Economy

Oil marketers order shutdown of depots over N800b subsidy debts

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Written by Maritime First

…As Appeal Court nullifies conviction of Shell MD, others***

DEPOT and Petroleum Products Marketing Association (DAPPMA) yesterday directed its members to shutdown services as from 12 midnight.

A directive from the DAPPMA Executive Secretary, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, sent to members, said the association’s efforts to make the Federal Government pay its N800 billion subsidy debts were not successful.

But, the news came as oil workers  sought a quick resolution of the disagreement between the Federal Government and oil marketers over the outstanding fuel subsidy claims.

The oil workers, under the aegis of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), said the resolution would avert another fuel crisis.

Adewole, however,  said the association “took the bold step to stop the financial hemorrhage of its members by the painful disengagement of its loyal workforce after three years of engaging the Federal Government in its efforts to secure the payment of all subsidy induced debts owed marketers”.

The DAPPMA  Executive Secretary said efforts  made till date have not yielded the desired results, hence the decision to shut down the depots.

He said the association duly notified the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Debt Management Office (DMO) and the Presidency of its challenges in paying workers’ salaries beyond last month.

He added that the association pleaded with the Presidency, DMO and the ministry to no avail to pay the outstanding debts like subsidy, interest, forex differentials with summation calculated up to 31st of this month.

Adewole said as a result of the notice, the association was invited to meetings.

His words: “Further talks to which we are usually invited, which now seem to be their response to follow ups on these debts, never consented to our requests for full cash payment of these debts, hence the regrettable decision we have had to take to let go our loyal staff, who we have sustained through bank facilities at outrageous interest rates.”

The DAPPMA Executive Secretary added: “Premised on our inability to pay December 2018 salaries and to avoid owing staff for work done without any hope of pay, it is hereby agreed that, since our staff have been disengaged, all DAPPMAN member Depots are not in a position to operate and hence will shut down all loading operations at midnight, Sunday December 9, 2018, until Federal Government pays our calculated claims: the remaining subsidy (to few members), forex differential interest incurred up to December 31, 2018.

“This decision is binding on all members of the association and full compliance is expected of every member company of the association. The association shall revert in the same vein with any other directives as might be deemed necessary.”

Oil workers’ leaders yesterday assured that their interests are aligned with Nigerians.

They spoke while addressing reporters after a meeting with officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiary, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), as well as Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and DAPPMA).

PENGASSAN National President Comrade Francis Johnson, who spoke on behalf of the oil workers, said the association intervened in the crisis to protect the interest of its members as well as that of the country.

According to him, “PENGASSAN, as one of the major stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, we are concerned. We are also looking at it that the year is coming to an end; they are also talking about 2019 politics and elections. We do not want to do anything to overheat the polity and make Nigerians go through a lot of stress.

“For us, we have said and we are aware that there have been series of meeting to resolve the issue. We stand by that and we appeal to both government and the oil marketers to look at the larger interest of Nigeria and do what is needful for Nigeria to grow from strength to strength.

“I believe in the commitment and sincerity of both parties to reach an amicable solution to the issue. I believe that both parties would allow the larger interest of Nigeria to supersede. I advise them to fast-track every process to resolve this issue and make sure they keep to the terms of agreement reached.”

He expressed concerns that if not resolved amicably, the subsidy debt issue might lead to the sack of its members by the oil marketers.

However, he cautioned its members against joining any strike action not called by the leadership of the unions.

NUPENG National President Comrade William Akporeha assured Nigerians that there would be an unhindered distribution of petroleum products during the Yuletide, as all his members would not be embarking on any strike.

He said: “This regime of NUPENG believes in dialogue. Until we are pushed to the wall, we do not take strike as the first option. So far, between now and December ending, I can assure Nigerians that there won’t be shortage of petroleum products in our streets.”

On his part, PTD National Chairman Comrade Salimon Oladiti said: “We are trying to mediate in the crisis between the Federal Government and the oil marketers. We are major players in the distribution of petroleum products, but at the same time, we have gotten assurances from the Federal Government that between now and Friday, December 14, 2018, part of the money owed the oil marketers – about 50 per cent of the money – would be paid to them.

“We do not want to issue threats, but we are losing our members; because if these marketers carry out their threats, we are going to be seriously affected.”

PPMC Managing Director Mr.  Umar Ajiya, however, warned that the Federal Government would not tolerate any attempt by any individual or group to disrupt the distribution of petroleum products during the Yuletide.

He stated that such actions would be seen as economic sabotage.

In the meantime, the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt has set aside the order of a High Court of Rivers State which sentenced the Managing Director of The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), Osagie Okunbor, and two other senior officers of the company to three months in prison for contempt.

The appellate court gave the ruling on Wednesday, November 5, following an appeal of the committal order filed by SPDC.

The High Court had on October 9, 2018, ordered Osagie; SPDC Company Secretary, Nike Oyinlola; and the Managing Counsel for Litigation, Sub-Sahara Africa, Keibi Atemie, to be committed to prison for disobeying a 2008 judgement of the High Court to forfeit the land on which the Bonny Oil Export Terminal is built.

But SPDC, in a statement after the committal order, said the company had not disobeyed any court order and had appealed the conviction. “We do not accept that SPDC has disobeyed any lawful order of court and have accordingly appealed this judgement. SPDC has utmost respect for the courts and the laws of Nigeria,” said the SPDC statement.

The Bonny Oil Terminal on Bonny island in Rivers State is a critical national asset in which  the Federal Government holds 55 percent interest. The terminal receives crude oil from international and local oil companies through the Trans Niger Pipeline and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line for export.

The Nation with additional report from The Citizen

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Maritime First