By Emmanuel Ajibulu
Hon. Joseph Akinlaja took his spot on quality representation on Tuesday July 3, 2018 through his methodical and timely intervention in the oil and gas industry when he triumphed in averting three major industrial crisis in the country which have the potential of shutting down Nigeria’s economy.
Akinlaja who is representing Ondo East/West Federal Constituency and also Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Resources Downstream successfully organised a dispute resolution meeting to avert looming nationwide industrial action by oil workers just as he mediated between all concerned stakeholders and a truce was eventually established.
Those at the high profile meeting were, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), The Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPMAN) Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Akinlaja in his patriotic remarks appealed to NUPENG to sheathe its sword and give room for more dialogue noting that his committee will make unbiased recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Yakubu Dogara in the interest of the Union, other industry players and Nigerians at large. Maintaining that strike should not be an option even as he frowned at how Nigerian workers are being unfairly treated in the oil and gas sector. His words;
”Strike should not be seen as an option this time, considering the damage it will cause. It would paralyse chain of logistics in the economy as economic activities are driven largely by road transportation, both for commuting and freight of petroleum products. It will impact on revenue as the upstream, midstream and the downstream sector would be affected. The power sector which is largely powered by gas would also not be spared too,” he said.
He assured that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which will soon become an Act under the current 8th Assembly will in no small measure help to normalise the oil and gas sector and nip in the bud all its challenges. He charged all stakeholders to think about Nigeria first, eschew sharp practices that can shortchange the system and to also avoid anti-labour policies and precarious work conditions.
It would be recalled that NUPENG had earlier addressed a press conference on June 2, 2018 notifying all concerned stakeholders and general public about failure of the employers of Petroleum Tanker Drivers members (NARTO) to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) reached with the Union since 2016 which was among other reasons why NUPENG issued 21 days ultimatum to NARTO the expiration which could lead to a total shutdown.
Similarly, it also queried the May 9th Service Level Agreement (SLA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Oil Producers Trade Sector (OPTS), which limits the duration of contracts of Labour service to a maximum of three months as against 5 years.
Others, it was learnt, were how oil and gas workers in the industry are being treated by the multinational companies who use them as slaves in their motherland. These portfolio investors cannot continue to make billions in our country whilst their employees who are Nigerians suffer gross impoverishment and other precarious conditions; sadly according to the Union is reducing its members life expectancy and creating physical and psychological adverse effects in them.
Meanwhile, just last week the Port Harcourt branch of the Union equally issued a 7-day ultimatum to one of the oil companies operating in the zone for alleged unlawful disengagement of some of its members. All these issues were exhaustively discussed and resolved to avoid undesirable occurrence pending when Akinlaja led committee will come up with its resolutions in line with parliamentary norms.