Fuel queues may return this weekend as petroleum minister shuns reps

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Queues of motorists at petrol filling stations may resurface at the weekend if the ongoing strike by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation branches of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria is not called off.

The strike, which commenced on Monday, was as a result of the withdrawal of the operating licence of the NNPC/Department of Petroleum Resources’ closed pension scheme.

A source in the industry, who did not want to be quoted, said if things were not resolved, queues might reappear at filling stations nationwide by the weekend.

The Lagos Zonal Chairman, NUPENG, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, said that the products at most filling stations were from private tank farms, except for reserves from some NNPC partially or fully-run tank farms.

He said tank farms with any form of collaboration with the NNPC were also not loading, but added that meetings were still ongoing with the NNPC management to resolve the problem.

According to Korodo, if the talks fail, the unions may call for solidarity support from all union members in the industry, which will result in a total shutdown of industry operations.

“We want to make this clear. It is not Nigerians that are the problems. We don’t want to unnecessarily punish Nigerians. The point is that if the NNPC continues to neglect our demands, we will then call for the solidarity support and ground all operations.”

Also speaking, the Chairman, DPR branch of PENGASSAN, Mr. Amba Ndoma-Egba, said there was no going back on the strike, adding, “All NNPC/DPR facilities nationwide have been shut, including the offices.”

He also said, “This action will continue until all our demands are met. This action by these unions will soon cause fuel scarcity as the DPR is in charge of clearing of vessels that bring imported petroleum products into the country.

“We also gathered that the NNPC unions have also asked their members in all the refineries and the PPMC depots nationwide to down tools, which has also compounded the problem.”

He said all PENGASSAN and NUPENG staff members had been withdrawn from the terminals, depots and jetties nationwide.

Ndoma-Egba lamented paying lip service by the government to the issues affecting the DPR in spite of the strategic place it occupied in revenue generation in the country.

The spokesperson of the DPR branch of PENGASSAN, Mr. Michael Kambi, confirmed on Wednesday that the strike would continue until the licence was restored as the workers could not afford to go to the open pension scheme, where pension funds had been growing wings.

Meanhwile, the Minister for Petroleum Resources, Deizeani Allison-Madueke, yesterday failed to appear before the House of Representatives joint committees on petroleum and gas resources.

The committees on Wednesday summoned the minister and others, to explain the cause of the current fuel crisis in the country.
Others summoned are the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Joseph Dawah and leadership of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) was also invited.
Chairman, Petroleum Resources Committee (Upstream), Rep. Muraina Adebola, condemned the absence of the invitees, adding that the committees would not allow strike to cripple the nation’s oil and gas sector.
According to him,”We need to perform our duties as parliaments and ensure that the strike is brought to an end so that it will not affect other aspects of our economy.

“There is need for us to know the causes so that we can prevail on Mr President and members of the executive council to look into those issues”.

The committees, therefore, re-summoned them to appear on Sept. 23 at 11 a.m.—Ships and Ports