Condemns new Petroleum Industrial Bill as “anti-workers”

by Muda Ogidan

pengassan.logo-trucksThe Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has cried out against the imminent mass layoffs in the oil and gas sector. This was after the “Regulatory Forum” branches called for the union’s “extreme urgent intervention” as the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

The “forum” covers branches in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF). All these agencies are to be scrapped and the functions of the first two transferred to a Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC). This is obviously “a subtle ploy to retrench or drop some of the work force transiting to the Nigeria Petroleum Regulatory Commission”, according to the union.

The union’s acting General Secretary, Comrade Lumumba Okugbawa has made it clear that, this is definitely not the “change” which the APC appeared to promise during its campaigns. PENGASSAN vowed to resist, promising the government and oil companies a showdown this year if they go ahead with their evil plan.

The PIB is one of the oldest bills in the National Assembly haven been initially presented over a decade ago. The bosses claim that it is meant to bring transparency in the murky terrain of the oil and gas sector. Workers have consistently called for an explicit labour clause to be included in the bill to curb casualization, which is commonplace in the industry. In its new form as the “Petroleum Industry Governance & Institutional Framework Bill 2015”, undermining of workers’ rights are even more entrenched.

The bosses’ class under the current government is set to chastise workers with scorpions where the earlier government used whips. Deregulation has been sneakily embraced. The removal of fuel subsidy is just one aspect of this. With the impending reforms in the sector which this new bill heralds, half the number of workers in regular employment will most likely be sacked.

The corporation will be unbundled much the same way as NEPA/PHCN was unbundled with workers losing their jobs en masse. The government wants us to believe that this would make state intervention in the oil and gas sector to be more efficient. But we have a clear example of what to expect, with the power sector. Workers have been made to bear the burden of the bosses’ inefficiency and service delivery has not improved, despite the rise of crazy billings.

NLC and TUC would have to fully support the oil workers’ unions in the impending struggle to save jobs. This struggle is one that the Nigeria working class as a whole must rise up to wage. It is very important for us to defend workers’ means of subsistence. But it is even more critical for us to put the broad picture in view: changing society with workers’ power.

It is our labour that creates the wealth which the bosses appropriate. The control of such resources and the organisation of work should be under the democratic management of workers. Every struggle against layoffs has at its kernel, a battle over control. But the war can be won only when we come to the consciousness of fighting to overthrow the capitalist system and winning that fight.