By Taiwo Ogunmola-Omilani, Lagos –
Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has called on the Federal Government to settle all debts allegedly owed oil marketers to avert mass sack of workers in the sector.
The senior staff trade union made the call against the backdrop of the threat by the marketers to embark on massive retrenchment of their employees if the government refused to settle the over N720 billion subsidy arrears.
According to the union such step will engender growth of not only the downstream sector but all sectors of the oil and gas industry and develop the nation’s economy.
The debts, according to the marketers, was the outstanding subsidy owed on the importation of petroleum products, accrued interest on loans from banks and exchange rate differential, which made them to halt importation of refined petroleum products leaving only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) doing the business.
PENGASSAN said if the government is genuinely interested in the growth of the downstream sector and want to attract more investments in the sector, which is almost moribund, then it should pay the debts owed the marketers.
In a statement signed by the PENGASSAN National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Fortune Obi, it said the government should try as much as possible to verify the authenticity of the claims by the oil marketers and ensure quick settlement of the genuine debts.
“The government should try to separate the genuine claims by the importers from spurious one and pay them because we will not like to be engulfed in the mistakes of the past where briefcase marketers milked the nation through dubious subsidy claims.
“A situation where the workers in the industry bear the inability of the government to honour its obligations as part of the importation deal will be unfair and unacceptable to our Association. This is against the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration major policy of job creation.
“As a responsible trade union, as much as we will support any move by the government to end subsidy regime and spurious claims by the marketers, we are also canvassing for the payment of debts that can hinder the growth of the downstream sector and attract investments into the sector.”
He noted that in the last five years, workforce in the downstream sector, especially the marketing sub sector have depleted by over 70 per cent, adding, “most of them were thrown to the already over-bloated labour market.”
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