Oil workers’ strike won’t disrupt supply, says NNPC

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The Management of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has assured that the three-day strike embarked upon by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) will not disrupt fuel supply nationwide.

But, the South-West Chapter Chairman of NUPENG, Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, told The Guardian yesterday that the strike would definitely affect distribution of fuel in the country.

The corporation, in a statement signed by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division (GPAD), Ohi Alegbe, in Abuja yesterday, said it was in discussion with the leadership of the unions who gave the assurance that they would not disrupt the fuel supply and distribution system as the strike was basically aimed at addressing the alleged anti-labour issues by some of the International Oil Companies (IOCs).

But, Korodo denied the claims by the NNPC, saying, “this is a lie, all our members are supposed to be on strike. We have told our members to stay off work.  We are not allowing any truck to load from the depots and we have our members at the filling stations”. He said that the unions were in talk with the government concerning the strike and the result of the meeting will determine if the association will be embarking on strike or not”.

The Guardian discovered that while some filling stations in Lagos were selling fuel without hitches, others already have a build up of motorists scrambling to purchase fuel. Black marketers are also taking advantage of the warning strike to make quick cash. As at yesterday, a litre of fuel was already selling for over N100 in the black market.

NNPC and its downstream subsidiary, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), also revealed that they have over 32 days stock of petroleum products available for supply across the nation during the yuletide season and beyond. The corporation also disclosed 17 additional petroleum laden vessels are at the Lagos port waiting to discharge to the various depots for onward distribution to members of the public.

It further assured that everything would be done to ensure there is no hitch whatsoever in the supply system that could bring any form of hardship to motorists and those who intend to travel during the period.

The NNPC called on members of the public to avoid panic buying or stock piling of petroleum products as that could lead to needless queues or cause fire accidents that could lead to loss of lives and property. It also advised marketers to desist from hoarding or diversion of petroleum products as any marketer caught in the act would be sanctioned.

Meanwhile, Long queues have returned in filling stations in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and its environs following the commencement of a three-day warning strike by the NUPENG.

The warning strike has been hinged on the purported sack of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) national officer, Mrs. Elo Victor Ogbonda, by Total Exploration and Production Nigeria (TEPNG) Limited.

Though long queues have again resurfaced at petrol filling stations in Port Harcourt and other towns in Rivers State, there has not been any hike in the prices of petroleum products.

The Guardian gathered from sources in the Department of Petroleum Resources that most of the filling stations  have fuel but might have refused to sell based on fears that the warning strike might lead to indefinite strike if the demands of the oil workers are not met by Thursday.

There were chaotic scenes at various petrol fillings stations in Port Harcourt and its environs  as motorists scrambled to fill their vehicle tanks.

NUPENG in Rivers State began the strike yesterday and it has stifled supply of petroleum products to fillings stations in the state.  There are concerns that as scarcity of petroleum products worsen, a litre of primer motor spirit might skyrocket before the end of the warning strike.

Some motorists who spoke to The Guardian, including Mr. Tammy George, expressed dismay that the government, the concerned oil firm and the workers could not resolve the issue. They lamented that with barely a few days to Christmas, the timing of the strike was wrong and bemoaned NUPENG’s insensitivity to the plight of ordinary Nigerians who might be subjected to paying higher transportation fare to their towns and villages during Christmas.

NUPENG national president,  Achese Igwe, has warned that the country risks a nationwide industrial action if the demands of the union are not met. According to him, oil workers in Nigeria are demanding the reinstatement of Mrs. Ogbonda. —The Guardian

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