Comrade Francis Olabode Johnson, President, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), in this discussion with Sylvester Enoghase, during the recent association’s two-day synergy workshop in Akwa Ibom State, spoke on how Public-Private Partnership (PPP), would boost growth and development especially in energy and the environment; transport and infrastructure development; education and capacity -building; making the financial system service the real economy. Excerpts:

PENGASSAN as an association has proved to the World its leadership qualities by engaging its members on this training to prepare the institution for a greater future, sir, could you tell us the aim of this programme?

The aim of this uniquely packaged synergy training programme is to guide the association’s leaderships’ path mentally, physically, emotionally because everyone, whether old or new has to be ready to be able to overcome any challenge for the next three years.

In PENGASSAN, we consider that the industry social partners and the wider interests will give more opportunity for sharing of ideas within the current and emerging challenges in the Oil and Gas Sector and the affective global economic phenomenon, which are key to our existence and survival.


We just finished our election and looking at it, we used the opportunities created by the synergy training to interact, letting our new executive members know of what is on ground, and as a trade union and as a stakeholder in the oil and gas industry, we felt there is need to find the realistic and logical balance between members’ interest and the industry on whatever contentious issues, which are at stake.

Are you saying this training programme determines the future of decisions to be made in the next three years?

Yes. I said earlier that we used this training to give opportunities to our other industry social partners and the wider interests to sharing of ideas within the current and emerging challenges in the Oil and Gas Sector and the affective global economic phenomenon, which are key to our existence and survival.

In line with the current situation, for instance, we agreed to have plenary session where our stakeholders can be free and open to share their views on various challenges and ways our association can support the industry’s growth with limited industrial challenges.

One of the reasons our collective spirit is being affected is the dwindling fortune of our check-off dues.

Our administration has looked at a way to increase the internal revenue for the association and we have put in place an investment drive to establish an event centre, and a mega filling station in Port Harcourt and these will be spread across other three zones later.

This is why we consider the theme of this synergy workshop, ‘Leadership and Team Building for Change in Trade Union Administration,’ as timely and apt.

It is generally agreed that trade unions require new strategies in response to administrative changes to enable them cope with internal and external challenges.

There is need for us in the union to form a common front as a team and strengthen the spirit of our slogans ‘Solidarity’ and ‘An Injury to One is an Injury to All’ to enable us confront some of these challenges.

Sir, can you cast your mind back to when this noble idea started in your association?

Well, our strategic plans synergy started as a tradition in PENGASSAN in 1999 in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, for the association’s topmost policymakers and administrators in consideration of the association’s vision, mission and objectives to jointly chart the path for the tasks and challenges in accomplishing goals that will further lift PENGASSAN as a formidable, dynamic and respected trade union.

In essence, each synergy retreat strives to consolidate on the plans, achievements and gains of the previous administration through performance review, as well as using key performance indicators to assess key result areas. Reasons for variances are determined and deviations are checked.

The new administration will in the same vein ensure that future actions conform to plans with necessary checks and corrective measures in place.

What is your take on government commitments to human capital development in Nigeria?

We are of the view that a new effort to understand the link between investing in people and economic growth and to accelerate financing for human capital investments is needed by government in Nigeria.

The government needs to prioritised human capital development, especially strong action on investments in young children, in the early years of life as part of its policy to promote sustainable, inclusive economic growth.

This is because; human capital is without doubt the driver of high-income growth and the foundation of prosperity. Unleashing human freedom and ability is a force multiplier that creates limitless potential. For that reason, I would like to challenge the three tiers of government; Federal, States and Local not to limit their ambitions to eliminating extreme poverty, but to aim for prosperity and well-being for everyone.

Government ability to tackle malnutrition is one of the three critical foundational investments a country can make in young children, the others being pre-school or early education, and protection of children from harmful environments.

Nigerian government needs to do more to provide opportunity for all individuals to thrive and grow because the real face of development for many countries is the progress in human capital quality.

The United Kingdom (UK) Government is strongly committed in ensuring inclusiveness in quality education, nutrition, and health and investing in neglected areas such as disability. The country will continue to put women and girls at the heart of its development agenda and aims to improve the nutrition of 50 million people who otherwise would go hungry by 2020.

Are you saying Nigerian government should bridge the gender gap in the country?

Yes. We are of the view that to achieve gender equality, the world not only needs technical programmes on health and education, but also efforts to promote women’s voice and empowerment.

What is your take in the new projected trends in global politics?

I am of the view that participatory democracy will complement representative democracy where the diversity of voices in society will want to be part of the conversation and of the decision-making from the local to the international level.

I foresee a growing movement towards regionalisation, which will lead to fewer global trade agreements and more regional and interregional economic cooperation agreements.

I also see a situation where progressive steps towards more financial and monetary cooperation are likely to be taken in some Asian countries over the next decade.

This may also happen in Africa and other regions that may eventually give way to a new global financial design is likely to emerge.

How do you see these changes affecting Nigeria?

I foresee the role of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) will  be growing very fast in Nigeria, especially in areas such as energy and the environment;  transport and infrastructure development; education and capacity -building; making the financial system service the real economy, and transition to new forms of economic growth and development.

The issue of social justice locally clamoured for by the citizenry, fairness and reduction of inequalities will gain ground as the feeling of disconnect between citizens and governmental and private governance grows.

I also foresee protest and disquiet stemming from an unresolved labour crises will continue to have an impact on the political process in Nigeria with the danger of extremist reaction may erupt, but in this process public policies will be reinforced.

What is your opinion on the way forward for Nigeria on good leadership?

The leadership in Nigeria at all levels must retrace their steps back to the basics. They must consciously seek and court the people delivering projects and programmes that would directly impact their lives.

A deliberate effort at once again making the people the reason for governance must be made and this attitude of seeing the people as a preys that should be exploited for what has become known recently as Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) and the massive exploitation that is going on in terms of various impositions such as the number plates and vehicle licensing regimes all over the country.

The fuel price hike with its attendant consequences was an unmitigated disaster and we are sure that those who initiated that rape of the masses must be regretting their actions in the light of the revelations in the National Assembly probes and their subsequent reports.

The burden of bad leadership that the masses have come under all these years must first of all be lifted before all these new ones are imposed. The path of honour that must be trodden by those at the helm of affairs if history is to judge them well is to seek for the lifting of the burden of providing for everything that the average citizen needs for survival.

Access to quality and affordable education must be provided, medical care at least for the vulnerable group should be provided free by the state at all levels, affordable and humane housing for all Nigerians should be the norm, social security net should be provided, water, electricity and road infrastructure should be a priority.

It is in the provision of these services that the people become interested in the activities of those in power and these will serve as buy in for them into the government’s projects and programmes. This grows trust and confidence and begins to reconnect the leadership with its roots in the society.

It is time enough for the present occupiers of the different government houses at all levels to change the present trajectory and take a decision that will allow Nigeria to win thereby also putting them on a stronger pedestal to in turn make demands upon the society.

The few State Governors and Local Government leaders that have decided to do these will bear testimony of the mutually beneficial relationship they are having with their society or constituencies.

There is an urgent need for the ruling elite in Nigeria to change their attitude towards policies that would reduce the sufferings of the Nigerian people. There is a perception that they believe that they are the custodians of the nation’s sovereignty and this rankles as it is putting the facts and history on its head.

The tail cannot wag the dog. It is this wrong perception that would encourage those in leadership to come up with all sorts of anti – people laws and to develop deaf ears to the yearnings and aspirations of the people.

It is said that the voice of the people is the voice of God, but Nigerian leaders seem to have a different opinion. Perhaps they love to hear their voices. It is time they learn to change this perception and tune in to that frequency that the Nigerian people are used. No matter how stupid you think the whole Nigerians can be, you must listen to them.

If we recall that during the Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) era, Nigerians said that they never wanted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and its conditionality’s, but the man insisted after much debate and went through the back door to take the loan, but that backfired. It never solved any problem, but rather exacerbated the economic problem that was prevalent at that particular point in time.

The same has happened over the fuel price hike, Nigerians again said no, but those in government felt we are all fools and they alone knew better, but at the end of the day, probe after probes and revelation after revelations, Nigerians remain on the path of truth. You must listen to the owner of the house. Nigerians own Nigeria and not those who found themselves in the corridors of power.

Nigeria’s ruling elite must make sure that they embark on project and programmes that would impact directly the lives of Nigerians. Conscious and deliberate policies must be designed to help him out of this present quagmire of hopelessness and squalour.

Government must take steps to provide for the people assisting the populace to make their daily living experience a little bit more bearable.

Nigerians desire to have more food on their table meaning that his income should be improved by the creation of more jobs and making the security net wider and more inclusive. Nigerians needs housing, access to basic infrastructure that other societies have taken for granted such as pipe borne water, basic health care and transportation.

What advice, then do you have for the government on the challenges of economic development?

The challenge of national development is for the government to manage the economy in such a way as to promote job-led growth rather than the present situation of jobless growth.

The government should decentraliise the economy for genuine development to take place rather than concentrating on the crude petroleum sector, which continues to be an enclave.

I strongly believe that in order to promote development and growth, there is need for government to go into partnerships with the private sector on selective basis until such a time that the domestic private sector becomes fully developed.


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