The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), on Tuesday, shut down the offices of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) across the country as a result of issues bordering on the appointment of an acting executive secretary for the agency.
Recall that the former Executive Secretary of the agency, Mr. Farouk Ahmed, handed over to Mr. Moses Mbaba, who is the organisation’s General Manager, Administration and Human Resources.
But on Monday, after Mbaba was sent on an official assignment to Lagos, one Mrs. Sotonye Iyoyo, who is a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was allegedly sent by the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to head the PPPRA as its new acting ES.
The workers, who are mainly members of staff of the agency, therefore staged a protest against the move by the ministry.
Speaking on behalf of the aggrieved workers on Tuesday, the Chairman of the PPPRA chapter of PENGASSAN, Victor Ononokpono, said that the staff would no longer accept the continued imposition of NNPC officials on the agency.
He said, “Our members are saying the arrival of another staff of NNPC, which is the operator arm of the petroleum industry, to manage the PPPRA, the regulating arm, would not be acceptable.
“This is an imposition the workers will vehemently reject. We will continue to protest against it till government is ready to listen to us. This is not only unprofessional, but detrimental to the effective performance of PPPRA’s role in the industry.”
He said the workers were concerned that PPPRA was having two executive secretaries within 48 hours, pointing out that there were sufficient indication of a clandestine move to cover up massive fraud in the system.
According to the union leader, immediately the new NNPC official showed up at the PPPRA to assume duties, the first set of files she called for were those relating to petroleum support fund (PSF) and fuel subsidy payments.
“This is curious. There is something very clandestine going on with this arrangement. We are genuinely worried. We say no to any imposition. We call on the anti-graft agençies, namely the Economic ànd Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corruption Prohibition and related crimes Commission (ICPC) to investigate the management of the immediate administration in the PPPRA,” Mr. Ononokpono said.
In an attempt to further explain the reason behind the operational shut down of the PPPRA on Tuesday, a senior official of the agency, who spoke to The Punch on condition of anonymity, said: “The office is shut down for now because of the appointment of another acting executive secretary. You know the former ES, Farouk Ahmed, left last Thursday and handed over to the most senior officer in the agency, Mr. Mbaba.
“But surprisingly yesterday being Monday they brought another person while Mbaba was away in Lagos on official assignment. So the union rejected it on the grounds that there was already an acting ES. Their agitation was that how can there be an acting ES on Thursday/Friday and another one on Monday?
“And they also argued that why is it that they are bringing somebody from outside the PPPRA to function in acting capacity, not a substantive ES? So these are the major thrust of the protest which led to the shutdown of our operational activities, both at the head office and at the zonal offices all over the country.”
When asked who appointed the acting executive secretary, the official said, “She must have come from the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources or the minister. But whoever it is that may have appointed her, the fact is that she can’t come from outside to act as ES of the PPPRA.”