Controversy, uncertainty and confusion have continued to trail news of the Federal Government’s proposed concessioning of the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) at Alesa-Eleme.
Despite the uncertain situation, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has formed other major stakeholders to kick against any plan to concession the refinery.
Speaking to The Tide in an exclusive interview in Port Harcourt, Tuesday, the National President of the union, Comrade Igwe Achese, said that the concessioning of the refinery would not be in the best interest of the workers and their families.
Achese said that today in Nigeria, the worst sector that has been affected by job losses is the oil and gas sector, stressing that during the recent drop in oil prices, most oil companies closed shop and sacked their workers.
The labour leader said that the union has been at the receiving end of job losses with total depletion of its members.
He restated that the entire workforce of the Port Harcourt Refining Company where he is on leave of absence to serve the union would never support the concessioning of the refinery to private enterprises.
He emphasized that experience has shown that the issues of collective bargaining were always non-transparent with the government, adding that rather than the latter contemplating the concessioning of the refinery to private company for the repair, operation and maintenance, should carry out a holistic Turn-Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refinery to meet up its optimal production capacity.
He advised the government to have a re-think on such concession plan, stressing that government should give licenses for the operations of the modular refineries as had been demanded by the people of the Niger Delta region.
He called for improve welfare for the workers in the oil and gas sector considering the daily challenges faced by the workers.
Also speaking to The Tide, the President of Alesa-Eleme Youth Council, Jima Obari, said that the youth of the Refinery’s host community must be carried along by the government in whatever policies concerning the refinery’s including concessioning.
Obari said that the community has suffered a lot in terms of environmental degradation, gas flaring and pollution from the operation of the refinery in Alesa Eleme.
Meanwhile, youths in the oil rich Niger Delta had on Tuesday vowed to shut down all oil operations in the region over the controversial concession of the refinery.
The group under the aegis of pan-Niger Delta Youth Leadership Forum (PANDLEAF) in a statement by Famous Daunemigha, president and Michael Ekpo, secretary, said they are not against privatization of the ailing refineries as a way of reviving them, but are rather against government’s plan to sell the refinery at the exclusion of host communities .
Furthermore, The Tide learnt that the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr, Ibe Kachikwu had while on a trip to Houston , USA in May this year stated that the Federal Government had got bids from investors to revamp the three refineries and would make known the preferred offers by September.
The Tide’s investigation revealed startling fact that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) had recently told newsmen that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) never approached the commission on any plan to grant a concession of the refinery or any other arrangement with any private company for the repair, operation and maintenance of the refinery.
The Director-General of the ICRC Aminu Dikko, further explained that if there is such an arrangement, the NNPC is required under ICRC Establishment Act 2005 and National Policy on PPP 2009 to liaise with the commission for regulatory guidance prior to entering into any contract.