Another fuel scarcity looms as tanker owners withdraw services

*Petrol nozzle.

*Petrol nozzle.

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

26 July 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Petroleum tanker owners and their drivers have announced that they would suspend transportation of petroleum products across the country beginning from today.

In the absence of rail transportation and a sustainable network of pipelines, Nigeria depends on the tanker owners and drivers to transport about 98 percent of petroleum products used in the country by road.

The truck owners had last week, issued a seven-day ultimatum within which to withdraw their services over alleged unpaid bridging claims and reduction of freight rate paid to its members by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF.

At a joint press briefing addressed by the leaderships of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, the groups threatened to withdraw their services at the expiration of the seven-day.

National President of NARTO, Alhaji Kassim Ibrahim Bataiya, who was assisted by PTD’s Comrade Salimon Olatidi at the media briefing, demanded that the management board of the PEF must immediately commence the full payment of transporters’ claims.

The truck owners warned that they will suspend their services of movement of petroleum products from one destination to the other through out the country, should the management of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) continue to default in payments of transporters’ claims.

Bataiya told journalists that if they withdraw their services as threatened, up to 98 per cent of petroleum products used in the country would not be moved from point to point.

He said the associations were protesting longstanding operational challenges which include alleged unjust withdrawal of insurance premiums from freight payments to transporters by oil marketers; non-payment of accumulated transporters’ claims by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF); delay in review of freight rate by the PEF despite increasing economic challenges; as well as charging of Goods-in-Transit (GIT) insurance premiums on transporters by members of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).

He also said the associations wanted the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to expedite work on major roads across the country now that the 2016 budget has been passed into law.

The association said if the PEF failed to commence immediate full payment of transporters’ bridging claims, as well as their accumulated arrears of claims for January to May 2016 and oil marketers failed to settle and reimburse transporters’ claims from rejected freight rate for the same period, it would have to withdraw its services and deny petrol stations products supplies.

“Nigeria depends largely on roads to truck petrol. There will be no movement of petroleum products from one point to another when we withdraw our services and you know the implications of that to the economy,” said Bataiya.

He further said: “Consequently, we wish to place the organisations on notice that we have exhausted our patience as our businesses are gradually grounded.

“We are therefore giving them a notice that after seven days from today, if they fail to address the issues satisfactorily, then we would be left with no option but to take all necessary measures legally available to us including the option to withdraw our services in pursuit of our legitimate demands.”

He said PEF has specifically failed to objectively address its protest against its increasing operational challenges.

Alhaji Bataiya further asked the management board of PEF to immediately commence the full payment of transporters’ claims as well as the accumulated outstanding claims in respect of the period January 1, 2011 to May 11, 2016 at the rate applicable from 2011 to December 31, 2015.

He further asked the PEF management board to immediately conclude the review of the freight rate from May 12, 2016 to date, in accordance with the bridging fund approved by the government.

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