From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Tuesday lampooned the Federal Government for flaunting dead refineries after wasting $9.5 billion on them in the last 10 years in the name of Turnaround maintenance.
National President of the TUC, Quadri Olaleye, also frowned at what he described as deep-seated corruption and legendary tardiness that ruined the nation’s refineries, which left the country with no option but to become a massive importer of refined petroleum products.
Olaleye, who spoke in Abuja at the inauguration of new executives of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), tasked the federal government to take pragmatic steps to put the ailing refineries in order and ultimately encouraging private sector participation in establishing modular refineries to mitigate the huge cost of importation of refined Petroleum products.
He said:” Even with Nigeria’s status of being one of the largest oil producing countries, the energy crises that have befallen us as a nation are well known and this is solely due to the incompetence and corruption of the government. The fuel subsidy and the proposed hike in fuel price is a rather prominent and recurring one. Nigeria is the only OPEC member country that imports more than 90 to 95% of refined petroleum products for consumption.
“Nigeria has a total of 5 refineries in the country of which four are owned and managed by the government, and one by NDPR.
“It might interest you to know that none of the government owned refineries is functioning, yet in the past 10 years alone, the government has wasted about $9.5billion for turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries.
“Please note that TUC is not against the removal of the fuel subsidy if it will yield positive results. Rather, we are inquisitive as to what the government has to offer following the removal. How can we trust the government and be certain that they will actually remove it this time around, because in the past, they have claimed to remove the so-called ‘subsidy’, so how can what has been removed be removed again? Will there be construction and utilization of modular refineries as the government has previously promised and failed to deliver? Will there be rehabilitation of existing moribund refineries? What will the government do to put an end to dependence on imported fuel? It is imperative to note these questions because we need adequate answers on what the government has to offer as failed promises from the government have become the order of the day.
“To conclude, I hereby demand that if the subsidy is eventually removed, the government should engage more on expenditures that are beneficial to the economy rather than projects that generate losses. There should be establishment of modular refineries and construction of functioning refineries in the country. Proactive committees must be set up to check, balance, and ensure successful execution of projects and to generally oversee activities. The moribund refineries must be active and we must put an end to the counterproductive acts of importing petroleum products when we can refine here and sell at a competitive price. You will agree with me that Nigeria has the capacity to meet these demands and even diversify like advanced countries but that will not happen because the current political class does not want it.”
Earlier in his acceptance speech, the new president of IPMAN, Alhaji Debo Ahmed, pleaded with the management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to ensure prompt payment of outstanding bridging claims owed marketers. He also identified insecurity across the country and incredible bottlenecks being encountered by his members in lifting petroleum products from depots.
He said:” The nation is facing a huge insecurity threat. As IPMAN, we need to address this issue and the effects on our business and the environment where we operate.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is with us. What advice have we given to our members and their staff on the need to take COVID-19 shots to improve their body immunity so that they can be productive to their family and community?
“Our members have billions of naira as transport claims with the defunct Petroleum Equalisation Fund now the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) that are outstanding. As a united association, we have to follow up to make sure our members are paid unconditionally.
“The new Customer Service Department in Petroleum Products Marketing (PPMC) is another bottleneck tying down members billions of Naira for product payment without supply.
“Rising cost of levies charged for outlets is escalating across the country from some federal and state government agencies. IPMAN National is to dwell in all these extra cost to harmonise the justification if need be and so many other issues pending.”
On the protracted leadership tussle that rocked the national Secretariat of the association in the last three years, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN and the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress in their goodwill remarks, admonished the new leadership to crave for peace amongst its members while pledging their support for the Alhaji Debo Ahmed led national executive.
President of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Eniredonana Akporeha, said his union was determined to ensure that the new leadership of IPMAN was not frustrated from carrying out its constitutionally assigned mandate
He said: “Today is a remarkable one in the history of oil and gas activities because of the array of dignitaries here today. If anyone is in doubt of the legitimate IPMAN, this gathering has showed that this is the only legal body, as accorded recognition by the Supreme Court and we shall continue to be on the side of the law.
“I have the mandate of my union that any injury to this IPMAN leadership is an injury to NUPENG. We can’t afford distraction at this time after passage of the Petroleum Industry Act, (PIA) .As we round up this important process, let us forge ahead as one stakeholders in the interest of the oil and gas sector.”
His PENGASSAN counterpart, Comrade Festus Osifo,spoke in similar vein.
“We are like Siamese twins, anything that happens to IPMAN affects us. We will stand by you. The last three years have been turbulent. Let us give the new leadership the deserved respect and cooperation so that we will always have cause to celebrate.”
President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, urged the new leadership to ensure that its members relate henceforth as a family.
“For us at NLC, we hold this association, IPMAN, in high esteem for its job creation efforts and secondly and most important, it has made it possible to distribute petroleum products to every nooks and crannies of this country. So, we take you very serious. I am happy that you are coming together. I urge you to stand strong and put all primordial and sectional interest aside. I urge you to be more cohesive. Your Constitution is very clear and the Supreme Court judgement is very clear. I want to pledge the support of NLC and our 50 affiliates to you. Our doors will be open to you, 24 hours. It is responsibility of every member to ensure that this Association is united.”
Other members of the Debo Ahmed-led new executive to run the affairs of the association for three years include,
Alhaji Zarma Mustapha and Mr. John Kekeocha, deputy national Chairman and National Secretary, respectively.
Others are Mr. Omololu Omotaduwa,
National Asst. Secretary; Chief Benjamin Omale; National Treasurer ; Chief Linus Mgbakogu, National Financial Secretary and Elder Chinedu Ukadike, national publicity secretary, amongst others.