July 13, 2024

 Partial operation of Port Harcourt refinery in Q1, 2023 not visible, due to corruption- NLC, NUPENG allege

Oredola Adeola

The leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have revealed that the scheduled commencement of operations at the Port Harcourt refinery in Rivers State for March 2023, may take longer than expected due to many factors including alleged corruption by the officials of the government and the contractors.

Mr. Williams Akporeha,  NUPENG President, made this known when he received Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of NLC at the NUPENG National Secretariat, in Lagos on Thursday.

According to him, the 210,000 barrels per day(bpd) Port Harcourt refinery was supposed to commence phase 1 operations in March 2023, but this is no longer visible due to delay tactics and corruption in the system.

EnergyDay’s check showed that the Nigerian government awarded the contract for the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the Port Harcourt refinery complex to Tecnimont, a subsidiary of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont, at £1.08bn ($1.5bn) spending in March 2021.

The Port Harcourt refinery rehabilitation project, being undertaken in phases – phase 1- 24 months, phase 2 -32 months and phase 3 – 44 months- and be completed by 2025.

Akporeha said, “The inconsistency is giving us worry, not to talk of other ones that are yet to take off.

The NUPENG President said that he is raising the alarm because the jobs of most oil and gas workers in the refineries are being threatened, including those of contract workers.

Comrade Ajaero, in his remark also corroborated the statement of the NUPENG President, adding that the slow pace of work in the rehabilitation of the country’s refineries is caused by corruption.

The NLC President said, “There is corruption in the system. I don’t see why contractors are asking for variation when the government is not owing them.

“Variation in this sense is when the contractors are asking for additional money, Ajaero said.

Speaking about the plight of oil workers in the industry, the NUPENG President condemned anti-labour practice in the oil and gas sector, one of which he said is casualization of workers, apart from several others.

He said, “There seems to be a gang up by the stakeholders and the government to weaken and reduce our strength. Every job in the oil and gas industry is outsourced and they don’t allow us to organize the workers. We don’t want to fight with labour unions, who are from other sectors.

“Drivers in the oil and gas sector are being pushed to the wall by the management such that they resign to join road transport workers union, it is as bad as that. Even drivers from Chevron are not allowed to join NUPENG.

“The situation we are facing in the oil and gas industry is so bad that if we don’t tackle it collectively it will affect us badly. There are a lot of regulations that are not labour-friendly.

The focus of Petroleum Industrial Act is to share oil money and not to protect the interest of the workers. Stakeholders in the industry, such as the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Petroleum, do whatever they want, when it comes to policies.

“As regards casualisation of workers, we have five layers in the sector, which include manpower, service contract, community manpower, leadership casuals to mention a few. So, we want a collaboration with the NLC on the casualisation and outsourcing of workers,” he added.

Ajaero on his part said issue of outsourcing of workers is a threat to all the labour unions, which according to him is not peculiar to NUPENG.

He blamed the Ministry of Labour, for the unstable policies which he said has failed to put timeframe for an employee to be a casual worker in any establishment. Ajaero however promised that the NLC under him would address the issue.