Oil workers will embark on a three-day nationwide warning strike from Wednesday, the joint National Executive Committee of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) announced on Sunday.
The General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Lumumba Okugbawa, and his NUPENG counterpart, Olawale Afolabi, said the strike, expected to last till Friday, is "to protest the forceful enrolment into the defective payment platform (the lntegrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (lPPlS)"
During the period of the warning strike, the oil workers said all oil installations as well as associated operations, including oil production and exports would be shut down across the country.
The workers' associations say the strike action was pursuant to the demand concerning their members working in federal government agencies, whose salaries were withheld since May, over alleged non-compliance with the federal government's directive by all its agencies to enroll on the IPPIS payment platform.
PENGASSAN writes Finance Minister
On June 8, PENGASSAN wrote to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to protest the decision by the government not to pay the workers allegedly at the instance of the finance ministry.
In the letter, the association identified the affected agencies to include the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF), Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), the Nigerian Content Development Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NNRA) and Petroleum Training Institute (PTI).
The affiliate group of the association representing the affected agencies, the Regulators' Forum, told PREMIUM TIMES its executive resolved at the end of its meeting to withdraw its members' services nationwide if the federal government refused to rescind its action and address their grievances within one week. The one-week ultimatum expired on Saturday.
NUPENGASSAN-PENGASSAN write Petroleum Minister
In another letter to the Minister State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, the two unions insisted they would not guarantee industrial peace in the oil and gas sector if the implementation of the IPPIS was carried out unilaterally, or the matter resolved without their input.
In the letter, dated June 19, a copy of which was sent to PREMIUM TIMES, the unions made reference to a directive from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation directing federal ministries, departments and agencies to register their staff on the IPPIS platform on or before June 18, 2020.
The unions said the accountant general's office threatened to further reduce the personnel cost of the affected agencies if the directive to enroll on the IPPIS was ignored.
They said the apprehension of their members about enrolment on the IPPIS platform was that the system "discountenances the peculiarities of the oil and gas industry with regards to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and approved pay structure between the Unions and the Federal Government through the Salaries, Wages and Income Commission."
Besides, the unions expressed surprise that the accountant general's office was insisting on the enrollment of the affected agencies on IPPIS despite the fact that the federal government revived the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) where the affected agencies were currently enrolled.
Describing the IPPIS platform as "very defective and problematic", the unions said a committee constituted by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has been meeting with the managers of the platform to consider the peculiarities of the affected agencies enrolling on the platform, rather than a blanket implementation.
The union told the minister in their letter that the talks have not yet been concluded before the decision by the government to withhold the funding to the affected agencies for the payment of their workers' salaries.
They called on the government to resume the talks in order for the issues to be resolved before proceeding with the decision to withhold funding to the defaulting agencies
The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is an information Communications Technology (ICT) project initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration for its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
IPPIS Secretariat is a Department under the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation responsible for payment of salaries and wages directly to government employee's bank account with appropriate deductions and remittances of 3rd party payments such as tax, health insurance, housing, pension and so on.
In October 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, during the presentation of the 2020 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja, said all federal government workers not captured on the IPPIS platform by October 31, 2019 would not be paid their monthly salaries.
The president said this was part of efforts to manage the high personnel costs in line with his administration's commitment to fighting corruption.
He directed the stoppage of the salary of any federal government staff not captured on the IPPIS platform by the end of October 2019.
However, following difficulties encountered in the system as they affected some agencies, the enforcement of the presidential directive dragged beyond the initial deadline of October 2019.
No response from government
Both the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, did not respond to calls by PREMIUM TIMES to seek their reactions on Monday.
Both ministers also did not respond to text messages sent to them on the issue.