In a bold move that highlights growing tensions in Nigeria’s oil sector, two major petroleum workers’ unions have called on President Bola Tinubu to launch a high-level investigation into claims that International Oil Companies (IOCs) are attempting to undermine the operations of the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemicals.

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The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) jointly penned a letter to the President, expressing their deep concern over allegations that some IOCs are deliberately obstructing the Dangote Refinery’s access to crude oil supplies and artificially inflating prices.

The unions’ letter, dated July 1, 2024, and addressed through the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, underscores the critical importance of the Dangote Refinery to Nigeria’s energy security and economic growth. The facility, touted as Africa’s largest oil refinery, has been seen as a potential game-changer for Nigeria’s petroleum sector, which has long relied on imports despite being a major crude oil producer.

NUPENG’s General Secretary, Afolabi Olawale, and PENGASSAN’s counterpart, Lumumba Okugbawa, emphasized in their letter that the alleged actions of the IOCs are forcing the Dangote Refinery to source crude oil from as far as the United States, significantly increasing operating costs and logistical challenges.

The unions’ demands are clear and forceful. They call for an immediate and independent investigation into the claims of sabotage, with the results to be made public in the interest of transparency. Should the allegations be proven, the unions expect the government to take decisive legal action against the entities involved, including sanctions and penalties.

This development comes at a crucial time for Nigeria’s oil industry. For decades, the country has struggled to refine its own crude oil domestically, leading to a paradoxical situation where one of Africa’s largest oil producers relies heavily on imported refined products. The Dangote Refinery, with its massive capacity, has been viewed as a potential solution to this long-standing issue.

The unions’ letter also reveals a long-standing position of NUPENG and PENGASSAN that Nigeria should make it a prerequisite for companies benefiting from joint venture contracts to establish refineries or petrochemical companies within the country. This stance aligns with growing calls for increased local content and value addition in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

The situation highlights the complex interplay between international oil companies, domestic refineries, and national interests in Nigeria’s petroleum sector. It also underscores the challenges facing new entrants in an industry long dominated by established international players.

As the government considers its response to these allegations, the eyes of the nation will be on President Tinubu and his administration. Their handling of this issue could have far-reaching implications for Nigeria’s energy security, economic development, and relationships with international oil companies.

The coming weeks are likely to see increased scrutiny of the operations of IOCs in Nigeria, as well as renewed debate about the country’s petroleum policies and the role of domestic refining in its economic strategy.