The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has fired 850 workers, many of them from refineries, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, senior oil workers union said.

The workers sacked are both skilled and unskilled contractors, including technicians who helped maintain Nigeria’s oil refineries, said Lumumba Okugbawa, general secretary of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), told Reuters on phone. But NNPC is yet to make responds on the above claim.

With over 6,600 staff in its database according to NNPC recent disclosure, layoffs in Nigeria’s oil sector are a tense issue, with frequent stand-offs between the NNPC and unions. Nigeria is dependent on crude sales to prop up its struggling economy, now at risk of its worst recession in four decades due to the coronavirus and the pandemic tanking global oil prices. Yet Nigeria’s refineries are barely operational or refining far below their total installation capacity.

Despite Nigeria being Africa’s largest crude producer, almost all of the country’s fuel supply is processed overseas on crude for products swap basis at great cost owing to subsidy. Recently the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said it has spent over N535.9 billion on subsidy and Federation Account Allocation Committee in the first quarter of 2020. This was disclosed by the corporation in its Monthly Financial and Operations March 2020 report. The report revealed that while the petro subsidy consumed N101.65bn in the first three months of 2020, the sum of N434.25bn was paid to FAAC within same months.

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