24th March, 2016
Nigeria’s oil industry unions, which staged a strike this month, are pressing the government to prevent oil majors hit by a slump in crude prices from laying off staff, the oil minister said on Wednesday.
The unions held a brief strike two weeks ago after the government unveiled plans to split state oil firm NNPC into different units, part of reforms by President Muhammadu Buhari to end graft in the vital energy industry.
They suspended the action after the government said it would listen to their demands, which they laid out at a meeting with Buhari, their first since the former general was elected a year ago.
“They (unions) are worried about job loss in the sector arising from the position of majors who feel that the economy is giving the rough end of the stick,” said Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, who attended Wednesday’s meeting.
“And so we are going to be working with the oil majors to ensure that we do not experience the kind of job loss that we are hearing has the potential to occur in the sector,” he told reporters.
Oil majors such as Shell and ENI work with NNPC in joint ventures.
The unions, which were not immediately available for comment, also opposed any job cuts at refineries, which the government is considering selling, Kachikwu said
The unions were also demanding a swift passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, a project in the works for a decade to overhaul the industry, he added. It will call for environmental, tax and revenues sharing rules.
Kachikwu added the government hoped to end fuel shortages hitting much of the West African nation within two months as the state oil firm tries to restart Nigeria’s outdated refineries.
“Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in the strategic reserve,” he said. “The key problem here is that there is no reserve.”