The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has threatened to withdraw its members’ services nationwide if the federal government refuses to address their grievances especially the non-payment of salaries.
It is not clear when the workers would commence the action. But, a senior official of the association, who requested not to be named, told PREMIUM TIMES the executive of an affiliate of the group called the Regulators’ Forum resolved at the end of its meeting on May 28 to withdraw their services after a seven-day notice issued to the government.
PENGASSAN writes minister
On June 8, PENGASSAN wrote to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to protest the decision by the government to withhold the salaries of some of its members working in federal government agencies across the country.
The agencies include the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) and Petroleum Training Institute (PTI).
In the letter signed by the General Secretary, Lumumba Okugbawa, PENGASSAN drew the minister’s attention to it’s refusal to release the personnel allocation for these agencies for May.
Mr Okugbawa told the minister this has resulted in the salaries of members of PENGASSAN in these agencies not being paid for May.
He said the decision to withhold the salaries was at the instance of finance ministry which directed that workers not captured by the lntegrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (lPPlS) should not be paid their salaries.
“You may recall that the Association made its position clear that we are not averse to the government’s intent on restructuring, or repositioning the agencies through its policies, including the introduction of the lPPlS. However, the IPPIS as it is currently set up seems not to have captured our peculiarities,” the PENGASSAN scribe said.
He recalled a series of meetings convened by the ministry with a committee constituted to address the concerns of the staff of the affected government agencies.
However, Mr Okugbawa expressed regrets that the meetings failed to resolve the issues as “the IPPIS representatives failed to give the necessary cooperation needed for a fruitful conclusion of the matter.”
He said the Association was surprised that while the matter was still being discussed, the ministry directed the withholding of allocations for personnel costs to these agencies, resulting in the non-payment of salaries to their workers for May 2020.
PENGASSAN urged the minister to immediately release withheld funding to the affected agencies, while the committee set up to review the peculiarities of the affected agencies plans how to align them with the IPPIS structure.
The group urged the minister to ensure the matter was resolved as soon as possible, considering the impact the continued withholding of the affected agencies might have on their workers.
Copies of the letter seen by PREMIUM TIMES were sent to the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva, as well as the Director, Trade Union Services and lndustrial Relations (TUSIR) in the Federal Ministry Labour.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the minister for comment on Thursday, she did not respond to calls by our reporter.
She however sent a short text message, “Sorry, I can’t talk right now”, in response to a text message sent to her earlier to seek her clarification of the issues.
In October 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the presentation of the 2020 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja said all federal government workers not captured on the IPPIS platform by October 31, 2019 would not be paid their monthly salaries.
The president said this was part of efforts to manage the high personnel costs in line with his administration’s commitment to fighting corruption.
“Accordingly, I have directed the stoppage of the salary of any Federal Government staff that is not captured on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform by the end of October 2019,” he had said.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has consistently kicked against the directive of the government for its members to enroll on the IPPIS platform, saying the central payroll system was a violation of the university system autonomy.
Last January, the Federal Government, through the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), commenced the process of implementation of the IPPIS in Nigerian universities.
The decision triggered a massive face-off between the government and the lecturers, with each party holding out on its positions.
To compel the government to concede to its demand, ASUU, on March 23, called out its members on a nationwide strike.
This followed the government’s decision to stop the February salaries of its members across the federal universities for failure to enroll in the IPPIS.
The government later decided to pay the withheld salaries to the lecturers to help cushion the socio-economic impact of coronavirus on their families.
But it insists there is no going back on the agenda to ensure all federal workers enroll on the IPPIS platform.