25 February 2013

Nigeria: Labour Seeks Removal of 'Excessive Powers of President, Minister' From PIB

The organised labour has called for the reduction of excessive powers accorded to the president and minister of petroleum in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), stating that this was necessary in the overall interest of the oil and gas industry.

Speaking under the umbrella of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), labour said the 'discretionary powers' accorded to the president and petroleum minister should be totally removed from the bill in order to ensure transparency in the award of contacts to private investors in the industry.

TUC President, Mr. Peter Esele, who made this known in a telephone chat with THISDAY said there was no country in the world that accorded 'discretionary powers' to ministers of such a sensitive sector like the petroleum industry.

Esele insisted that all licences, leases, contracts and awards must be through transparent competitive bidding, while all tendencies for discretionary or absolute powers in the bill must be checked.

He explained that the National Executive Council of TUC had critically examined the contents of the bill before the National Assembly and established that though there were some challenges in the bill, it should be properly debated with a view to ensuring adequate changes.

"My own understanding of 'discretionary powers' is a situation where the petroleum minister will issue a directive that an investor should not be given an oil block even when the said investor has met all the requirements. This should not be so, we do not need such powers in the bill. If an investor is qualified for oil block then so be it and if the investor is not qualified, let the law be implemented without fear or favour. This is our concern and we want the National Assembly to address this concern in the interest of the industry and the economy," Esele said.

He maintained that the PIB should ensure a balance between government's take and investors' interest in order to ensure the continued growth of the nation's oil and gas industry.

According to him, the National Assembly must ensure that, in the final analysis, the PIB reflected a position that sustained cohesion and fairness of all stakeholders in the Nigeria project.

He further called on the lawmakers to expedite action in the passage of the bill stressing that the delay was eroding investor confidence in the sector.

Meanwhile, the NEC of TUC has condemned the National Assembly's suspension, sine die, of the debate on local government autonomy, stating that with so much resources committed to gaining people's opinion across the country, it is criminal and inexcusable for the lawmakers to suspend the debate at this stage.

In a communiqué issued at the end of its meeting in Benin City, Edo State, the council affirmed that local government autonomy was not negotiable if democracy was to take a firm root in the country.

It observed that states or interests opposed to the local government authority were doing the nation's fledgling democracy more harm than good.

The council further condemned the Federal Government's budget of N4bn for the proposed First Lady's Mission Home. It lent its voice to Prof. Wole Soyinka's view that the project is a mind-boggling fiscal misappropriation.

The NEC believed that this was another drain pipe on the nation's economy and called on the Federal Government to stop forthwith the project. It advised that such money should be applied to create jobs for the teeming Nigerian youths.

The NEC lauded the approval of payments of terminal benefits of electricity employees but requested that government build confidence in the process by ensuring the participation of the union in the sector in the compilation and the computation of the benefits of all employees.

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