Fuel scarcity looms as NNPC workers down tool over N85bn pension deficit

…We’re on top of situation, says corporation

  Nigerians may be thrown into another round of fuel scarcity as workers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), under their two umbrella unions, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have decided to shut down operations nationwide yesterday over irregular funding of their pension scheme, which has led to about N85 billion deficit.The development could affect export of the crude, as workers at the export terminals have also joined the strike, while importation and distribution of refined petroleum products may also be affected. The NNPC accounts for 60 per cent of petroleum importation into the country.

But the corporation, in a swift reaction by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, assured members of staff and the general public that it is taking steps to avert a looming industrial action by the corporation’s arm of NUPENG and PENGASSAN explaining that the National Pension Commission (NPC) has given a 12-month widow for NNPC to comply with the Pension Reform Act 2014 as amended.

However, PENGASSAN in a statement by its Media and Communication Officer, Mr. Babatunde Oke, said contrary to the report that the NNPC has resolved the pension issue and other demands of its workers, there was total shutdown at all NNPC offices and locations all over the country as at yesterday.

The strike, according to Oke, also affected all the subsidiaries of NNPC, including the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) and Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company (WRPC), NETCO, Nigeria Gas Company (NGC), Hyson, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL) and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

Oke maintained that the strike will continue until there is concrete commitment from NNPC management to find a lasting solution to the issues.

The demands of the workers, he said, are adequate and regular funding of the closed pension system, immediate steps to carry out turn around maintenance (TAM) on the four refineries as agreed between government, NUPENG and PENGASSAN and restoration of crude supply to the refineries.

Oke said the issue has gone beyond granting of a one-year grace to the NNPC by PenCom but that NNPC management should put in place machinery that will automatically fund the pension system without any bureaucratic bottleneck.

He noted that the funding has been delayed due to the inability of the board of NNPC to meet for over a year to approve the proposal of the management for the funding of the pension system.

Alegbe explained that since the commencement of the scheme in 2006, the management and its staff have made a lot of sacrifice to maintain the existing scheme, adding that any premature cancellation of the scheme may lead to avoidable labour disaffection across board.

While acknowledging the existence of some funding gaps in the scheme, he maintained that the corporation has put in place measures to steadily bridge the funding deficit, which stood at N298 billion in 2010 and has now been provisionally reduced to N85 billion as at June 2014.

On the issue of TAM of the refineries, the PENGASSAN spokesperson said the Federal Government should implement without delay the Memorandum of Understanding between it and the unions to carry out the TAM on the refineries, given that it had promised to commence the TAM in April but that even in September, there seems to be no commitment from the government on this.

Source : SunOnline

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