By Oji Odu
As members of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), made good their thereat to begin an indefinite strike today, Monday, April 3, 2017 to press home their unmet demands, Nigerians may begin to experience a return of the nightmarish long queues at filling stations. The duration of this industrial action depends largely on the outcome of the meeting between the union and the Federal Government scheduled for 3pm today.
Petroleum Tanker Drivers,( PTD), branch of NUPENG, had directed her members to begin a nationwide indefinite strike, and shut all loading depots and fuel terminals until further notice.
The workers are protesting the non-renewal of their Collective Bargaining Agreement, (CBA), which expired three years ago and the deplorable conditions of the nation’s highways. Others include, increased salary, alleged harassment by security agencies, especially the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps,( NSCDC), and plans by Capital Oil Plc to declare two thousand of its staff redundant due to unresolved issue with Petroleum Products Marketing Company, (PPMC).
Because of this,National Chairman of PTD, Salimon Oladiti, said that there was no going back on the strike as it was decided by the organs of the union.
In his explaination, South-west Chairman of NUPENG, Lagos Council, Tokunbo Korodo, said that all the tanker drivers have abandoned their trucks in respect of the indefinite strike which will begin on Monday unless the federal government intervenes.
The chairman said the drivers were forced to down tools due to unresolved issues concerning their welfare, poor remuneration, insecurity and bad roads.
“The tanker drivers for the past three years have been appealing to the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) to increase their salary but they refused on the ground that spare parts had increased.
“NARTO said that government has not increased their fares, so they will not increase their salary.
“Apart from this, most of the roads they ply are bad and this has resulted in accidents or damaging their trucks.
“The activities of the officials of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps on the roads are not helping the matter. The tanker drivers are forced to break the seals of their products (by the NSCDC) on the pretext that they were carrying adulterated products.
“Most of these drivers are harassed by these officers, at times the tankers and the drivers will be detained for close to a month,’’ he said.
He lamented that the jobs of more than two thousand staff of Capital Oil and Gas Ltd were on the line due to their closure by the Federal Government because of some unresolved issues between the company and NNPC.
Korodo said that the union wanted the government to resolve the matter so that the company would be opened to enable both the staff and tanker drivers to resume duty.
However, his statement that the strike may not affect activities in filling stations, depots or refineries across the nation is yet to be ascertained, as NUPENG President, Igwe Achase believes otherwise.
In his reaction, Group General Manager (GGM), Public Affairs Division of NNPC, Ndu Nghamadu, said in Abuja last night that the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the corporation, Maikanti Baru would lead government negotiation team with Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), NUPENG and members of the PTD in attendance.
“As you are aware that the industrial disagreement is majorly with NARTO and not government per se, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, would lead a team to the negotiation that is slated for the NNPC Towers at 3pm. The Corporation’s aim is to promote industrial peace within the supply chain and we would do everything within our powers to achieve this aim.”
Indeed, Nigerians pray that the meeting would turn out positively and resolve the issue. This is because the attendant untold hardship being undergone by the people as a result of the economic downturn of the recession may not be able to accommodate the deepened sufferings which was experienced during the fuel scarcity that almost shutdown the nation in 2015.
In a chat with the Magazine, Kunle Adebanji, a commercial bus driver said: “ Unless this government does not know anything, if they allow fuel scarcity no matter how small to happen now, I believe people may take to the streets to protest. Many hungry and angry people are increasing as many regret voting for the retrogressive All Progressives Congress (APC).
By Oji Odu