The president of Nigeria’s National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Union said their strike, which began Monday, will continue until the government meets their demands.
The workers are demanding passage of the long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill, aimed at overhauling the inefficient and corrupt oil sector. They also want unfair labor practices involving oil companies and the government dealt with, along with improvement in the country’s neglected road network.
Oil and Gas Workers Union President Igwe Achese said the strike is also the result of the government’s inability to carry out turnaround maintenance of refineries and the failure to reduce petroleum prices.
“For the past 12 years, we’ve been battling on the issue of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill. Today, as it stands, it has been like a dream not coming into reality. The National Assembly is yet to pass the bill. Today, the oil price globally is down, and that brings us to the point [to ask] why the nation’s refineries are not functioning properly and why turnaround maintenance is not taking place on these refineries,” he said.
Achese said the workers are tired of the government’s empty promises.
“This issue of the turnaround maintenance started when [Olusegun] Obasanjo took over as president of this country. And, we’re talking about a new election coming up in 2015, and I keep asking myself, ‘Is government really committed in terms of making sure lives improve in the common man’s environment?’” Achese said.
He said the workers also want improvement in the country’s roads network because they are essential for transportation, including oil tankers.
“The only way tankers can haul petroleum products from the west, from the south, to the north is through roads. And, our roads are all bad. You might have heard of tankers falling off the road, followed by explosion[s] and loss of lives. And, this keeps going on every month, every day,” Achese said.
Achese said the workers are concerned about the suffering their strike might bring upon ordinary Nigerians, but added that ordinary Nigerians are most fed up with the situation in the country.
“I want to tell you quite rightly that Nigerians are even fed up with the situation of things in this country, in terms of the nature of roads, in terms of the non-availability of petroleum products, in terms of the continuous payment of fraudulent subsidies to a few Nigerians. Nigerians are also tired of the payment of illicit electricity bills. And, [the] government in power and the various agencies responsible are still not committed to these issues,” Achese said.