By Ismaila Chafe
Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday lauded the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) for ensuring stable and smooth supply of petroleum products nationwide.
The President made the commendation when he received the leadership of the NUPENG, led by its National President, Mr Williams Apkoreha, who paid him a courtesy visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President specifically expressed appreciation to the union for its unflinching support to his administration over the last three years, noting that he had been regularly receiving feedback on the union’s positive and constructive engagements with government.
President Buhari, who expressed the belief that the petroleum industry should be reformed in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians, however, cautioned that such reforms should not be rushed.
“No doubt, your support has contributed to the continued uninterrupted supply of products to consumers across the country in the last three years.
“May I, therefore, use this opportunity to request that you continue on this patriotic path while assuring you of government’s support to the course of the Nigerian workers at all times.
“I fully agree with you that reforming the Petroleum Industry will unlock numerous untapped potentials for the nation. However, these reforms must be well thought out and must have the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians as its core objective.
“Such reforms cannot and must not be rushed, if we must get it right. We are still suffering from the effects of many legacy policies that were rushed and passed without fully appreciating the consequences the provisions embedded in them.
“Whatever decision we take now will impact either negatively or positively on generations to come,’’ he said.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill, the President observed that the bill was conceived to ensure that Nigeria’s future generations were positively impacted by the country’s oil wealth, saying that it was never about short-term gains.
President Buhari expressed the hope that at the end of the ongoing dialogue on the petroleum industry bill the country would have a bill that it would be proud of.
The President expressed reservation over the Public Private Partnership approach adopted to rehabilitate the nation’s existing refineries, observed that the the approach had taken longer than expected.
He said: “However, I am aware that the NNPC has concluded the process for selecting the private sector partners that will rehabilitate the refineries.
“I am informed that they are working out finances and hopefully, work will commence soon.’’
President Buhari pledged that his administration would continue to support innovative ideas that would attract investments for the setting up of new refineries in the country.
He, therefore, urged the Union to make suggestions on how best to move the nation’s petroleum industry forward.
“As one of the architects of the Nigeria Contents Monitoring and Development Act, l am sure NUPENG members appreciate that a key principle of this act is the indigenisation of certain processes and production functions.
“Indigenisation means local value addition leveraging local resources where possible.
“The Act specified minimum local content requirements, including manpower, for all projects and contracts in the oil and gas industry.
“The Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board is fully empowered to ensure compliance.
“l will direct the Minister of State Petroleum Resources to review the issues you have raised and take appropriate action to ensure compliance with the Act by operators in the industry.
“I urge that you submit any specific petition to the Minister of State with the assurance that such will be looked into diligently,’’ he said.
The President revealed that his administration was working hard to make business environment easier and friendlier for both local and international investors.
He maintained that it was a collective duty by the government and other stakeholders to provide constructive guidance to enhance operations of investors in the oil and gas sector.
“Therefore in drafting any petition, I would ask that your submissions are supported with facts,’’ he added.
On security in the Niger Delta, the President noted that pipeline vandalism had declined, and pledged that government would continue to promote peaceful engagement with the communities while at the same time maintain its readiness to respond to any hostile acts of sabotage.
The President expressed appreciation to the Union for conferring on him the title of `GRAND COMRADE of NUPENG’ and assured that his administration will not relent on its drive to create an inclusive, diversified and peaceful Nigeria.
Earlier in his remarks, Apkoreha had commended the Buhari administration for pulling out the country out of economic recession.
He said: “If no other acknowledges it, we wish to formerly affirm it and we are very proud of your unparallel achievement of pulling our country out of recession silently and rigorously laying sound foundation for a new Nigeria of fiscal discipline and prosperity for all.
“Your administration’s practical steps in bridging the wide gap between the rich and the poor in the country through various initiatives such as Trader Moni, support for farmers, embargoes on luxury/ostentatious goods, TSA, school feeding etc have gone a long way in alleviating poverty in the country.”
According to him, NUPEND stands with the President in the areas of infrastructural development and in almost all sectors of the national life.