As stakeholders await President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent to the harmonised Petroleum Industry Bill Governance Bill (PIGB) with sublime hope, not a few workers are worried over job security. Some interest groups also see the bill as an old wine in a new wine skin. It will only create an uncontrollable commission, they say, JOHN OFIKHENUA reports.
What the PIGB aims to achieve
Unbundle the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)
Establish a Federal Ministry of Petroleum Incorporated.
Establish Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NPRC) to replace the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA). The NPRC will issue and revoke licenses, permits, authorisations for downstream gas and petroleum products, storage depots, retail outlets, transportation and distribution facilities among other functions for the industry.
Establish Nigerian Petroleum Assets Management Company.
Establish Nigerian Petroleum Company (NPC) to replace NNPC. NPC is to be operated as a commercial entity that pays dividends in addition to Royalties and taxes.
Establish a Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) to be funded from the 5 percent fuel levy, subventions, fees and charges from petroleum products marketing companies.
FOR more than eight years, Nigerians waited for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill by the National Assembly. The bill, which many see as the pill to end sharp practices in the oil sector could not scale the legislative hurdles.
Its unbundling by the Eighth National Assembly and the passage of the first phase of the harmonised bill, rechristened the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was a renewal of hope.
But, as the PIGB awaits President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent, the high hope that heralded its passage is fast fading out.
As some corporate bodies, government agencies and interest groups count their would-be gains; there are fears in certain quarters that the aspect of the bill, as passed by the lawmakers, is still a rehash of the old order.
Despite the promises and assurances made by the National Assembly committee and stakeholders, there are still feelers that the implementation of the bill, aimed at boosting competence and efficiency, would affect the job security of workers and management.
The fear is that since the bill is essentially about competence and efficiency, the workers will be compelled to work under the conditions of a commercialised enterprise with which they were not employed.
Those opposed to the new bill are also of the view that when it becomes law, it could thrust excessive regulatory power to the National Petroleum Commission (NPC), into which the bill is seeking to collapse the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
The concern, according to analysts in the oil and gas industry, is that with such a merger, the commission could grow into an amorphous and a gigantic organisation, become more uncontrollable than the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
On its own, the bill proposes that “commission shall be vested with all the assets, funds, resources and other moveable properties which immediately before the effective date were held by the Petroleum Inspectorate, the DPR and the PPPRA.”
To the critics, the bill has vested both technical and commercial regulatory responsibilities on a single organisation.
One of the analysts, who preferred anonymity, believed that the situation will lead to paucity of manpower.
The analyst argued: “It is just the fear in some quarters that it could grow to become a very massive and uncontrollable commission. With so many responsibilities, it will again face the usual problem of shortage in manpower.
“In that case, what we are trying to achieve by breaking up the NNPC, we are now trying to recreate it with this one. It is going to be one very massive and uncontrollable commission, contrary to the practice in most counties which is to have both commercial regulator and a technical regulator.
“Those two regulatory bodies are vertically unrelated. That is why some countries that have adopted it have found reasons to say they need regulatory agencies that stimulate economic growth and investments.
“And you need another one that acts a control, which is technical. There are countries like that: Canada, some Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) countries and South Africa.”
But, another source in the downstream sector argued that employees of both bodies would not lose their jobs as their roles in the commission will remain the same.
He, however, stressed that the regulatory commission will certainly need more hands to man the 90,000 retail outlets, receptive facilities of 21 depots and seven jetties.
“Besides, the private refineries are already underway,” he said.
Promoters of the bill believe it remained the best thing for the industry. Some of them cannot wait for the bill to undergo any further checks. They said the bill can always be amended by the National Assembly.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) is at the forefront of those clamouring the signing of the bill the President.
Its spokesman Fortune Obi, told The Nation in a telephone chat that the law will rid the oil and gas industry of bureaucratic bottlenecks if implemented.
“For us at PENGASSAN, we see it as a structure that will make the organisation fitter and more efficient. I don’t think it is going to be too cumbersome, it is about having a workable structure.”
From Obi’s analysis, the commission will be devoid of duplication of roles as it is unambiguous of what it is created to do.
The PEGASSAN’s spokesman explained that the essence of the bill is that the government or stakeholders want a more participatory, visible and efficient regulatory body in the industry.
Their merger, he said, “means that we will have a more structured and aligned regulatory agency, where even doing business in the oil industry will be more streamlined and the bottlenecks are also reduced.
“You don’t have duplication of responsibilities. But, when the PPPRA is regulating and DPR is doing a different thing, at the end of the day, you have conflicts.
“But, when you have them under one regulatory body it means they will be able to manage the regulation in the oil and gas sector properly and more efficiently. Somebody cannot go for licensing it takes ages because you want to go through bureaucratic bottleneck in the system.”
PENGASSAN as a body, Obi said: “is in support of a more structured organisation, regulatory body that will make doing business in the oil and gas sector more efficient and more effective.
“That is the view of PENGASSAN and moreover, I am a member of the PIB review committee. I have the view of what the regulatory body of the DPR will look like if the bill is finally passed into law.”
Obi, who represented PENGASSAN in the PIB committee, submitted that globally, organisations get leaner and more efficient.
He said: “There is no burden of confusion of roles in the merger of the two organisations to perform both commercial and technical regulatory roles.
“It’s not cumbersome managing the two organisations under one umbrella. It is about creating a structure that will work. There is no need duplicating responsibilities or role when you know that same organisation that does monitoring, does regulatory, does licensing and other responsibilities attached to it.”
An oil and gas expert, Dr. Dauda Garuba, described the NPC as a one-stop-shop regulatory body for the petroleum industry.
He is of the view that when instituted, the new regime “stands the chances of zeroing focus and strengthening regulation as against the currently divided responsibilities and institutional weakness.”
Ahead of the signing by the President, a cold war is raging. The bill, which says the commission shall take over the resources of the DPR and PPPRA, does not guaranty the security of jobs.
Some of them have been the typical civil servants, who may find it difficult to cope in a commercialised atmosphere that would exert them.
According to them the government is trying to change the rule of engagement halfway.
They said: “Certainly, the bill makes provision for the workers to unionise but upon the commercialisation of the entities and the pursuit of efficiency, transparency and accountability, some of them may not stand the heat.
“This is the unsaid about the new expected law that is now a source of concern to the workers. Above all, so many of them do not know the fate of the current chief executive officers of the two agencies.”
A stakeholder within the industry explained to The Nation that “you have to prove yourself to keep your job. This aspect is not in the document but that is an informal part of it. If you want to keep your job, it is no longer whom you know or whatever. You will be following the process of appraisals now as the government will not be there to help you keep your job. It depends on your performance.”
The ambivalence about job security, however, waned on March 22, when the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, threw light on what is expected of the personnel.
He spoke through his Senior Technical Adviser on Policy & Regulation, Mr. Adegbite Adenij, at a roundtable on the PIGB, organised by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) in Abuja.
He said it would no longer be business as usual because the commission will set Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for its management and employees.
The minister stressed that any worker, who does not cope with the standard or any official found wanting in the discharge in his or her duties, would be penalised and sacked.
His position tallied with that of the anonymous source. Kachikwu explained that the merger will open up job opportunities for new employees because three will be new ideas that will generate gaps that must be filled.
He said: “The gaps in the manpower in there provide opportunity for people to be appointed from outside, because again, you want to put in new ideas, fresh legs in the whole process.
“In that process, you preserve the jobs, and you also attract a pathway for the employment of other skills from outside to help energise the new system you are trying to build.”
Kachikwu noted that the board of the new regulatory commission shall have the power to dictate the standard for staff appraisal and also hire and fire.
Projecting into the future of the commission, the minister added: “At that time, it has nothing to do with the minister. It’s up to the management to retain their staff afterwards. You then have to make sure you actually meet up to task as far your job is concerned. That is how we dealt with the issue of labour.
“After that, with the mandate that each institution would have for efficiency, people there have to work and display their performance in their jobs.
“But, at the inception, the existing jobs would be there, but then people would then have to rise up to the occasion, because those Boards that would be in those entities would be mandated statutorily to ensure efficiency in the public interest.
“Therefore, from that point on, you do not have a job for life. You now have to be worth that salary, that money you are being paid.”
According to Kachikwu, powers would now be given to the new management to ensure efficient and effective operation to make decisions on who would meet up with the requirements for their position.
“Once the ball gets rolling, the question would now be if I am the manager at the helm of the institution, I would want to see who is effective and who is not. That is now the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the board and for the chief executive of the institution, to make sure he runs an effective institution.”
What happens to the workers when the bill is signed into law by the President? Only time will tell.
credit: the nation
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