Oil industry unions in Nigeria are pressing the government to prevent major oil firms hit by a slump in crude prices from laying off their staff, the Oil Minister said on Wednesday.
The two major unions embarked on a strike two weeks ago after the government said it would split the state oil firm (NNPC) into separate units in a move to end graft and mismanagement in the industry.
The unions managed to secure a meeting with President Buhari who listened to their demands. At the meeting, they opposed job cuts at refineries, which the government was considering selling.
Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in the strategic reserve.
“They (unions) are worried about job loss in the sector arising from the position of majors who feel that the economy is giving the rough end of the stick,” said Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu during an interview with Reuters.
“And so we are going to be working with the oil majors to ensure that we do not experience the kind of job loss that we are hearing has the potential to occur in the sector,” he told reporters.
The unions also demanded a swift passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, a legislation to overhaul the industry but has been in the works for a decade.
The government assured the unions that the two oil majors in Nigeria will undergo restructuring and also will prevent job cuts during the reforms.
Oil industries have been hit by low prices forcing some firms to consider laying off some staff.
Kachikwu also told Reuters that the government hoped to end fuel shortages which have hit most parts of the West African nation over the past two months as the state oil firm tries to restart Nigeria’s outdated refineries.
“Our strategy is that whatever is produced in the refineries will not go for sale, we are going to keep them in the strategic reserve,” he said. “The key problem here is that there is no reserve.”