Oil workers on Sunday declared that they would resist any attempt by the Federal Government to sell some of its stake in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources released a draft policy document on the reform of the oil sector late on Thursday in which it proposed the sale of some of its stake in the national oil firm. Reuters reported on Friday that the country had been mulling the sale of oil assets to raise foreign exchange as a slump in vital oil revenues was eroding the budget.
The proposal stated that a newly formed corporation could sell the stake “so long as the government shareholder retains effective control and ownership.”
Reacting to the draft proposal on Sunday, the Public Relations Officer, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Mr. Emmanuel Ojugbana, told one of our correspondents that the union would not support the sale of NNPC’s assets.
He said, “Actually, the government is trying to revisit the Petroleum Industry Bill and that may have to do with the draft document being reported. But we have not engaged with them in order to know the implication of what is in the draft or the bill. However, we have already made our position clear and I’m restating it that we are not in support of any attempt to sell our national assets.
“But if there are other policies of government that will enhance the oil and gas industry, we are in support of that. So, we need to understand what the draft proposal is all about and then we will make our contributions. But as per the sale of assets, PENGASSAN is completely against it and should be counted out.
“We are not in support of the sale of our national assets; we will only give support to policies that aim to create adequate governance structures, as this will provide more business opportunities, which is good for the Nigerian people. In times like this, the government should not consider the sale of assets belonging to the NNPC, for we will oppose it seriously.”
Also speaking on the issue, the Secretary-General, PENGASSAN, Mr. Lumumba Okugbawa, said the union did not know which subsidiary of the NNPC might be put up for sale, but stressed that oil sector workers would resist the move.
He said, “Our position still remains the same that they cannot sell our national assets. It is not to be allowed. We don’t have the details of which company they want to sell in the NNPC. Is it the Kaduna, Warri or Port Harcourt refinery? Is it a different subsidiary of the NNPC, or is it the entire NNPC? These are things we need to find out.
“But no matter what it may be, our position stays and it is that the government should not be allowed to sell our collective national assets. There should be better ways to handle things, not by selling our national assets. So, we look forward to having better dialogue with the government.”
A branch Chairman of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that it would be necessary for the government to explain what the draft proposal entailed before implementing it to forestall a backlash.
Ojugbana, however, said that PENGASSAN would support any proposal by the government that would benefit the workers as well as the country.
He said, “Sometime ago, when the government came up with the idea of the sale of national assets, we said that we didn’t support it. We are aware that there are a lot of things the government is doing to revamp the economy and put things in order, but we are not in support of the sale of any national asset.
“If there are other moves that will bring about efficiency in the operations of the NNPC that will be beneficial to both the workers and the nation, we can look at it and examine the grey areas and the implications; and if it is not beneficial to us, we can also come up with our position on it.
“They promised to engage with us so that we can understand the details of the proposal; when we get the full information on what it entails, we will have our own internal discussion on it.”
As part of the draft proposal to restructure the NNPC, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources said the corporation would be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange for optimal management of the country’s energy resources.
The government also aims to reduce the country’s reliance on oil exports and shift to a gas-based industrial economy.
“Unless there are additions to reserves and those reserves are brought into production, Nigeria can expect to see absolute declines in production from around 2020,” the plan stated.