-Threaten Nationwide Protests
Oil workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has threatened to shut down the country if the Federal Government goes on with its plan to sell national assets to augment revenue shortfall.
PENGASSAN, which described the plan to sell the national assets as “self-destructive”, said that the plan meant to solve short term financial obligations “is targeted at handing over our collective common wealth to a few individuals and further impoverish the rest of our country men and women”.
The senior staff trade union advised that instead of selling the assets, government should look for other ways of increasing the revenue base of the country, while plugging loopholes and leakages in government’s finances.
It further advised the governments at all levels to pump out money through execution of capital projects and payment of workers’ salaries to revive the economy.
PENGASSAN however cautioned the Federal Government to be wary of the sale plan as it will not sit back and watch national assets, especially those in the oil and gas industry such as NLNG that has become a huge revenue earner for Nigeria, refineries and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations shared out among those in power and their cronies.
“Any attempt to sell these national assets will be met with stiff resistance from the Association, as PENGASSAN will galvanize every support including that of our sister union and labour centres to shut down this country by ensuring that every activity in the oil and gas sector is brought to a complete halt,” the Association said.
“Some opportunists in the clothes of businessmen and short sighted politicians had earlier advocated for the sales of the public assets such as the Nigerian LNG, four state-owned refineries, Nigeria’s stakes in Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), the nation’s airports and reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations and this was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC)”, it said.
Reacting to the recent approval of the sale of the national assets by the National Economic Council (NEC), comprising of the Federal Executive Council and the state governors, PENGASSAN said through its National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Emmanuel Ojugbana, that such sales will further compound the economic and security problems in Nigeria.
The PENGASSAN spokesperson expressed surprise on “how anybody can plan to sell the assets, such as the NLNG and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations, which have been generating revenue and are still generating revenue for the country to date?
“They should tell us what will happen after the recession if we have sold the assets to greedy individuals. Will the country go cap in hand begging those individuals who bought the assets and borrow from them?”
Comrade Ojugbana alleged that the plan was ill-timed and unwarranted as they do not serve national interest, adding that no nation can develop, survive or feel secured after selling all its national assets.
He further explained that doing this would “further mortgage the future of our great country in the hands of few cabal”, noting that “these individuals are just looking for advantage to further loot the country through illegal acquisition of the national assets as in the case of various oil blocks held by a few “powerful” Nigerians”.
“The sale of national assets is not only surprising but also embarrassing for a nation experiencing economic recession. The proponents of the sale of national assets are those who have been actively involved in the operations of the nation’s economy in the past. They were part of those responsible for the country’s current economic situation.
“Moreover, such sales in the past, including the power and steel sectors privatisation, is just a shift from public monopoly to private monopoly which has further worsened those sectors.
“It is therefore the candid position of PENGASSAN that such plan should be thrown into the trash bin. Government should continue to seek better ways to address the present economic challenges and reduce areas of wastages. The long overdue calls for diversification of the economy should be driven with all seriousness; more action is required urgently than propaganda mechanism.
“The Federal Government on her part should show seriousness on the reduction of cost of governance and demonstrable cut on foreign trips including that of medical as part of cost reduction measures. It is no longer news that our current economic team needs some “re-jigging” for optimal performance. The CBN policies do not suggest measures that can aid fair interest rates for businesses.
“While we support the fight against corruption, it is important to be systematic in doing this in order to encourage local investment. We shall continue to provide the needed support to Government in times like this that will enable her out of the current doldrums”, PENGASSAN said.