Nigerians may be thrown into yet another cloud of economic uncertainty, scarcity and hike in prices of petroleum products if the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) make good their threat to embark on an indefinite nationwide strike, after tomorrow.
Presidents of both PENGASSAN and TUC, Comrade Babatunde Ogun and Peter Esele respectively, in separate interviews with The Tide in Port Harcourt, Monday, said the Ministry of Labour and multinational companies operating within the Onne Export Free Zone should be blamed for the consequences of the unions’ actions.
Comrade Ogun told The Tide that apart from engaging in anti-union activities, ranging from intimidation, harassment, lock-out, victimisation and enslavement of Nigerian workers, the Country Manager of Vam Onne Nigerian Limited, Eguene Fogli, a pipeline threading casting and tubing company was in the habit of flouting extant labour laws by sacking Nigerian workers without recourse to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). The firm, however denied these allegations.
The PENGASSAN President recalled that on October 20, 2011, the association wrote the Managing Director/Chief Finance Officer of Marine Platform Nigerian Limited (MPL) over the termination of the appointment of one of its members, Comrade John Ukegbu as a result of his active participation in the formation of the union in the company.
In the letter titled ‘Unlawful Termination of Appointment of John Ukegbu, PENGASSAN had accused MPL of violating the circular on the release of Nigerians from employment in the oil and gas industry, “as you did not apply to the DPR’, before releasing such members”.
Speaking in separate interviews with The Tide, the President of TUC, Comrade Peter Esele said the 10 year moritarium for waivers granted companies operating in the Free Zone had long expired but the operators had continued to exhibit flagrant disobedience to labour laws.
According to him, while PENGASSAN was protesting the sack of one of its members, 27 others were later eased out without following laid down procedures.
All affected staff were engaged by MPL, a firm of labour contractors and then seconded to Vam Onne Nigerian Limited, outsourcing of such requirements by multi-national companies was not a strange practice, The Tide learnt.
In defence of its position, on the engagement and easing of staff based on the contract details, the MPL, The Tide further learnt sought and got an order of interlocutory injunction from the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Enugu judicial division, restraining the respondent, namely PENGASSAN, Comrade F. Otono, Port Harcourt Zonal Acting Chairman and Comrade Sunny Onyemachi, by themselves, their agents, proxies and servants by any means whatsoever from mounting canopy and chairs, thereby barricading and or preventing the management, staff of the applicants from gaining access and gaining possession of the company’s gates and premises, pending the determination of the instant suit.
That order which was issued Monday, December 5,2011, in suit No NIC/EN/28/2011, The Tide further gathered was yet to be discharged and the substantive suit still in court.
The Tide asked both Presidents of PENGASSAN and the TUC whether the union’s action on February 7 to 9,2012 was not in contravention of the subsisting court order, both said the unions were tired of the rigmarole being orchestrated by the MPL, Vam Onne and some politicians.
According to Comrade Ogun, “ it is now clear to us that the only language the Nigerian government understands is either strike or threat of strike”, saying, if by the expiration of their seven-day ultimatum to Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, the issues were not addressed, PENGASSAN would shut all oil and gas production in the state and later embarked on a nationwide strike.
The PENGASSAN President said, the position was irrevocable because the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, rather than resolve the matter, allegedly collaborated with Vam Onne to assault its members who were on peaceful protest, an allegation the Assembly Deputy Speaker denied.
Meanwhile, the seven-day deadline expires tomorrow.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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