PENGASSAN threatens to shut down Nigeria over sale of national assets

OIL workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has threatened to shut down the country if the Federal Government should carry out its plan to sell national assets to augment revenue shortfall as a way out of the current economic recession.

PENGASSAN described the plan to sell the national assets as a self-destructive move to Nigeria, saying  the plan meant to solve short term financial obligations was targeted at handing over our collective common wealth to a few individuals and further impoverish the rest of our country men and women.

The senior staff trade union advised that instead of selling those assets, the government should look for other ways of increasing the revenue base of the country, while plugging loopholes and leakages in government’s finances.

It further advised government at all levels to pump out money through execution of capital projects and payment of workers’ salaries to revive the economy.

PENGASSAN, however, cautioned the Federal Government to be wary of such a plan, as the association would not sit back and watch national assets, especially those in the oil and gas industry, such as NLNG that had become a huge revenue earner for Nigeria’s refineries and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations being shared among those in power and their cronies.

“Any attempt to sell these national assets will be met with stiff resistance from the association, as PENGASSAN will galvanise every support, including that of our sister union and labour centres to shut down this country by ensuring that every activity in the oil and gas sector is brought to a complete halt.

“Some opportunists in the clothes of businessmen  and short-sighted politicians had earlier advocated the sales of the public assets, such as the Nigerian LNG, four state-owned refineries, Nigeria’s stakes in Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), the nation’s airports and reduction of government’s shares in upstream oil joint venture operations and this was approved by the National Economic Council (NEC),” the association said.

Reacting to the recent approval of the sale of the national assets by the NEC, comprising of the Federal Executive Council and the state governors, the PENGASSAN National Public Relations Officer, Comrade Emmanuel Ojugbana, said such sales would further compound the economic and security problems in Nigeria.

The PENGASSAN spokesperson expressed surprise on “how anybody can plan to sell the assets, such as the NLNG and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations, which have been generating revenue and are still generating revenue for the country till date.

“They should tell us what will happen after the recession if we have sold the assets to greedy individuals. Will the country go cap in hand begging those individuals who bought the assets and borrowing from them?”

Comrade Ojugbana alleged that the plan was ill-timed and unwarranted, as they did not serve national interest, adding that no nation could develop, survive or feel secure after selling all its national assets.

He further explained that doing this would further mortgage the future of our great country in the hands of a few cabals, noting that these individuals were just looking for advantage to further loot the country through illegal acquisition of the national assets as in the case of various oil blocks held by a few “powerful” Nigerians.

“The sale of national assets is not only surprising, but also embarrassing for a nation experiencing economic recession. The proponents of the sale of national assets are those who have been actively involved in the operations of the nation’s economy in the past. They were part of those responsible for the country’s current economic situation.

“Moreover, such sales in the past, including the power and steel sectors privatisation, is just a shift from public monopoly to private monopoly, which has further worsened those sectors.

“It is, therefore, the candid position of PENGASSAN that such plan should be thrown into the trash bin. Government should continue to seek better ways of addressing the present economic challenges and reduce areas of wastages. The long overdue calls for diversification of the economy should be driven with all seriousness; more action is required urgently than propaganda mechanism.

“The Federal Government, on her part, should show seriousness on the reduction of cost of governance and demonstrable cut on foreign trips, including that of medical, as part of cost reduction measure. It is no longer news that our current economic team needs some “re-jigging” for optimal performance. The CBN policies do not suggest measures that can aid fair interest rates for businesses.

“While we support the fight against corruption, it is important to be systematic in doing this in order to encourage local investment. We shall continue to provide the needed support to government in times like this to enable her out of the current doldrums.”