The joint meeting of the National Executive Council, NEC, of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, ended on Friday with a declaration of support for the government’s new price of petrol.
The federal government had on Wednesday announced the take-off of full deregulation of the downstream sector of the Nigerian petroleum industry, which changed in petrol price from N86.50 to N145 per litre.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, criticised the decision, and vowed to resist what it called “the height of insensitivity and impunity”.
Nigerians had expected the two oil workers unions, which are key affiliates of the NLC, to follow suit with strong words against the new fuel price.
But, at the end of the meeting in Calabar, Cross River State, the leadership of the two unions in a joint communiqué noted the benefits of price modulation mechanism introduced early this year, urging government to consult all interest groups to cushion the effect of the new price on the people.
“The NEC-in-session had an extensive discussion on the recent price modulation and is of the view that price deregulation has its benefits in the immediate and near future,” the two unions said.
“Government should engage with the stakeholders to work out a clear direction on how to reinvest the gains of the policy into the economy to cushion the effect of the price on the people,” they said.
The communiqué signed by PENGASSAN President, Francis Johnson, and his NUPENG counterpart, Igwe Achese, asked government to pay attention to the state of the nation, particularly on issues bordering on national security, power, bad roads, unemployment/casualization and redundancy in the oil industry.
Other issues addressed during the meeting included joint venture funding, anti-corruption war, state of the refineries, Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB and the petroleum price modulation announced at the beginning of the year.
The unions said there was an urgent need for a paradigm shift and a new direction in the management of new investments and the management of the income in the oil and gas industry.
Specifically, the unions asked government to ensure that all the four refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna perform optimally, while machinery should be put in place for the construction of new ones to ensure adequate local refining and products supply for domestic consumption and possibly export.
Government, the unions said, should immediately commence negotiation with Labour on the new minimum wage for workers across all cadres, while critical interest groups should be consulted, to help provide a road map with timelines for development of infrastructure with the proceeds from the price modulation to cushion the harsh effects of the new policy.
According to the groups, Nigerians have been yearning for the removal of subsidy for many years now but to no avail.
“The price is the secondary issue; the Federal Government has brought up a policy that would stop money from entering into the hands of few individuals,” they said in a communique.
“The subsidy removal is a welcome development; we must not mortgage our economy into the hands of few selfish individuals,’’ the workers said.
They said that they would push for a new minimum wage demand of N90, 000, given the new development.
“With the new pump price of N145 per litre, government must speed up the negotiation process for a new minimum wage of N90, 000 to cushion the effect of the envisaged inflation.
“ As the price of fuel increases, there should also be an increment in workers’ salary as the old minimum wage of N18, 000 has no effect again,’’ they stated.
Other resolutions at the meeting included immediate reconstitution of the boards of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA and Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF for the management of the new fuel price regime.
The unions also demanded the reconstitution and re-strengthening of relevant regulatory agencies, such as Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON; Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR and the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, to prevent the abuse of the new petrol supply and distribution frameworks.