26 May 2015, Lagos – The crippling strike embarked upon by oil marketers and other industry stakeholders since May 16, was called off, yesterday, as the marketers commenced full lifting of petroleum products nationwide. While the strike lasted, socio-economic activities in the country were paralysed.
By this move, the contentious outstanding subsidy claims of over N200 billion will now be inherited by the incoming administration of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, which will form part of his briefing notes.
The development followed the intervention of the Senate, during a public hearing organised by the Joint Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream and Downstream), held yesterday, in Abuja.
While the hearing was ongoing, Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, which on Sunday broke ranks with marketers and depot operators by releasing 13 million litres of fuel, also promised to release additional 19 million litres to ensure that Nigerians are completely free of the pain being experienced on account of the scarcity.
At the hearing, petroleum marketers agreed to fully mobilize their members for immediate distribution of fuel across the country within six hours, promising that any of their members who remained adamant would be sanctioned.
Recall that the Senate had last week, through a motion moved by the Deputy Senate Leader, Abdul Ningi, ordered its committees on Petroleum Resources ( Upstream and Downstream), to investigate the reasons for the lingering fuel scarcity in the country over the past one month and about two months in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The committees succeeded in making the critical stakeholders in the sector, including National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG; Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN;and Depots & Petroleum Products Marketers Association, DAPPMA; MOMAN; and National Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, to call off their strikes.
Other parties in the meeting were the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Pipeline & Products Marketing Company,PPMC; the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, and the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN.
The oil workers’ unions had earlier on Sunday night, called off their strike following the intervention of the Group Managing Director,Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Dr. Joseph Dawha, over a dispute on the operatorship of two oil blocks.
Thereafter, all the parties at a closed door meeting with the Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assured Nigerians that within the next 24 to 48 hours, the issue of fuel scarcity would be a thing of the past.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Senator Magnus Abe, who read a communiqué signed by all the stakeholders after the session, explained that the parties had unanimously agreed to the peace pact in the interest of the nation.
Abe said: “We have agreed on the following: First is that the Minister of Finance will give an undertaking to the Major Marketers and Depot Managers that the work of the committee being headed by CBN and PPPRA, on the outstanding claims would be concluded and be reflected in the hand over notes to the incoming administration.”
He continued: “The Minister of Finance will give an undertaking to the major marketers and Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, that the work of that committee being headed by the CBN would be concluded in verifying the outstanding claims.
“If it is concluded before the end of the life of this administration it will be reflected in the handover note. If it is not concluded before the end of the life of this administration, then the fact that such a committee is set up and working will be reflected in the handover note and a copy of the letter conveying the existence of this committee will be sent to MOMAN and DAPPMA and also to this committee.
“So, on the basis of that agreement MOMAN will offer whatever cooperation that is needed to enable lifting of products nationwide to begin within the next six hours.
“MOMAN has also agreed to give a similar undertaking to NARTO to pay existing transport cost as have been determined by them. Not all existing but the portion that had been agreed by them to be paid.
“MOMAN will give that written undertaking to NARTO and a copy will also be sent to this Committee. So, NARTO and its members and affiliates nationwide will commence lifting of products from all available depots within the next six hours.
“DAPPMA is to instruct all their depots that have products to open those depots for lifting. Lifting must commence within the next six hours.
Sanction for defaulters
“We have also agreed with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that any depot that has product and failed to begin lifting within the next six hours should have their licence revoked immediately in the national interest.
“We have also agreed that NNPC is to direct all relevant staff at all depots to work 24 hours including Saturdays and Sundays for the next two weeks until normalcy returns to the sector.
“We have also agreed to reach out to the Lagos State Government to facilitate this agreement and reach some kind of arrangement with the tanker drivers that will allow access to the relevant depots to enable the lifting of products to commence.”
Action meant to ease pains— Capital Oil
Meanwhile, the management of Capital Oil has defended its action in breaking ranks with other marketers, saying that it was in the interest of Nigerians to ease their pains and sufferings.