- Disquiet at NUPENG, PENGASAN
- Queues at fuel stations lengthen further
- Petrol sells N250/litre (black market)
Situation in the country’s oil and gas sector appeared uncertain yesterday as confusing signals from parties to the two-day old strike that has crippled activities in the sector remained an unmitigated suspense.
While the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC said oil workers and the management of the Corporation have reached an understanding to suspend the strike embarked upon by members of the Corporation’s arm of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association, PENGASSAN, there was no word from the leaders of the workers union to corroborate the organisation’s statement. Meanwhile, snaky queues at fuel filling stations lengthened further, causing the product at the traditional black markets to sell for N250 per litre.
A statement signed by NNPC’s Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs,
Ohi Alegbe, explained that the strike was called off after an extensive session presided over by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu with the leadership of the unions led by the National Presidents, Comrades Igwe Achese and Francis Johnson of NUPENG and PENGASSAN, respectively in Abuja.
It added that the in-house unions reviewed their stance after a decision was reached to set up a committee with representatives from the unions and NNPC management to look into the new NNPC structure with a view to considering any suggested amendment where necessary.
The NNPC noted that consensus was reached on other outstanding issues bordering on pension matters, job security as well as staff performance and appraisal. The Minister assured that the restructuring was aimed at enhancing capacity utilisation of staff and not creating job losses.
The Corporation noted that the meeting ended in the wee-hours of Thursday with a strong commitment from the leadership of the unions to join forces with the management of NNPC to eliminate the prevailing challenges experienced by members of the public in accessing petroleum products across the country.
No word from PENGASSAN, TUC kicks
Despite the foregoing, there were discordant reactions from relevant labour unions in the sector yesterday.
While spokesman of NUPENG, Comrade Adamson Momoh in a text message confirmed that the strike has been called off, his PENGASSAN colleague, Comrade Babatunde Oke was not reachable to comment on the development. Phone calls to him did not connect.
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, in a statement described the pronouncement by the federal government unbundling NNPC as a breach of due and proper process tainted with illegality and anchored on gross impunity.
“For one, it is ultra vires the NNPC Act of 1977 under which the Corporation was created. We know for sure that neither the purported unbundling nor any other fundamental restructuring of the Corporation can be lawful and valid without prior appropriate repeal or amendment of the Act. We stand opposed to that illegality and call on President Buhari to discountenance and reverse it.
TUC President, Comrade Bobboi Kaigama, through the statement, expressed disappointment that the Minister forgot to consult and dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including the TUC, PENGASSAN, NUPENG, and even the oil companies before taking such a decision, which has potential for far-reaching adverse effects.
They disagree with Kachikwu that there won’t job be loss. “The Minister claimed that there will be no job loss, but how guaranteed is that claim when he did not even bother to engage the labour unions and the operators before taking his decision?
“What about the massive financial burden of running so many divisions and subsidiaries? If NNPC as one unit cost so much to administer, can the nation in the best circumstance afford the multiple increase in expenditure that maintaining the consequent new bureaucracies would entail?”
Long queues, thriving black market
As at press time yesterday, the windy queues at the few fuel filling stations that still sold the product lengthened with sellers at nearby black markets offering to dispose them at N250 per litre.
Nigerian Pilot gathered that even with the several interventions by stakeholders, it would take not less than 5 days for normalcy to return to the filling stations should loading of products for the stations commence immediately.
It was learnt that despite the introduction of ‘Operation One Cargo per Day’ programme by NNPC to overcome the challenge of long queues in the filling stations across the country as a result of fuel scarcity, the strike by oil workers across the country has worsened the scarcity condition.
Under the `One Cargo per Day’ operation that was effective March 1, 2016, the Corporation takes delivery of one cargo of PMS everyday which is the equivalent of 45 million litres for onward distribution to fuel stations across the country in a labyrinth of massive motorised movement involving over 2000 fuel trucks daily.
Commuters stranded, lament hike in transport fare
As would be expected, commuters in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, yesterday complained of sudden hike in transport fare, as a result of the oil workers’ crisis which left many private and commercial vehicles at the fuel queues.
Although the strike has been reportedly called off by the labour unions, industry players believe it would take up to 72 hours for the product to circulate round the country
While some, particularly the low income earners, complained of low circulation of money and lack of salary from their employers, others expressed anger over the increasing suffering of Nigerians in their own country. “No money, no light, no fuel, no infrastructure! What kind of life is this?” one of the commuters told our correspondent at Wuse bus stop.
Recall that the Wednesday strike by the oil workers under the umbrella of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, to register their opposition to the unbundle of the NNPC by the federal government, resulted in the shutting down of NNPC offices across the nation, thus interrupting the lifting of petroleum products and lengthening the existing fuel queues across Nigeria.
As early as 6:30am yesterday, civil servants who trooped out to the bus stops to catch vehicles to their various destinations were disappointed, as few commercial buses were on the road to lift people.
Some commuters who interacted with Nigerian Pilot expressed bitterness that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government has failed to find permanent solution the periodic energy crisis, even when promises were made during the campaigns that heralds the 2015 general elections to end the crisis.
A furniture maker, Mr. Ini Ukpong, told our correspondent at Nyanya bus stop that he was beginning to lose hope in the capacity of government to give a permanent solution to the periodic energy crisis and other problems in Nigeria.
“Do you know that this periodic energy suffering had contributed to the failure of the previous administration to secure the votes of Nigerians? It is so unfortunate that the present government has failed to learn from the mistakes of the past government.”
A civil servant, Surajo Abdullahi, believes that the government is obviously lacking in wisdom to bring stability in the oil and gas industry, adding that the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachiukwu, may have good intention for the industry but he ought to carry everybody along for him to achieve the desired result.
“I feel so ashamed as a Nigerian whenever I see citizens of a country so blessed with oil roosting in the fuel queues to buy the product. This is a product that God has blessed us with but it has obviously become a curse to us. The government had promised us change before the election but it is becoming obvious that they are more confused than expected. God help us,” he said.