*As oil workers’ begin strike Oscarline Onwuemenyi
16 December 2014, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Workers in the oil sector complied totally with the ongoing nationwide strike called by the sector’s unions as most oil installations across the country were shut yesterday.
The development slowed down commercial activities in the Federal Capital Territory where many commuters were stranded for hours at various bus stops, with the attendant hike in fares trips across the city.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), however, has assured that the three-day warning strike action embarked upon by the workers will not affect the robust distribution and sale of fuel to members, most depots were shut in Lagos and there was no loading from key petroleum depots.
The President, PENGASSAN, Mr. Francis Johnson, said the unions had issued a 15-day ultimatum to the government before embarking on the strike.
“Before we met on October 30 and 31, the two unions had met in Enugu. We issued an ultimatum, which expired on November 15. After the expiration of the ultimatum, we also engaged government agencies and the international oil companies involved, but it was not fruitful. We don’t like Nigerians to go through what is going on now,” he added.
The Media and Information Officer, PENGASSAN, Mr. Babatunde Oke, however said that the Federal Government had invited the two unions for a meeting in Abuja today.
He said that “in Warri, there was no loading, but NUPENG members were seen wearing red to signify their protest. In Port Harcourt, there was total compliance in all oil and gas locations, including the upstream and midstream as the loading bays were shut.
“In Kaduna and Abuja, there was total compliance on the part of PENGASSAN members. In Kaduna, the gate of the Kaduna Refinery was shut and no entrance was allowed . There was no loading also in Kaduna.”
Oke added that “earlier on Monday morning, the NNPC towers was opened for business and workers were at their desks but they were later called to stop work at about 11.45 a.m.”
Meanwhile, the NNPC has assured the public that the strike would not dislocate the distribution and sale of fuel to members of the public.
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, said the NNPC was in talks with the leadership of the unions which gave the assurance that they would not disrupt the fuel supply and distribution system as the strike was basically aimed at addressing the anti-labour issues by some of the international oil companies.
The corporation and its downstream subsidiary, the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, also revealed that it had over 32 days stock of petroleum products available for supply across the nation during the Yuletide season and beyond.
It said 17 additional petroleum laden vessels were at the Lagos Port waiting to discharge to the various depots for onward distribution to members of the public.
It further assured that everything was being done to ensure that there was 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 advised marketers to desist from hoarding or diversion of petroleum products as those caught would be sanctioned.
Meanwhile, reports reaching Sweetcrude is that some tankers which loaded earlier yesterday at Ejibgo depot were initially restricted but were later allowed to move out of the depot. At Apapa depot, there was total compliance at facilities owned by Mobil and Oando while there was skeletal work initially by NUPENG members at Total depot, which was later stopped in the course of the day.
This was despite a statement issued yesterday by the NNPC spokesman, Ohi Alegbe, to the effect that the corporation was in talks with the leaders 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 anti-labour issues by some of the International Oil Companies (IOCs).”
There was also no loading in Warri and Port Harcourt as the loading bays were shut; same with the Kaduna refinery where no entrance was allowed into the premises.
Also, there was serious fuel scarcity in Makurdi and other towns in Benue State, yesterday.
Reports from other major cities across the country revealed that petrol stations were not open for business, even as there was long queue of vehicles in the few stations that opened.
As expected, black market operators cashed in on the scarcity by selling the product in jerrycans on the major roads and streets in the FCT at prices above the pump price of N97.
The situation was the same in Makurdi, Gboko, Kastina – Ala, Oturkpo and Ukum Local Government Areas of Benue State, where motorists paid between N105 and N135 instead of N97. On the streets, the product sold for as much as N200 per litre.
Commercial drivers and private car owners told our correspondent in the state that the scarcity would cause untold hardship to the people, especially as Christmas approaches.
Motorists were seen struggling in fuel queues to purchase the product in Makurdi, where, apart from the NNPC mega filling station that was dispensing fuel, other petrol stations at Highlevel and Wadata, Gyado-villa, among others, were shut to motorists. Black market operators made a kill, selling fuel between N200 and N250 a litre.
Meanwhile, the NNPC and its downstream subsidiary, the Pipeline Products Marketing Company (PPMC), have said that it has more than 32 days stock of petroleum products available for supply across the country during the Yuletide season and beyond.
According to Alegbe, 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.
Consequently, he warned marketers to desist from hoarding or diversion of petroleum products, stating that any marketer caught in the act would be sanctioned.
He assured that everything was being done to ensure that there was 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 corporation further 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 life and property.