by UDEME AKPAN AND CHIDI UGWU
NUPENG urges NNPC to use state depots to ease Apapa
The leadership of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) yesterday began their planned industrial action over alleged non-payment of N20 billion debt owed them by major oil marketers.
Already, the leaders of the groups have met in Abuja and resolved to hold another meeting in Lagos today (Wednesday) as part of their efforts to mobilise their members nationwide for the strike which is already crippling businesses in Lagos and Abuja.
A reliable PTD source confirmed to National Mirror that today’s meeting which is expected to be attended by leaders of the labour groups would help them in mobilising their members and adopting strategies for a prolonged strike.
He said: “We didn’t need to declare the strike publicly because we have stated in our warning letter to the authorities that we will do so after the expiration of the deadline which has already expired. The strike is ongoing but we need the cooperation of all members and other concerned stakeholders to sustain it.”
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) yesterday admitted that the strike has affected the supply of petroleum products nationwide.
The corporation’s spokesman, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, in a statement, hinted that the NNPC has enough stock of PMS (petrol) in Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar, in addition to the volume of fuel in the national strategic reserves to meet local demand for 27 days at a national consumption rate of 40 million litres per day.
Alegbe, who said the corporation has stepped up efforts to end the crisis in the fuel supply system, attributed the current product shortage to the strike by NARTO and PTD over the huge amount of money owed them by the major oil marketers.
“We are, however, working towards a speedy resolution of the issues to ensure a hitch-free distribution of products across the country,” he assured.
He appealed to NARTO and PTD to call off the strike in the interest of the country while also preventing unnecessary hardship on Nigerians.
Market surveys conducted by our correspondents in Lagos showed that there are long fuel queues in Lagos and its environs following the awareness by motorists that the tanker drivers have embarked on a strike.
Our correspondent noticed that some illegal operators seized the opportunity to sell fuel at exorbitant prices along Western Avenue, Ikorodu road and other areas.
For instance, four litres of petrol sold at N2,500 and 10 litres at N5,000 in some areas, as officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) appeared not available to enforce order.
In Abuja, investigations confirmed that most of the filling stations dispensing products had long queues which created traffic logjams in major parts of the Federal Capital Territory.
For instance, at the NNPC Mega station along Olusegun Obasanjo Way of the Central Business District, CBD, area, vehicular traffic was completed distrupted for the whole day following the long queues that completely made the major road impassable.
Also, at the Conoil and Total filling stations opposite the NNPC towers, motorists were on queues for the whole day just as vehicles also could not pass through the major road that links Area 1, CBD and Berger junction axis.
A visible observation in the market was the thriving business of black marketers or hoarders who were making brisk business by selling fuel to desperate motorists at exorbitant prices. A four litre keg sold at N1,500 in some areas.
Some of the motorists, including civil servants who depend on public transport lamented bitterly over the lingering fuel scarcity in the FCT, urging the NNPC and government to do everything needful to end the crisis in the city.
Executive secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Mr. Femi Olawore, who agreed that his association was indebted to the tanker drivers, said they would be paid if the Federal Government settles their claims.
In a text message forwarded to our correspondent, he expressed the hope “that the Federal Government would pay our outstanding to enable us pay them too.”
The tanker drivers’ spokesman, Mr. Abdulkabir Garuba, said the strike would certainly affect the distribution of fuel and other petroleum products across the country.
His words: “Tanker drivers play very important roles in the nation’s economy. But unfortunately these roles are not appreciated.
There had been repeated cases of fuel scarcity in the past few weeks despite the delivery of 688 million litres of PMS into the market by the NNPC.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) yesterday appealed to the NNPC to make use of its depots in other states to ease the Apapa traffic gridlock.
Chairman, South West chapter of the union, Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, made the appeal during an interview with newsmen in Lagos. Korodo observed that effective distribution of petroleum products through the use of depots outside Lagos would reduce traffic congestion in Apapa.
Only three depots out of over 18 in Apapa currently have petroleum products. The companies are Capital Oil and Gas, Ibeto Oil and Gas and Integrated Oil and Gas Tank farms.
He said that the long queues being observed in Apapa could degenerate into scarcity of petroleum products if not urgently addressed
“Now that the major oil marketers are not loading products due to unpaid subsidy, the NNPC should quickly use other depots to decongest Apapa.
“If all the tankers in the country come down to Apapa for supply, it will degenerate into scarcity of petroleum products.
“Most of our truck drivers spend more than four days before they could load, which amounts to additional expenses on the tanker drivers.
“Government should resolve the problem of major oil marketers before it results in petrol scarcity,” he warned.
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