Bail Out Fund: NUPENG & PENGASSAN Disagree With Osinbajo, Ready To Face Off With Defaulting Governors Over Unpaid Wages
By, Uchechukwu Ugboaja
The two leading Unions in the oil and gas sector have lashed out at Governors who have failed to pay their workers for several months despite receiving bail out funds from the Federal government for this purpose.
In an exclusive chat with our reporter during the Legislative Economic Summit organised by the Federal House of Representatives at the International Conference Centre, Abuja the Presidents of both unions expressed their unions disappointments and stated that plans are on ground to move against such erring state governments.
(Right – Left) Comrade Igwe Achese Of NUPENG & Comrade Francis Johnson Of PENGASSAN
The President of PENGASSAN Comrade Francis O. Johnson who also reacted to the Vice President’s statement that the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria will soon become less attractive owing to the world gradually moving away from oil and gas to renewable energy sources as well as the fast growth of the communications and agriculture in the country. Even though the Vice President made this statement with reference to the recent contribution of other sources of revenue to the economy including the Tax thereby reducing oil’s contribution from about %90 to about %75 today. However, in a swift reaction the Lagos State born union leader disagreed and said that it is not possible that Nigeria will throw away the Oil & Gas Sector just like that but the main import of the Vice President’s speech is that too much stress has been put on the sector over the years and this has to stop as a matter of fact. This means that it is now time to also look for other things which refers to diversification so that the pressure on the sector should be brought to the barest minimum.
Reports that some groups of militants known as the Niger Delta Avengers have vowed to renew hostilities in the oil rich region have also brought about anxiety in the sector which will affect oil exploration activities and further slide the country back into recession, the President of PENGASSAN Comrade Francis said that this situation must be quickly nipped in the bud by the government to avoid another round of economic hardship on Nigerians.
“If the militants get ahead to damage any oil facility it will not only affect the nation’s economic but it will also cause environmental and health challenges to their communities being the host communities for these facilities, it is going to affect aquatic life, humans and animals likewise.”
He also said that PENGASSAN as an affiliate of Trade Union Congress (TUC) is committed to working with the government to look into the proposed review of the national minimum wage which is long over due.
“I must tell you that as a labour union we are livid at the fact that several states have been unable to pay workers’ salaries despite being given bailouts funds by the Federal Government, and so the leadership of PENGASSAN in conjunction with the TUC is working towards coming up with some measures which we plan to enforce on these defaulting state governments and we want to use this opportunity to tell the Federal Government not to release any further tranche of bailouts until there have been a proper explanation is given over how it was spent.”
If appointees of government such as aides, special assistants, commissioners are not being owed why should it be the average worker? So we in the different labour centres are ready to enforce these measures to bring them to their knees, because owing any labourer is an ungodly act.”
In a similar vein the President of NUPENG Comrade Igwe Achese also blamed the Federal government for the recent rise of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). According to him, the government have failed to do the needful in terms of its responsibilities and that is why we are being faced with these threats today.
“The Niger Delta Avengers have always been around all these years and have always been contained one way or the other, so whatever reasons that is responsible for their sudden r rise again should be the fault of the FG. Th key issues here is what has the government done to create opportunities for these youths in terms of jobs within the sector today and you see we are already approaching a new global revolution called Industry 4.0 where robots and machines will be able to do the jobs meant for human beings. So the elephant in the room question is how prepared are we for this new world revolution in the near future when we are failing to manage today’s industrial challenges.”
So my thinking is that while we are resolving the challenges on the oil and gas sector we must move quickly to address the unemployment crisis on our hands to avoid a larger crisis in the future.”
We are still not out of recession because the purchasing power of the average worker is still very low and this is amidst some state workers being owed several months salaries and wages so I will sharply disagree with any position that alludes to the fact that we are out of recession so for me it is a government propaganda and the workers must know that.”
He further stated that even though neither TUC not ULC have any representatives at the Salaries and Wages Commission the legislature should be proactive to look into reviewing that law because it is already obsolete where you have just one labour centre representing the entire Nigerian workers.
“Some of the laws governing our oil and gas industry are already obsolete and are in dire need of review, because a law that recognises only NLC as a member of the Salaries and Wages Commission is no longer sustainable and cannot meet the demands of modern day labour practice. Just as you know we in the United Labour Congress (ULC) have a proposal for N96,000.00 while the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are proposing N56,000.00 so there is need for all the key stakeholders in the sector to sit at a round table for these proposals to be harmonised at the commission level for the benefit of the Nigerian workers whether those in the public or private sector because N18,000.00 is no longer sustainable especially with the current exchange rate.”
We would also recall that the United Labour Congress (ULC) recently broke away from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) after a crisis broke out during the leadership elections of the latter.
“For the avoidance of doubt NLC is a separate entity from ULC and we in ULC are committed to collaborating with every other labour centres and civil society organisations to protect the interest of the Nigerian workers so the issue of surrendering to the NLC shouldn’t be the issue at this point because I have always said it that for me there is no going back on ULC.”