we would have started a revolution in the health sector. Similarly, all Federal and State-owned educational institutions should be well funded and provided with adequate infrastructures that will aid the adaptation of e-learning and development in line with current realities.

THE ECONOMY AND POVERTY

Nigeria with a population of over 200 million people and with the largest population of young people in the world; is in a dire economic problem that is threatening the existence of over 80 million Nigerians who live below the poverty line (40% of the population). With huge natural and human resources at our disposal (also largest gas reserve in Africa), it is saddening looking at the current indices that have placed us as the poverty capital of the world. The Covid 19 pandemic, unfortunately, has worsened our situation and with the drop in oil price, the picture is looking bleaker as an additional 25% of the population may join those in the extreme poverty line if nothing is done drastically. Many have lost their jobs while others have seen their salaries slashed to up to 60%, we certainly do not need a soothsayer to tell us that we are on a journey that may be catastrophic. However, it is not all bleak and gloom as we can still salvage the situation by cutting the cost of governance, plugging the leakages in Government, comprehensive fight against corruption, and making a sweeping change to the current economic management team by bringing on board more competent hands and experts with required exposure to navigate us out of the woods.

Efforts should be made to stimulate the economy as some of the recent policies of the Government will not boost the confidence of prospective investors. The insecurity in the land may discourage Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), as every investor would want a stable and secured place to invest, hence the need to tackle our security challenges as economic growth and security are intertwined.

We recognize some of the Government interventions like Trader Moni, Conditional Cash Transfer, Survival Fund Program, N-Power, etc as laudable but the absence of credible data to show how each of the program has impacted Nigerians leaves much to be desired. Billions of taxes payer’s money have been spent on these programs, yet we are still ranked as the poverty capital of the world. As a responsible Association, we demand an independent audit of all the programs with a view to ascertaining their impacts and more importantly, how the funds allocated to them have been utilized.

Again, we re-state our previous call on the need for the Economic Advisory Council to come up with an economic recovery and growth roadmap that will prevent a total collapse of the economy in the face of the looming challenges.                 

FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

Since it has been proven that there is a correlation between corruption and poverty, we wish to state that the efforts of this Government in tackling corruption have drastically waned and we are disturbed knowing that anti-corruption, security, and economy were the cardinal points for this Administration. Just recently, the world anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International released Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report where Nigeria had its worst ranking in recent years; this gives credence that we are losing the fight against corruption.

Hence, we call for the hastening of the moves on the appointment of a substantive Chairman for EFCC since the previous occupant of that position has been suspended over alleged corrupt practices. In making that decision, it is important that we go for an individual with character, integrity, capacity, and the right attitude for the job. We also call for the separation of the office of Attorney General of the federation from that of Minister of Justice as this has been the case in advanced democracies to allow for an Attorney General who will be insulated from politics and focus on the real job (a classical example was what happened between the current AGF and the suspended EFCC Chairman).

NIN REGISTRATION

We commend the Federal Government for the wisdom in initiating the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) enrolment for the citizens of this country. We strongly believe that if properly handled, it will aid greatly in solving some data and security challenges currently facing the nation.

However, government agencies need to learn a crucial lesson in policy implementation strategies and communication processes to achieve the overall objectives of the program.  Many Nigerians are not clear about the intent of the registration as we have BVN, Voters card, Drivers license, International passport etc. with similar data at the disposal of the Government.  One wonders why we cannot do a simple integration of data and still achieve our purpose and in cases where we have inaccurate information, we can treat them in isolation. How can one explain the idea of continuing the NIN registration with limited capacity to comply with Covid 19 protocols thereby exposing Nigerians to the dreaded disease? It was not a coincidence that we have witnessed a spike in the number of Covid 19 infections since the rush to meet the deadline draws near.

To this effect, as laudable as this program is, we call on the Government to further extend the deadline to at least six months to allow Nigerians ample time to do the registration without exposing them to possible Covid 19 infection. Also, we appeal to Government to ensure that at the end of this exercise, they should develop a database to house the information and make such available to any authorized persons or Organizations that may need them; rather than subjecting Nigerians to this hallowing experience in a near future.

COVID 19 AND VACCINATION

We have seen the devastating effects of the Covid 19 pandemic globally and it was with great joy that we welcome the news of the development of a vaccine to help in its control. Sadly, no Nigerian has been vaccinated (apart from those who did so outside of Nigeria) and that leaves us with many questions begging for answers: when shall we start the vaccination in Nigeria, what is the population target to be vaccinated and what is the total budget for the vaccines? Going by the World Health Organization (WHO) advisory, every Nation is expected to vaccinate 70% of their population, and looking at Nigeria, our target population should be 140 million to achieve herd immunity, yet we have not vaccinated any single person locally. With the spike in the number of affected persons and the casualty figures, we had expected Government to have taken seriously the delivery of some vaccines. Looking at this glaring failure on the part of the Government in this regard, we demand that Government should come clean with its plan on when we shall start the vaccination locally, the budget for the vaccination, and more importantly, give a detailed account of all donations it has received in respect of Covid 19 since the outbreak of the pandemic. This will go a long way to show how transparent it has been in the management of public funds.

CONCLUSION

Distinguished NEC members and Comrades, we can only make an appreciable impact with the support of all and I wish to appeal that we support the leadership of this great Association in our efforts to tackle many challenges that are facing our members and our Nation.
I will like to thank our Management for their support and cooperation in releasing our members for various Union engagements and we continue to count on their support in that regard. On our part, we should work towards the growth of our company by effectively delivering on all assigned responsibilities and KPIs. More importantly, ensure that there is industrial harmony in our various Organizations.

Finally, on behalf of the CWC members, I wish all NEC members a fruitful deliberation and at the end, may God Almighty lead us safely to our various destinations!

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