The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) says it has commenced the process of total shutting down all oil production and export facilities in the country as the mass protest called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) andthe Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria enters its third day.
PENGASSAN President, Babatunde Ogun, while thanking Nigerians for the massive turnout at the venues of protest across the country, said all its affiliate member organizations throughout the country have since the commencement of the protest closed their doors to official business.
Consequently, he said since January 9, 2012, its members, charged with the responsibility of generating operational reports on oil and gas production from the various oil fields in the country as well as exports data from the various terminals, have not submitted reports to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the inspectorate department of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“This is one of the very first step in the shut down process,” Mr. Ogun said. “We believe that a government that is alive to its responsibilities will not allow this strike to degenerate thus far. Now that the Federal Government has decided to be callous-minded, we hereby direct all production platforms to be on red alert in preparation for total production shutdown.”
Though he called for dialogue on the issue between government and Labour, the PENGASSAN president reiterated conditions that must be in place before the removal of fuel subsidy.
These include repairing the country’s four refineries and building new ones; regular power supply, provision of social infrastructures, such as rail system and roads; elimination of corruption associated with supply and distribution of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil industry.
Addressing protesters at Area 1 Roundabout in Abuja during the third day of the mass strike action, NLC deputy President, Isa Aremu, urged the Federal Government not to take for granted the peaceful agitation by Nigerians for a restoration of subsidy on petrol, warning that the labour movement would not be able to guarantee that the situation would remain the same if nothing is done to placate the people before Saturday.
Dismissing speculations by government that the protests have been hijacked by religious elements and miscreants, Mr. Aremu said this is an indication of government desperations and lack of creative ideas to handle the popular response of the people.
“But, the more government tries to divide the rank of the labour movement, the more Nigerians are united to oppose worsening poverty and fuel price increases. Government missed the point when Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, issued a no-work-no-pay threat yesterday to workers, at a time it should be pressing for dialogue.
“The protests are not by civil servants only, but also by a majority of workers with small businesses who voluntarily joined the strike because their cost of production has sudden shut up in the wake of the increase in the price of petrol.
“I think it is in the best interest of President Jonathan and his government to address the root cause of the problem – the increase in the price of petrol, which must be reversed to N65 to allow for a dialogue on the policy, where all stakeholders would look at all the issues involved in deregulation.
“Government needs to look at the bigger picture and quantify what has been lost in three days of protests, for an economy that is already sinking. The man-hours lost within these days run into trillions of Naira. If the economy was poor when Nigerians were working, how much more when they are not working? It is a sad commentary on government that Nigerians are starting the New Year of a protest note, rather than productivity. This has been caused by the obnoxious policy of arbitrary price increase.
“The problem is not the protest, which is a reaction to the obnoxious policy by government. The question is: When would President Jonathan respect the wish of the people? During his campaigns, he promised Nigerians fresh air. But, Nigerians are now having polluted air on account of his policies. When would he realise that with the massive protest by the people to reject the removal of subsidy on petrol, the game is over, and as a mark of statesmanship to concede to the wishes of the people. The objective of government should not be to balance the book, but to balance the public welfare of the people.
“The massive turnout at the various protests across the country has shown that Nigerians, whether Moslems or Christians, are united for prosperity, jobs and better living conditions, transparency and good governance.”