NIPCO workers condemns management over casualisation

By The Citizen

When the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 Local Content Act) was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday, 22nd April, 2010, it was set out to guide a paradigm shift in the way even menial jobs were dished out by oil and gas operating and service companies to all sorts of funny expatriates on flimsy excuses of offshore sourcing of technical expertise.

The Act which derives from the Nigerian Content Policy seeks to increase indigenous participation in the nation's oil and gas industry by prescribing, among other things, minimum thresholds in relation to the utilization of local manpower, services and goods as a means of adding value to the Nigerian economy by stimulating growth of indigenous capacity.

And by virtue of Section 33 of the Act, operators are required to apply for approval of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) before submitting applications for expatriate quotas (including variations) to the Federal Ministry of Interior (Immigration Department) or any other agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The NCDMB Guidelines sets out the procedure and requirements for an application for new expatriate quota position(s) and the extension of existing ones.

 Additionally, prior to making an application to the Ministry of Interior for the extension of an expatriate's stay the approval of the Content Board must be sought.

These stipulations no doubt suggest that the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Local Content Act was one of the rare steps in the right direction.

Meanwhile, some workers of the Nigerian Independent Petroleum Company Plc (NIPCO), have accused the management of the company of abusing the nation's local content laws.

The workers, who preferred anonymity, alleged that the NIPCO management employed 28 expatriates, instead of the four they officially declared before the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).

One of the workers told NAN that unionism had been banned by the NIPCO management, hence the reluctance of workers to challenge the number of employed expatriates in the company.

“It is inappropriate in a country with employment challenges and with laws that aim to mitigate such a negation, for any company to be giving jobs to foreigners that its citizens can do.

“It is an abuse of our local content laws for any company to be bringing in expatriates to take over jobs that Nigerians can effectively engage in.

“Many of the expatriates in this company are even redundant.

“And the absence of a union protecting our interests, it makes it difficult for us to meet this management and take a position on this issue,“ the worker told NAN.

A NIPCO worker in Benin, who was recently laid-off, told NAN that “over 70 per cent of Nigerians working in NIPCO were employed as causal workers.

“There are many workers that have been in NIPCO for over eight years that are still not enjoying the salary of a staff.“

According to the laid-off worker, many of those who have been retrenched were still being owed their entitlements.

“Fear of official intimidation will not let me give out my name, particularly when my entitlements are yet to be paid to me,“ he said to NAN.