Following the announcement made by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Tuesday, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari has given his approval for the immediate restructuring of the NNPC into seven independent operational divisions, Nigerian oil workers on Wednesday embarked on a strike and has insisted to continue until they are made to understand why the unbundling was done.
As Kachiukwu revealed, the corporation was divided into five business oriented divisions- Upstream, Downstream, Gas & Power Marketing, Refineries and Ventures, and two service-focused divisions namely Corporate Planning & Services and Finance and Accounts, with every of the division to be under the watch of a chief executive officer who would in turn report to the Managing Director of the Group.
However, workers have faulted the Minister for the way he handled the exercise without having a consultation with all the parties involved, saying he has a hidden agenda for making such a “unilateral and arbitrary decision.”
Consequent to the announcement made on the night of Tuesday by the Minister, the workers’ unions of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), started organizing their members to refuse accepting the policy and even though the protest registered partial compliance on Tuesday, the workers’ unions halted all normal operations by Wednesday resulting to a complete close down at all NNPC offices and locations.
According to the Acting General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Mr. Lumumba Okugbawa, the workers would not call off the protest until the Minister agrees to invite the workers to discuss with him what the restructuring was all about.
We do not accept any unilateral and arbitrary restructuring. The minister cannot restructure NNPC without carrying all stakeholders along. The minister cannot run the industry as a private estate. He must carry all Nigerians along,” Mr. Okugbawa said.
With such a massive decision-making, a lot of things would be affected, particularly its implication on workers interest. We are unaware of what is happening. It is not fair that the workers are hearing about the restructuring in the media just like every other person. He is just creating unnecessary confusion in the polity.
Mr. Okugbawa who said the Minister could not restructure the NNPC when he has not yet taken necessary legal steps to facilitate the process also expressed dissatisfaction at the “secretive manner” Mr. Kachiukwu was going about the restructuring of NNPC, revealing that every attempt to sit down with him and discuss how the exercise would affect the interest of the oil workers were spurned, as he made himself inaccessible.
Lumumba said normal NNPC business would remain closed until further notice not minding the fact that Mr. Kachikwu had explained on Tuesday that the oil workers had nothing to fear as the exercise has a “zero sum in terms of job loss”.
In trying to explain, the Minister said:
“The principle of restructuring approved by the president is that nobody losses work. I do not have the mandate of the president to create a job loss situation, but to try to ensure that everyone gets busy, unless for reasons of bad staff performance and fraud. There is no mass attempt to let people go.”
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