Port Harcourt — Members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, on Wednesday shutdown activities at the Rivers State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in protest over the impounding of three trucks with 130,000 litres of premium motor spirits, PMS, or petrol by the agency.
The tanker drivers barricaded the entrance to the headquarters of NSCDC in Rivers State, along Olu-Obasanjo Road, Port Harcourt with over 30 petrol tankers, hindering human and vehicular movement in one of the busiest business districts of the city.
Leader of the protest and Public Relations Officer, PTD branch of NUPENG, Port Harcourt Zone, Comrade Johnbosco Alex, said the trucks and their drivers were arrested in August 2022, despite proof that the products they were carrying were not adulterated, but genuinely loaded from the tank farms.
Johnbosco said despite the court order on January 29, 2023 that the NSCDC in Rivers State should released the trucks and the products, the Corps rather sold the products and refused to release the trucks.
He said: “Sometime in August last year, our members (tanker drivers) were on their way conveying PMS loaded from different locations; the drivers, the conductors, the tankers and the products were arrested by operatives of NSCDC and locked, they were charged to court.
“At the court, the state high court struck off the matter since the trucks were legally loaded with genuine products. The court on 29th January 2022 ordered that the drivers, conductors, trucks and the products should be discharged.
“Since then, we have been begging the NSCDC commander in Rivers State to release the trucks and the products.
“So we are here to collect the products and the tankers. They have released the drivers after locking them up for weeks but the fuel, over 130,000 litres in each truck, is gone.
“The truck alone is over N120 million each, now multiple it by three trucks in addition to the products with the current price of PMS. This man (NSCDC commander in Rivers State) has sold our products and he was telling us that it was kept for safe custody. Is there any place safer than inside the tanker?
“You have the brazen face to tell us that you removed products from the tanker to keep it in a safer place.”
The protesting PTD members warned that they will down tools and shut down the economy of the state if the NSCDC fail to release the three trucks with their products.
“We are saying that if NSCDC does not release these trucks and the products, henceforth, there will be no fuel for aeroplanes, ships and even at the filling stations. We are all law abiding citizens, our arms are the petroleum tankers. We can cripple the economy,” he said.
Reacting on the development, the Rivers State Command of NSCDC, who described the barricade as an embarrassment, said the court had given a forfeiture order on the impounded trucks and their contents.
The Public Relations Officer of NSCDC in Rivers State, Olufemi Ayodele, who confirmed that the products have been sold, said adverts were placed in the media for auction and months later, the Corps was told that the court had ruled in favour of the tanker drivers.
“It is actually an embarrassment to us when we saw the situation. Sometime last year, the joint taskforce against illegal oil bunkering activities and oil theft in the state impounded three trucks, and as the agency that is statutorily empowered to combat illegal oil bunkering and safeguard critical national assets, the trucks were handed over to us – the NSCDC Rivers State Command – by the Nigerian Army
“We approached the court through the legal unit of the Corps and we were able to get the order for the forfeiture of the products, and you know PMS is highly inflammable and so it’s not right to keep such a product out for a very long time. So, the federal high court gave a forfeiture order on the content of the trucks.
“Nine months later we heard that NUPENG was also granted the permission to have their products back and the case was decided on their favour. However, we are working seriously to ensure that this matter is resolved,” Ayodele said.
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