• Fuel crisis crippled business activities nationwide
• Minister’s intervention aborted strike
Nigerians on Monday heaved a sigh of relief as the planned strike by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, (PENGASSAN) was suspended by the masterminds of the industrial strike.
The decision to call off the industrial action by the powerful oil workers in the nation’s petroleum sector, followed the intervention by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and the Department of State Security Services, which insisted that allowing the planned strike to continue beyond Monday could further cripple the economy that is just smarting from its over 24 months’ recession.
In a statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Fortune Obi, the senior oil workers union stated that it suspended the strike, following the intervention of the Ministers of Labour and Productivity, as well as that of Petroleum Resources.
It said, “The management of NECONDE Oil Limited and its legal consultants have offered a letter of recall to the sacked employees of the company.”
The union had embarked on the strike to protest the sacking of some employees of NECONDE Oil Limited.
Obi said that the company’s management also agreed to allow the union to exist in the company.
He further explained that the Minister of Labour and Employment, jDr Chris Ngige, and the union also agreed to resolve anti-union posture by other indigenous companies and marginal field operators.
Obi said that both parties would meet in the second week of January 2018 to look at the issues.
The Daily Times recalls that Ngige had in a statement through his spokesperson, Samuel Olowookere, appealed to the association to consider shelving the strike in the spirit of the ongoing reconciliation over the issues.
“With the conciliation by the Minister of Labour and Employment, the impending action by PENGASSAN stands effectively arrested in line with the provisions of the relevant labour laws whose powers are invested in the minister.
Olowookere said that the minister had on December 13 and 14 met with PENGASSAN leadership to broker peace with the management of Neconde Energy Limited where an agreement was secured.
With the agreement, he said, each party was expected to play different roles to see to a final resolution of the crisis.
But, before the strike was shelved, The Daily Times investigations revealed that the entire nation had been in the firm grip of near paralysis, especially occasioned by the fuel crisis, which had engendered long queues, pains in homes, businesses, offices, while the once again traumatized Nigerians rained curses and hisses on the nation’s economic managers for failing them once again.
It was therefore a big relief when the association called off the strike on Monday afternoon.
It is believed that normal business activities would return today while long queues noticed since last week in Abuja, Kaduna, Ekiti, Minna and elsewhere across the country would ease out within the week.
The Daily Times monitored the situation at Airport Road, Oshodi, and Ikorodu Road. Other places include Costain, Ojuelegba, Surulere and its environs and the situation was like passing through hell due to the traffic gridlock encountered from the early morning hours.
Ogba, Oregun, Ikeja down to Alausa were not left out due to vehicles parked at filing stations seeking to refill their vehicles.
At the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) stations in Ojota, it was observed that as early as 7am in the morning some commuters were stranded, waiting for vehicles to convene them to their various destinations.
Some of the commuters who spoke to our correspondents said that it was not easy for them to navigate through the heavy traffic. Many commuters also resorted to taking bikes to fast track their journey. However, street hawkers had a swell time as some smiled home due to high patronage.
At the Mobil filling station on Agidingbi Road, motorists had frustration etched on their faces, as efforts to get petrol were fruitless.
Mrs. Grace Adediran, who had been on a queue that seemed interminable for more than five hours shares her experience thus: “ I have been here for over five hours and it doesn’t seem like I’m going to get anything here. I’m leaving my car here. I have no fuel in my tank anymore. It is really sad. I’m disappointed in this government. We don’t deserve this.’’
In the same filling station, some motorists could buy fuel easily without hassles while some motorists were abandoned to their fate on the queue.
When one of our correspondents sought clarification from the manager on why some motorists were left on the queue while some could buy fuel easily, he said, “ They are ‘’voucher customers. Their companies had paid us ahead. So, whatever we have now is what we will sell to them. Those on the queue cannot buy now. But all things being equal, there will be enough fuel to sell tomorrow. We are expecting three trucks tonight.’’
At the NNPC filling station at the Ogunnusi area of Berger in Lagos, residents and motorists could not buy fuel as they were told that there was nothing to sell by fuel attendants.
A barber, Adewole Afolabi , who was seen leaving the filling station told our correspondents that, “ They are only selling to the people they know. I need to try another place. I am tired of staying here. This is not what we bargained for. This pain is too much.’’
But the story is different on Idiroko Road, Ota, Ogun State.
Two filling stations, Conoil and Total didn’t have problems selling fuel as motorists were seen buying fuel without stress.
Unllike other parts of the country where long queues were seen, the two stations had sufficient fuel for its customers as no queue was seen at about 10am when our correspondents visited.
Most fuel stations at Airport Road axis were not selling the products and those that were selling sold on one pump leaving other pumps just to delay the sale of the products.
The attendants preferred to sell to buyers with gallons and jerry cans because they pay some money ranging from N100, N200 and N300, respectively.
Some of the motorists also urged the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to carry out a check to ascertain those who were involved in the hoarding of the products along Airport Road, Agege Motor Road in Oshodi and Ikeja areas.
Despite assurances by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs of
NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, that all the corporation’s depots are awash with products,
blaming the long queues of vehicles on panic buying, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Kano zone, had dismissed the claim, stating that inadequate supply was at the core of the crisis.
Also, the scarcity became worsened in Calabar, Cross River State capital and environs before relief came, as passengers and other commuters are stranded. Several thousands of government and private workers, business men and women as well as traders could not meet official hours and appointments on time due to inability to get vehicles to their destinations.
One of our correspondents who visited filling stations in Cross River State capital observed that the gates of the stations remained closed as they have no fuel for customers.
But the few stations that have the products recorded long queue with a litre of petrol going for over 200% increase.
Fuel at some filling stations was sold between N200-N250 per litre while black marketers sold a litre at N300-N350. In Odukpani, Akpabuyo, Akamkpa, Biase and Yakurr local government areas no fuel was found in the areas.
It was gathered that filling stations in these local government areas have fuel last on Friday. A customer, George Akpan said, “Last time I bought fuel was on Thursday at the cost of N145 a litre, but it’s now N300-N350 or more a litre. Black marketers sold it at N350-N400 a litre.” The scarcity of the product has already caused untold hardship on the residents of the city. “It has taken a more dangerous dimension now, especially at this Yuletide period.”
Mr. Nakanda Udobong said that the increase has affected the economy of the state, as the prices of foodstuffs have increase tremendously. Transport cost, he said, had gone up by 150%. A distance of N50 now goes for N150 or more, “Already, the cost of transportation from one point to another has increase tremendously,” he added.
Udobong, who resides in Calabar lamented, “The reason for the scarcity has not been known, but we called on Federal Government, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and President Buhari to intervene urgently so that Nigerians would have blissful Christmas.”
Sadly, the prices of garri and rice, the most stable food for the people in the state have gone up by 100-200 per cent. More importantly, the scarcity of the product not only hindered economic growth, but has caused inconveniences, as the long queues hindered traffic flow in the city making some streets impassable.
Chief Eyo Okon said that the scarcity has affected economic activity in the state. This is especially so, as people were seen roaming various filling stations in the state looking for the products that are no way to be found or available to buy.
Again, the scarcity has spread to Central and Northern Districts of Cross River State.
When contacted, on phone, the Chairman of NUPENG, Chief Akomaye said he was in Benue state; and do not know about the scarcity.
Some concerned people also decried the scarcity of the products and blamed it on the rot in the system of governance in the country.
Interestingly, the NNPC had waded into the situation which resulted in the suspension of the strike.
The corporation also stated that this move was to ensure that it floods the entire country with petroleum products during the festive season.
The NNPC has assured motorists and other petroleum products consumers not to engage in panic buying.
The NNPC however, warns marketers not to hoard products as law enforcement agencies, working with industry regulators, have been detailed to take appropriate measures against any defaulter.
The corporation further assures that there are enough petroleum products to keep the nation wet.
Meanwhile, the NNPC had earlier announced that about 144 hoarded petroleum products-laden tankers were discovered in Kano last week. It said that the infamous act was uncovered by the security agencies and the NNPC monitoring team set up to rapidly end remnants of petroleum products supply gaps in parts of the country discovered 144 trucks that were not streamed by some marketers in Kano.
The products, according to the NNPC, were meant to feed Kano and its environs.
It said that sequel to the discovery, the resurfaced trucks had been sent to discharge their products at the designated locations.
Of the 144 trucks discovered, 26 were scheduled for Katsina, while 118 trucks were made to discharge their products in Kano and its environs.
NNPC warns marketers across the country to desist from acts that may heighten supply gaps noticeable in a few remaining parts of the country, as security agencies have been detailed to go on the trail of any marketer who may be hoarding products.
Simon Ugwu, Bolaji Olasunkanmi, Joy Ekeke, Ladesope Ladelokun, Lagos, Edem Bassey, Calabar and Idu Jude, Abuja