NNPC Drops 500 from its Workforce for Failing Promotion Test

  • Oil production, fuel supply, others threatened as unions kick

Chineme Okafor in Abuja

No fewer than 500 employees are about to be dropped from the payroll of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for reportedly failing to scale through a mandatory personnel assessment and promotion examinations the corporation recently conducted, THISDAY has gathered. Very reliable sources within the state oil company said the issue was already causing disquiet in the corporation. They said this could lead to disruption of NNPC operations following threats by workers’ unions to resist the alleged sack of the 500 workers.

From reports, NNPC has since October 2017 remained the sole importer and supplier of refined petroleum products in Nigeria, especially petrol which independent petroleum marketers have stayed away from importing on account of unfavourable pricing. On the other hand, Nigeria’s oil production has continued to improve from a 2016 production disruption caused by militancy in the Niger Delta.

Sources close to the development told THISDAY that trouble started when the corporation conducted the promotional examinations and about 500 of its staff could not pass it. The 500 are reportedly not part of the workers’ unions – the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN). They were subsequently issued notices of disengagement, but their issue has since been taken up by the two unions, which sources stated have now pledged to resist the sack even though it means shutting down the operations of the NNPC.

A source who pleaded not be named said, “Some staff wrote promotion exams to move places, as it is the case. They are Chief Officers and Deputy General Managers who are in M5 and M6 cadre. Some didn’t pass for the first time and about 500 were asked to leave, and papers in this regard were served them.

“Right now, there is a lot of tension because that category of people affected are not part of workers’ union.

The cadre involved with NUPENG and PENGASSAN are from Chief Officers downwards, yet, the unions are threatening that in solidarity with them, they will embark on actions to support and stop their retrenchments.”

The source equally explained that the threat of industrial action by the unions will affect operations in Nigeria’s oil sector. He suggested that oil production and downstream operations, which include petroleum products supplies and distributions, could be impacted negatively by the industrial action of the unions. Also, the source noted that some of the affected staff had worked with the corporation for more than 25 years, adding that it is the first time the NNPC would conduct promotional exams and ask staff who failed to meet up to leave its workforce.

According to the source, the current decision of the NNPC to lay off workers who failed its assessment was different from that which the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, attempted when he was the Group Managing Director of the corporation and wanted to downsize the workforce but was resisted by the unions in the corporation.

When THISDAY contacted the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, to comment on the issue, he said he would get back to the paper on the request. But Ughamadu did not get back as at the time of filing this report.

Industry experts have frequently questioned the vast workforce the NNPC maintains, which according to them has contributed to its poor operational profitability. Their views have equally been supported by reports from the corporation which also suggested that the deficits it records from its operations are usually from subsidiaries that are rather redundant.

For example, an August 2018 edition of the monthly financial and operations report of the NNPC released recently on its website disclosed that there were about eight of its subsidiaries that have remained unprofitable in their operations. The report indicated that the subsidiaries contributed to the N3.90 billion trading deficit the corporation incurred after about six months of recording back-to-back profit on its operations. And, they included its refineries in Warri; Port Harcourt; and Kaduna, the Nigerian Pipelines and Storage Company Limited (NPSC); the NNPC Shipping; NNPC Ventures and the corporation’s corporate headquarters.