*Begs oil majors not to sack workers
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Johnbosco Agbakwuru, with agency reports
ABUJA—The Presidency has directed an oil firm to remit to the account of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, unremitted funds amounting to N81.6 billion ($408m).
This came on a day the Federal Government called on operators in the oil sector to shelve plans to lay off workers to avoid throwing the nation into a huge social upheaval.
Oil companies had concluded plans to reduce their workforce, due to falling oil prices in the international market which had impacted their operations.On unremitted revenue, the Presidency’s instruction, it was learned, came against the backdrop of revelations by the chairman of the firm at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, that the company only remitted parts of what it derived from revenue from four oil blocs.
A source said the company which signed a Strategic Alliance Agreement with NPDC on July 19, 2010, took charge under the agreement of OML 26 FHN; OML 30 Shoreline; OML 34 Niger Delta Oil; and OML 42 Neconde and was also to provide funds, technical services, drill and sell crude oil.
According to the source, the company was later accused of lifting crude oil, but remitted only a fraction of its worth to government.
It was gathered that in 2012, the company paid $168m into government’s account, but lifted about three million barrels valued at over $350 million, leaving a balance of $182 million.
The source also said that in 2013, the company lifted about two million barrels of crude oil valued at $240 million but paid only $68 million, leaving a balance of $172 million.
Similarly, the company was also alleged to have in 2014, paid zero cash call, even though it lifted 500,000 barrels of crude oil valued at $68 million.
The source said, having been armed with these figures by the EFCC, the Presidency instructed the company’s chairman to reconcile his accounts with the NPDC, a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and remit money amounting to about $408 million or N81.6 billion.
The EFCC, it was learned, recently raided the business premises of the firm, making away with documents and computers.
Sources said the oil blocs were awarded to the company in 2010 in controversial circumstances by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Although efforts to reach the company’s helmsman proved fruitless, a source close to the company said it had already submitted to government plans to pay the several billions it was owing.
When Vanguard called Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu, he directed Vanguard to call the NNPC for confirmation.
Contacted, Group General Manager, Public Affairs, NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, said he was not aware of the development.
FG begs oil majors not to sack workers
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has called on operators in the oil sector to shelve plans to sack workers to avoid throwing the nation into a huge social upheaval.
Speaking through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the government said a crucial joint labour-oil sector meeting had been scheduled for next week to resolve some emerging issues in the industry.
The minister, who spoke during a meeting with major oil companies in Nigeria, yesterday, noted that the nation was already facing a lot of social security problems and could not afford more to be created through job cuts.
A statement signed by Olowookere Samuel, Deputy Director (Press) in the ministry, quoted Ngige as saying: “The oil majors in Nigeria must, therefore, bend backwards and see what they can plough back from their profits to keep Nigerian workers on their duty posts.”
Ngige assured the oil majors that the present economic downturn would not last forever, stressing that they maintained existing jobs, saying nothing lasts forever. “We have a downturn today but you can be sure it will not last forever. If you are not creating new jobs, let us keep the ones we have. That is what this government is pleading and we must emphasize that it is what we want”, the minister said.
He said because oil and gas sector remained the financial back bone of the nation’s economy for now, any threat of industrial unrest therein should be nipped in the bud.
Ngige added that he had received a plethora of petitions from unions in the sector on industrial and employment relations such as casualization, redundancy, threat of retrenchment and unfair labour practices, among others.
Speaking on behalf of the International Oil Companies present, including Agip, Mobil Producing, Chevron, Addax and Total, the Director of Human Resources and Medical, Chevron Nigeria Limited, Ihuoma Onyearughe, appreciated Federal Government’s efforts at stabilising the economy and ensuring industrial harmony in the sector.
She appealed for understanding and collaboration on the part of the government, in view of the current challenges facing the industry. “The issue of laying people off is not a decision that comes lightly. I will not come here to tell you that people are being laid off or not.
“The situation in the oil companies is dire. We want to ask for more understanding in appreciation of the challenges we face. Nevertheless, we have heard the minister and we will take your message back to our various companies,” she said.
She pleaded with the minister to protect oil majors from unnecessary harassment by labour unions who usually closed their eyes to unfair labour practices by “employment contractors” who failed to remit workers pension and compensation funds, but harass and turn the heat on the oil companies.