From Uche Usim, Abuja
Nightmarish queues may soon return to petrol stations across the country as the Petroleum Tanker Drivers’ Branch of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (PTD– NUPENG) has
threatened strike over alleged illegal activities and high-handedness of security agents, particularly the Military Task Force operating in the Port Harcourt zone of the Union.
The union said the planned shutdown can only be averted if commensurate compensations were paid to affected members.
The National Chairman of the PTD-NUPENG, Mr Lucky Osesua, told journalists in Abuja on Wednesday that men of the Military Task Force operating in Port Harcourt burnt two trucks conveying High Pour Fuel Oil (HPFO), otherwise known as black oil on Tuesday night as the truck drivers were falsely accused of transporting crude oil.
According to the PTD-NUPENG National Chairman, the trucks, which lifted the black oil at a modular refinery, Walter Smith Refinery and Petrochemical in Ibigwe, Imo State, on Monday and Tuesday, were intercepted between Ahoada and Elele in Rivers State.
Osesua, who gave the number plates of the trucks as EFR 770 XA and AFZ 351 ZY, further disclosed that they were conveying 40,000 liters each of the Black Oil to Bob & Sea Depot Koko Delta State.
He further disclosed that the drivers of the two trucks were polite in their responses and presented all the necessary documents to officers of the military who ignored the documents, rebuffed appeals and burnt the trucks.
When contacted on phone, the Acting Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 6th Division, Port Harcourt, Lt. Col. Ikedichi Iweha debunked the allegation, insisting that the task force has no squabbles whatsoever with petroleum tanker drivers or NUPENG as a body.
He said the mandate of the task force was to crush all illegal bunkerers involved in crude oil theft that recently assumed an unprecedented dimension.
“We have no issues with NUPENG. The mandate of ‘Operation Delta Safe’ is to destroy every illegal bunkering activity and that is what we have been doing. We’re working cordially with NUPENG. If they need our assistance, they contact us. We only have problems with anyone involved in illegal bunkering”, Iweha explained.
Meanwhile, NUPENG noted that the union’s drivers presented WayBills, NUPENG receipts, and quality control documents to the military but we’re told they carried crude oil.
“They drove the two trucks away and burnt them between Ahoada and Elele in Rivers State, on Tuesday night.
“Without investigation, without reaching out to the refinery, where the drivers mentioned that they lifted the Black Oil, the soldiers burnt down the trucks, in less than five hours.”
The PTD-NUPENG National Chairman, who also presented to journalists documents signed by Charles Okon, Refinery Manager of Walter Smith Refinery and Petrochemical, where the products were loaded said the Union has taken a decision to stop lifting products at its Port Harcourt zone. He said the same decision to stop loading nationwide would be taken by Monday except damages incurred as a result of the high-handedness of the Military Task Force were addressed.
“Enough is enough about the high-handedness of our security agents. They should stop demonising our Union and persecuting our men who are doing their normal business. We expect that in this modern world, trained security agents should be able to identify black oil as against crude oil. We should not be at the receiving end of their ignorance”
Osesua further alleged that in a desperate move to clean up their actions, the soldiers mobilised scrap metal dealers to pick up the remains of the burnt truck.