The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) on Sunday called on the Federal Government to settle all debts allegedly owed oil marketers to engender growth of the oil and gas industry and develop the nation’s economy.
The union made the call against the backdrop of threat by the marketers to embark on massive retrenchment of their employees if the government refused to pay the over N720 billion subsidy arrears.
Mr Fortune Obi, National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN in a statement said the debts were the outstanding subsidy owed on the importation of petroleum products, accrued interest on loans from banks and exchange rate differential.
The union said the debts resulted in halt in the importation of refined petroleum products leaving only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) doing the business.
PENGASSAN appealed to government to pay the debts owed the marketers to speed growth and attract more investment in the downstream sector.
“The government should try as much as possible to verify the authenticity of the claims by the oil marketers and ensure quick settlement of the genuine debts.
“The government should try to separate the genuine claims by the importers from spurious ones and pay them because we will not like to be engulfed in the mistakes of the past where briefcase marketers milked the nation through dubious subsidy claims.
“A situation where the workers in the industry bear the inability of the government to honour its obligations as part of the importation deal will be unfair and unacceptable to our Association. This is against the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration major policy of job creation.
“As a responsible trade union, as much as we will support any move by the government to end subsidy regime and spurious claims by the marketers, we are also canvassing for the payment of debts that can hinder the growth of the downstream sector and attract investments into the sector,” PENGASSAN said.
The union noted that in the last five years about 70 per cent of the workforce in the downstream sector, especially the marketing sub sector have been thrown into the “over-bloated labour market.”