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Nigeria’s energy sector: Disquiet over sack persists

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Nigeria’s energy sector: Disquiet over sack persists

The number of sacked skilled and unskilled workers in Nigeria’s energy sector has exceeded 10,074 in the last two years. Adeola Yusuf reports how the sector, worst hit by last economic downturn, is contending with fresh sack fever.

 

 

It is not yet uhuru for some personnel in Nigeria’s energy space. The operators in the sector and government agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources are mulling fresh sack and historic re-deployment of over 4,500 additional staff. This is aside the not cheery news of figure of staff disengaged in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, which has exceeded 10,074 in the last two years.

 

Total and Addax, New Telegraph gathered, exclusively last weekend, had budget millions of dollars for emoluments and disengagement benefits for some of their senior staff penciled for disengagement in Nigeria.

Chevron, which was also involved in the industry sack of over 10,000 during the 2016 sales of assets in Nigeria, has registered its intention to continue the assets sale this year.

 

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) are, on the other hand, faced with workers’ sack and historic staff redeployment.

Market re-balancing, upstream document sighted by this newspaper at the just concluded Offshore Technology (OTC) in Houston, Texas, United States, showed, has been pushed back by at least six months from their projections because of higher-than-expected production from Iran and Saudi Arabia, coupled with the resilience of U.S. shale output.

 

Chevron had sold its stakes in OMLs 52, 53, 55, 83 and 85 in a string of divestments carried out by the International Oil Companies (IOC) within the two-year period.

 

Stating that foreign currency effects increased earnings in the 2018 first quarter by $129 million, compared with a decrease of $241 million a year earlier, Chairman and CEO of the company, Michael Wirth said: “In addition, we continue our asset sale programme.
“Sales and other operating revenues in first quarter 2018 were $36 billion, compared to $32 billion in the year-ago period.

 

 

The gale blows to DPR, PPPRA

While the need to right size led to the IOCs plans to sack more, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) is fueling the planned disengagement and unprecedented redeployment of staff at the PPPRA and DPR, two agencies under the ministry of petroleum resources.

Spokesperson for PPPRA, Lanre Oladele and his counterpart at the DPR, Paul Osu, could not be reached by phone for comment, but a management staff of the PPPRA told this newspaper that the news of change that the PIGB would cause to the PPPRA has triggered an uneasy calm in the agency.

“There will be job loss on one hand and mass redeployment on the other, everyone here knows that these are what naturally follow the kind of regulations that come with the PIGB. The minister, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has even confirmed this,” he said.

Stating that lobbying and prayer sessions are on-going among some staff who are jittery by the impending crisis, he added; “I am sure that you don’t blame anyone who uses what he has to retain the job he treasures so much.”

 

Govt’s perception

The Federal Government would rather approve that the situation be addressed as redeployment, but not sack.

 

Minister of State for Petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, who allayed fears over the sacking of workers of DPR and PPPRA, stated that workers of both agencies would be assimilated into the new petroleum industry regulator to be set up by the PIGB.

 

Speaking at a Round table on understanding the PIGB, organised by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter, (NNRC) and the Media Initiative on Transparency in the Extractive Industry, (MITEI), Kachikwu, however, insisted that that DPR and the PPPRA would be scrapped and merged into the Petroleum Regulatory Commission, (PRC), as stipulated by the Bill.

 

Represented by his Senior Technical Adviser on Policy and Regulation, Mr. Adegbite Adeniji, the minister also stated that it would not be business as usual as key performance indicators, KPI, would be set for the Board, management and other employees, adding that any official found wanting in the discharge in his or duties would be sanctioned and shown the exit.

 

He maintained that the scrapping of the DPR and the PPPRA, apart from ensuring that no one is sacked, would provide an opportunity for new persons to be employed into the new entity to be set up, especially as new ideas are sought to fill in gaps that might exist in the company.

He said, “Where they are gaps in the manpower in there, it provides an opportunity for people to be appointed from outside, because again, you want to put in new ideas, fresh legs in the whole process. In that process, you preserve the jobs, and you also attract a pathway for the employment of other skills from outside to help energise the new system you are trying to build.”

 

For power, same sour taste

The power sector is not exempted from the mass sack. In the build up to the privatisation, which climaxed on Friday, November 1, 2013, in the sector, over 20, 000 skilled and unskilled staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) were thrown into the labour market.

The Federal Government made it official by ordering the retrenchment of the staff ahead of takeover by successful bidders of its assets. The Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, issued the directive to the Chief Executive Officers, CEOs, of the then 18 successor companies to PHCN at a meeting in Abuja, to compile names and drastically reduce the 50,000 strong work force before the new investors take over. The new investors had, as expected of businessmen, demanded that the workforce must be pruned before the government hands off.

 

Oil workers battle ready

Rising under the auspices of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG), oil workers had declared readiness to fight the move they referred to as unjust and inhuman in this harsh economic situation in  the country.

The PENGASSAN branch of Total and Addax Petroleum had earlier grounded activities at the two companies into a total halt the week after they got the hints of the mass sack by the two companies.

The enraged workers of Addax, a company that produces 30,000 barrels of oil from its offshore and onshore locations in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Asaba, Warri, and Izombe in the Niger Delta, had locked their Senior Vice President/Chief Executive, Colin Klappa, out of his office when he arrived the 32, Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island, Lagos office of the company to resume work.

 

He met other top management staff outside, as all the entrances to the premises were firmly locked by protesting workers. A spokesperson of the company who is also the General Manager External & Government Affairs, Dorothy Atake, declined to react to the development.

 

The strike involved the 166 members of the PENGASSAN staff from the company and 98 others who are management staff. The workers’ action followed the expiration of the ultimatum the company’s chapter of PENGASSAN gave the management led by Mr Klappa over “some unresolved burning issues.”

 

Total, which in the same vein, said this in a statement, that its union disrupted activities over protest of alleged mass sack, added that the destruction by the workers included disconnection of communication facilities in crisis management rooms, which “exposed the company to grave risks in the event of emergency as normal means of communication with the sites were unavailable.”

Describing the action as illegal, Total said that the layers of Health Safety and Environment (HSE) safeguards to prevent accidents were reduced, thereby, increasing HSE risks in the environment.

 

These actions, Chairman of the Lagos unit of NUPENG, an umbrella body for the junior workers, Tokunbo Korodo, told this newspaper, would be a tip of the iceberg if the oil companies continue to disengage staff.

 

NUPENG, he added, was ready to join any moment a call of camaraderie is made by PENGASSAN, which would make the industry action to be total.

 

“The strike action is by PENGASSAN. I cannot make much comment on its development because they are yet to call for solidarity,” he said, adding that his group would answer the call for solidarity any moment it was made. The industrial action, which included total disruption of the company’s normal operations, had led to potential loss of value to all stakeholders.

 

 

Last line

The right sizing is an impeccable tool in business development. It should, however, be used with due consideration to the substantive labour law in the country. The employers and the employees should be on a round table to discuss issues on this and prevent it from dove-tailing into a major oil workers-employers’ war.

 

Nigerians have had enough of oil workers strike and the best way to avert this is to jaw-jaw, which is far better than to war-war.

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