Redrafted PIB stirs fresh anxiety among oil workers

Nigerian oil workers have criticised the redrafted Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) packaged by the Federal Government for presentation to the National Assembly for approval early next year.

The new draft titled “Petroleum Industry Governance & Institutional Framework Bill 2015”, is for an Act to provide the governance and institutional framework for the petroleum industry and other related matters.

However, workers in three regulatory agencies in the petroleum industry, namely Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF), have raised concerns about the redrafted Bill not providing adequate accommodation for their interests and other oil workers.

Chairmen of the various agencies’ chapter of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) have petitioned the National Executive Council of the union to seek its “extreme urgent intervention” by meeting with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, to discuss their concerns.

The petition, written under the aegis of “Regulators’ Forum” was signed by PENGASSAN Chairman, PPPRA Chapter, Victor Ononokpono, along with his DPR counterpart, Garba Bello, and their counterpart in PEF, Aminu Ahmed.

The concerns of workers in the three agencies bordered on observations the proposed law may have inadvertently left the oil workers in the lurch.

Although the trio commended the Minister’s effort to stimulate reforms in the industry after several failed attempts in the past, they noted some inconsistencies in the draft PIB, which have stirred some real fears about a veiled attempt by government to sack its members.

Specifically, the anxious workers drew attention to some of the inconsistencies in Part 3 of the bill, on the establishment of the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC), Section 13, on the composition of its Board, and Section 87, on the transfer of staff.

The Bill provides that the Commission would combine the monitoring and regulatory roles and responsibilities of DPR and PPPRA to “administer and enforce policies, laws and regulations relating ti all aspects of petroleum operations.”

The oil workers are worried that the Bill was silent on the fate of an important agency like the PEF vested with the responsibility of ensuring uniform pricing of petroleum products in the country.

“The Union senses a subtle ploy to retrench or drop some of the work force transiting to the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission with the contentious clause on ‘transfer of certain employees,” the Forum noted.

“Cessation of employment and transfer of staff should be automatic and guaranteed as provided by the Public Service rules and Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

To show how unfriendly the redraft PIB was to Labour, the oil workers said the composition of the governing Board of the NPRC did not have a single representation from any arm of the organised labour.

This is a departure from the provisions of the original draft 2012 Bill. Part D, Section 47 (2) (f) and (g) on the Board of the Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency (DPRA), representatives of the two major oil workers unions, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and PENGASSAN were listed as members.

As the highest policy and administrative hierarchy of the petroleum industry, the redraft Bill listed the Governing Board to include, among others, representatives of the Ministries of Petroleum Resources, Finance and Environment.

A close scrutiny of the redraft Bill also revealed that neither the role nor status of PEF was specified, fuelling fears by its workers that government might be contemplating their sack, as there was equally no provision for neither their absorption nor transfer of service.

Equally, in the 2012 PIB, the establishment of PEF was included, to which any net surplus revenue recovered from petroleum products marketing companies should be paid.

Part F, section 101 (2) (e-h) also provided for representatives of the various affiliate oil workers’ groups and the labour unions, as members of the Board.

“Apart from the uncertainty of the agency’s institutional role, the draft Bill as currently drafted will create job loss, as no provision for absorption or transfer of service for the work force is contemplated,” the oil workers said.

“The Central Working Committee must make a public position known on the non-inclusion of organised labour in the composition of the governing Boards of Commission against international best practice.”

They asked the national unions to extract a memorandum of understanding on the re-drafting of the contentious issues, particularly as it concerned job loss of PENGASSAN members across the existing agencies (PEF, PPPRA and DPR.).

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