Oil workers point out grave errors in Nuclear Safety Bill

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By Codratus Godson

Oil industry think-tank has raised alarm over some grave lapses in the law aimed at regulating Nuclear and radio active materials in Nigeria.

The joint panel of both the senior and junior oil workers unions being the Petroleum and Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers Association of Nigeria (NUPENG) said in a statement on Saturday, May 11, 2019, that eight points need attention in the Bill.

The above was contained in a report to the National Assembly by the chairman of the joint committee, Chief/Comrade Chika Onuegbu and secretary, Comrade Afolabi Olawole.

Apart from a call to pass the Bill quickly before the end of the life of the 8th Assembly being in June 2019, the panel rejected the two per cent deduction from profit of oil companies to fund the agency to be set up, saying the oil companies are already over deducted.

The workers rather suggested that any fund to be taken should be dedicated to certain projects than blanket allocation to the agency. The panel also said the powers of the Director-General were too much and could lead to the DG being stronger than the board by nominating six members of the board and the power to hire and fire.

The panel made up of seasoned technocrats in the oil industry demanded for inclusion of PENGASAN and NUPENG members in the board, and also urged the NASS to provide for clauses to guard against cyber attacks on the nuclear facilities.

Full report:

1.    INTRODUCTION

The Nigeria Oil and Gas industry as part of its operations use sealed radioactive sources and radiation generators in the country, and this accounts for a substantial amount of the use of nuclear and radiological materials in Nigeria.  Also, as Nigeria seeks solutions to its energy challenges, the country may be compelled to consider the use of nuclear technology for development and peaceful purposes.   

As representatives of the workers in the Nigeria oil and gas industry, PENGASSAN and NUPENG are very much concerned about the safety, security and safeguards of these materials. Consequently, we appreciate the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for this bill and for the opportunity to convey our position on this bill.

There is no gainsaying that the importance of this bill to the safety of our members and the country cannot be overemphasised. However, we are worried that this public hearing is coming close to the twilight of the 8th Senate and therefore appeal that the Bill should be fast-tracked to ensure that it is passed by both houses of the National Assembly and forwarded for Presidential assent before the end of the 8thSenate.  

Our Distinguished Senators! Kindly permit us to present to you the PENGASSAN and NUPENG Joint position on the Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards Bill 2018. This position is also, essentially the position of the Nigerian Labour movement on this bill. Please take proper notice of that detailed Comments and Observations attached to this presentation forms an integral part of this presentation and contains the details of the specifics of our position on the bill. 

2.       EXCESSIVE POWERS OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL

Our Distinguished Senators! This bill gives too much powers to the Director General (DG) of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA). For instance, Section 3(2)(c) provides that DG will recommend the appointment of  six other board  members of the Regulatory Authority, Section 22(1) states that the DG shall also recommend the appointee for the General Manager   of the  Institute,  and Section 23(b) gives the DG power to remove the GM of the Institute. If these powers are not checked the DG may become more powerful than the Board and the nation may end up with a “Sole Administrator “for such a very sensitive Regulatory Authority. W, therefore, appeal to the Senate to reduce the excessive powers of the Director General of the Regulatory Authority so as not to inadvertently create conditions that will give impetus to abuse of power. As we all know, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

3.       SECTION 14: FUNDS OF THE AUTHORITY

Our Distinguished Senators! Section 14(1)(b) of the bill seeks to compel the exploration and production companies to pay 2% of profits generated from the exploration of hydrocarbons to the Authority. Whilst we recognise the need for the Authority to be properly funded to deliver its mandate , we think that this is an extra burden on the oil and gas companies, who are already paying their taxes, fees and royalties, 3% budget to Niger Delta Development Commission(NDDC),2% Education Tax and 1% NCD.  We, therefore, appeal that the Senate should review the funding provisions in the bill. We suggest that whatever fees the Senate considers appropriate should be tied to specific projects that utilise nuclear and radioactive materials rather than the blanket charge of 2% on profits generated from operations. 

4.       NEED FOR PROTECTION AGAINST CYBER ATTACKS     AND SABOTAGE OF NUCLEAR  INSTALLATIONS AND RADIOACTIVE  MATERIALS AND SYSTEMS.

We observed that the bill does not provide for watertight protection against cyber-attacks and sabotage of nuclear installations and radioactive materials.  The dangers and threat of cyber attacks and terrorism to any nuclear installations, databases and radioactive materials is real and unimaginable. Nigeria cannot afford it! We view this as a serious omission and appeal that the Senate should correct this grave omission by including watertight provisions against sabotage, cyber-attacks and cyber terrorism against the nation’s nuclear installations and radioactive materials, systems and databases.

5.       SECTION 3(2): INCLUSION OF PENGASSAN AND NUPENG ON THE BOARD

Our Distinguished Senators! The importance of nuclear safety, security and safeguards for the country and our members cannot be overemphasised. We view this bill in part as an occupational safety bill on the use, storage and safekeeping of nuclear and radioactive materials in the workplace which the oil and gas industry today accounts for some 95% of that use in Nigeria. To assure us of the necessary protection for our members we appeal that PENGASSAN and NUPENG be represented on the Board. Moreover, workers and their unions are strategic partners and stakeholders whose participation, initiatives, drive and inputs are essential for the successful operations of this bill in the nation’s oil and gas industry.  

6.       SECTIONS 11.1: OTHER STAFF OF THE AUTHORITY

We appeal that the bill should include. Section 11(1) should recognise the existing terms, conditions and collective bargaining agreements reached between the Unions and the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA). Therefore, the subsection should include that

            “…provided that the terms and conditions enjoyed by the  staff of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) on the day before the effective date that this Bill comes into force shall be the minimum condition for such staff under this bill.” 

7.       SECTIONS 15.3: APPLICATION OF THE FUND

We thank the Senate for this provision. However, we appeal that the amount set aside for this purpose which is essentially to reward loyal staff for their long service to the Authority and the nation should be specified to avoid inadvertent under-funding which could imperil the laudable objectives of the fund. We think that a minimum of 10% of the funds should be set aside for this purpose and other staff entitlements.  Additionally, we request that it should be CLEARLY stated that service to the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) under The Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection Act 1995 should be considered in computing the total service years for the long service awards and other staff entitlements. 

8.       SECTION 12. CONDITION OF SERVICE OF STAFF IN THE NNRA TO PETROLEUM SECTOR 

The NNRA is a regulatory authority for Nuclear and radioactive materials in Nigeria. As we have previously explained, much of those materials, in fact, some 95% of these materials are used in the nation’s oil and gas industry. It is, therefore, necessary that the condition of service of the Regulator should mirror those of the regulated. Otherwise, the staff of the Regulatory Authority may be demotivated and therefore not function effectively. We, therefore, recommend that a new subsection should be inserted in Section 12  as proposed in our attached detailed concerns and observations.

 

9.       OUR ATTACHED DETAILED CONCERNS AND OBSERVATIONS

As we earlier indicated, kindly take note that our detailed Comments and Observations attached to this presentation forms an integral part of this presentation and contains the details of the specifics of our position on the bill.

10.  CONCLUSION

Our Distinguished Senators!  PENGASSAN and NUPENG, once again, thank the 8th National Assembly for your commitment to passing key bills necessary for the improved operation and performance of the Nigeria oil and gas sector. We also thank you for the partnership between the 8th Senate and PENGASSAN and NUPENG.   It is our fervent prayer that this distinguished Senate Committee and indeed the 8th Senate will reflect our concerns and recommendations in the final versions of the bill that will be passed.

Yours Faithfully,

For and on behalf of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN)

&

Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG)

Chief Comrade H. Chika Onuegbu JP, FCTI, FCA                    Comrade Afolabi Olawale    

Chairman, PENGASSAN & NUPENG Joint Committee              Secretary, PENGASSAN & NUPENG Joint      Committee       

 

Tel: 080374040222                                                                       Tel: 08033051883                                                                       

 

NoteMembers of the PENGASSAN and NUPENG Joint  Committee are:

  1. Comrade Chief Hyginus Chika Onuegbu JP, FCTI,FCA                                                      Chairman
  2. Comrade Victor Ononokpono                                                                                                Vice Chairman
  3. Comrade Afolabi Olawale (08033051883)                                                                          Secretary
  4. Comrade Ifreke Udeme                                                                                                          Alternative Secretary
  5. Comrade Malik Agbalaya                                                                                                    Branch Secretary
  6. Com. Solomon Alkali

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