Union Workers Protest Nigeria’s Plan To Break Up State-Owned Oil Giant

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Nigeria’s plan to breakup loss-making state-owned oil giant into 30 “profit-making” smaller companies is facing resistance from labor unions who say the move violates the law and would hurt workers benefits.

The country’s Petroleum Minister of State, who is also the Managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Emmanuel Kachikwu said on Tuesday that the government is looking to split the company into five divisions.

Unions shutdown operations at the state oil firm on Wednesday as workers protested the restructuring plan, a move that could worsen fuel supplies in Africa’s largest oil producer.

Bloomberg reported that protesters had prevented NNCP staff from accessing the company’s headquarter in the capital Abuja and demanded that the decision to split the company be reversed.

Nigeria’s oil sector two largest unions,  Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), have demanded to know how employees of the 30 new companies will be managed.

“We have asked our members in NNPC to withdraw their services until the minister is ready to engage us on the matter,” Babatunde Oke of PENGASSAN told AFP.

The NNPC has for long been accused of inefficiency and grand corruption by it management that has denied the government revenue from oil export. This has prompted an overhaul by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to boost transparency.

Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy has struggled under the strains that have emerged since crude oil prices first dropped below the $100 per barrel mark in 2014. With crude oil prices hovering in the mid-$30 range that the Africa’s largest economy is feeling the pressure.