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Labour unions fault multiple regulators provision in PIB

Organised labour yesterday disagreed with the provisions in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which will create multi-regulatory agencies in the nation’s petroleum industry. They, however, agreed on the need for the speedy passage of the bill to drive the needed reforms in the sector.

It warned that creating multiple regulatory agencies under the new law will lead to unhealthy rivalry among them.

While the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) wants a Nigeria Oil and Gas Commission as the sole regulator, oil workers suggested the Oil and Gas Regulatory Commission instead of the two commissions being proposed under the law.

However, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who presided over the public hearing on the PIB, assured that the National Assembly would protect Nigerians’ interest in the bill.

He said it was unfortunate that, despite the importance of the bill to the economy, it was not passed into law by previous assemblies.

Gbajabiamila said there was a consensus about the need for a reform in the industry.

He said Nigeria’s oil industry operates in a global environment that is constantly shifting in favour of countries with the most competitive, accommodating legislative instruments. The absence of these factors has resulted to the loss of significant amount of investments.

However, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC),  Comrade Ayuba Wabba said critical stakeholders in the oil and gas industry should be represented on the board in view of the numerous collective bargaining agreements (CBA) for oil industry remuneration and championed by the industrial unions affiliates of NLC like NUPENG and PENGASSAN.

Wabba also wanted labour to be represented on the boards of the regulatory agencies, adding that the inclusion of Labour as critical stakeholders in the oil and gas industry will enrich the composition of such board.

Wabba argued that workers should not have their hair shaved in their absence whether in policy making affecting the workforce or the implementation of otherwise altruistic directives but which could be skewed to hurt the workers.

He said labour was opposed the provision which grants the Minister of Power to incorporate under the Companies and Allied Matters Act, a limited liability company, which shall be called Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Limited).

“Labour disagrees with this provision. There is ample grounds for worry in this provision. Indeed, incorporation under CAMA of NNPC Ltd has potential implications for adverse business manoeuvres, including winding up of the incorporated company by a petition. Therefore, creditors, hostile take-over bids and even minority shareholders could scheme the extant rules to the disadvantage of the Nigerian people,” Wabba said.

Workers in the oil and gas sector under the auspices of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) warned against passing a bill that will send investors away or put projects like the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Amendment Act that was passed by the National Assembly on hold.

President of PENGASSAN, Comrade Festus Osifo who presented the position of the two unions said the National Assembly should rather conduct a study on how the laws they pass can help in redirecting the industry.

He said with oil currently discovered in over 25 countries in Africa, Nigeria must pass a PIB that will attract investment to Nigeria ahead of Angola, Congo, Gabon, Libya adding that the PIB to be passed must protect Nigerian workers and stamp out casualisation in the industry.

He said the bill must also be able to attract investment and increase volume and more revenue to government in the long.

While opposing multiple regulatory agencies for the industry, the unions said only one regulatory to be known as Oil and Gas Regulatory Commission should be allowed in the industry as against the two contained in the bill, adding that creating two regulatory agencies may lead to unhealthy competition which will not be in the interest of the industry.

“One regulator will be a one stop shop for investors and enhance the ease of doing business. Rather than multiplying agencies will create bottleneck and cause unhealthy rivalry. Most Foreign Direct Investments are made because investors knew that there is a single regulator. Lets us all avoid changing the rule in the middle of the game. This (Single regulator) is what ls obtainable in other part of the world. Let us not reinvent the wheel,” Osifo said.

 

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