Senate Committee on Petroleum said on Thursday that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, did not contravene any law in the restructuring of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Chairman of the committee, Sen. Tayo Alasoadura, made this known while briefing journalists shortly after a closed-door meeting with Kachikwu at the National Assembly in Abuja on Thursday.
The minister was at the senate to brief the committee on circumstances that led to the shutdown of NNPC’s operations nationwide on Wednesday.
Alasoadura said that the explanation given by Kachikwu indicated that the decision to restructure NNPC was to reposition it for optimal performance.
According to him, Kachikwu was only carrying out an internal restructuring to better position the corporation to serve Nigerians better.
He stated that the restructuring would help to cut down losses being experienced by the corporation in recent times.
The lawmaker, however, pointed out that the legislature was not consulted before such critical step was taken.
“He is working in the best interest of Nigeria. Now that the price of oil is going down, if we do not restructure, we might run into more problems as a country.
“Why we invited him was to be sure that the law was not contravened and we are convinced.
“From figures made available to us, NNPC in recent times lost about N30 billion monthly, but because of the restructuring, it lost only N3 billion, last month.
“The minister assured that the restructuring when completed, will help to end any form of loss.
“The only problem we had was that we were not consulted and the Minister of State adequately apologised,’’ he said.
He said that the committee would brief the senate appropriately.
Earlier, Kachikwu said he was creating divisions that would allow for optimal performance “and not unbundling the corporation’’.
He pointed out that the restructuring would help professionals who were hitherto under-utilised to make adequate use of their talents and experiences.
“I may have been misunderstood, but I want to assure you that it would no longer be business as usual; we will run a profitable entity.
“I want to assure you that we will create new ideas that we will create new challenges for people who are in the system, that we will create new career part for people, that we will create accountability.
“Every publication we have done since September, if you take time to read the numbers, you will see how they are moving very positively, both in terms of volume, in terms of reduced loss position.
“It is also in terms of massive reduction in the cost environment rate.
“So, I think we are going into a threshold where the measures are going to be the major focus for us because we have to deal with outstanding debts.
“Others are new funding for them to do a hundred per cent production platform and that is the only way you can increase incremental barrels,’’ he said.
Kachikwu added that the 2016 budget was based on about 2.2 million barrels.
“Before the explosion, we have actually began to hit 2.3 million barrels and the target was 2.4 million barrels to 2.5 million barrels,’’ he said.
He assured Nigerians that the development was in their best interest, adding that he would not do anything that would impact negatively on the economy.
Meanwhile, Kacikwu is to set up a committee to examine the demands of oil and gas unions over the new structure of the NNPC, according to a trade unionist.
Mr Sale Abdullahi, Chairman of the NNPC Branch of PENGASSAN made the disclosure in Abuja on Thursday. He made no mention when the committee would be set up.
On Wednesday, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria embarked on strike to protest the new NNPC structure.
The unions shut offices of the NNPC nationwide, following the announcement of re-organisation of the establishment by the minister.
The unions claimed that the new structure did not follow due process and was not in consonance with the laws establishing the NNPC.
Abdullahi said, however, that the unions had decided to call off the strike after reaching an agreement with the minister.
“We had a meeting with the minister and we have reached an agreement that all our demands concerning labour issues must be considered.
“This is especially with the new companies that were introduced in the unbundling process. They must also consider labour issues, such as transfers, staff condition of service, among others.
“We have asked that staff should be a major issue for consideration and the minister has promised to look into it.
“The minister has also agreed to set up a committee to follow up and also ensure that what we agreed upon is followed to the very end.’’
The unionist also said the unions were going to set up a committee to follow up on their demands.
NUPENG and PENGASSAN in separate statements on Tuesday said the move to unbundle the NNPC was an attempt to provoke oil and gas workers and cause industrial unrest in the country.
“We condemn the unilateral action of the Minister of State, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, as the decision is not in consonance with the laws establishing the NNPC.”
On Tuesday, Kachukwu announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the unbundling of the corporation into four units.
The units are Upstream Company, Downstream Company, Refinery Company, Gas and Power Company.
On Thursday, the strike by the oil workers under the auspices of NUPENG and PENGASSAN was suspended.
Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, South-West Chairman of the NUPENG disclosed this in Lagos.
Korodo said that the strike was called off after a meeting with Kachukwu and the two union leaders.
Korodo said that the minister had assured the unions that the new policy would not lead to job loss in the company.
He said that the workers had since returned to their duty posts nationwide.
“As I am talking to you now, we have called off strike.
“All our tankers have returned to depots and the loading of petrol has commenced.
“The industrial action is not responsible for the scarcity of fuel but shortages at the depots,” he said.