Kachikwu, Ngige and Enang at the PENGASSAN-FG Meeting in Abuja
PENGASSAN President Francis Johnson

After some days of negotiations, the federal government was able to convince striking senior oil workers under the umbrella body, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), to suspend their almost one-week nationwide strike against alleged unhealthy practices in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. Chineme Okafor, who witnessed part of the negotiation processes, writes

On Wednesday, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) suspended its one-week nationwide strike with immediate effect, citing its satisfaction with the outcome of negotiations with the federal government on issues it said were affecting operations in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

PENGASSAN had embarked on an indefinite strike on July 7, saying it was protesting against the government’s refusal to implement or even consider agreements it reached with it in the past on how certain actions and practices were preventing the country’s oil and gas sector from growing.

It listed these issues to include backlog of cash call arrears on Joint Venture operations dating back to 2014 and which the government has reportedly ignored.

The association said this had greatly hampered the ability of the joint venture partners with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to discharge their obligations both to the industry and their workers. They also alleged that it contributed to the mass layoffs in the industry by operators.

Other issues that motivated the association’s strike included the poor state of the country’s four refineries in Warri; Port Harcourt and Kaduna, as well as alleged massive waste of resources on turnaround maintenance (TAM) for the refineries; continued importation of petroleum products; on-going industry reforms and NNPC restructuring as well as the politicisation of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) whose legislative consideration has remained inconclusive since it was introduced.

But announcing the suspension at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, the oil workers union said the NEC was called to review offers made by government during days of its negotiations both at the ministry of petroleum resources and labour and employment.

First, the union met with the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, at the instance of Kachikwu, and where majority of the issues for dialogue were ironed out, before another one with Ngige at his office where an agreement on the last outstanding issue was then reached.

In announcing its suspension of the strike, President of the association, Johnson Olabode, said at the end of the NEC meeting that extensive deliberation on their requests was done with government’s representative after which it took the new position.

“NEC met to appraise the industrial action after an extensive debate with the representatives of the federal government and the following provisions were reached.

“NEC in session in conciliation of the issues during the meeting with the federal government has accepted to show understanding.
“NEC in session, in the spirit of patriotism has been satisfied with the outcome of the meeting with the federal government thereby suspending the current nationwide industrial action effective immediately,” Olabode said.

He further asked its member workers to get back to their respective operational bases, having extracted from the government a commitment to address its requests.