Fuel crisis looms over proposed tanker drivers’ strike
Another round of shortage in the supply of refined petroleum products across the entire country might be looming barring any last minute change of mind, as the Petroleum Tankers Drivers PTD, wing of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers NUPENG, has given the Federal Government to up Monday, April 3, 2017 to address some welfare issues or face industrial strike.
This 48-hour ultimatum, which took effect from Friday, March 31 to April 3, 2017, listed issues such as welfare of its members, poor state of the roads in the country and passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill PIB, which has been pending at the National Assemble for over five and which when passed into law is expected to address many of the challenges faced in the oil and gas sector.
In a communique issued at the end of the NUPENG’s Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting held at the union’s secretariat and signed by the president of NUPENG, Mr. Igwe Achese, Friday last week in Lagos, the union said it has become imperative for the union to take this line of action given government’s silence over these issues.
According to the union, the strike action is expected to draw the attention of the Federal Government and other stakeholders to some unresolved issues bordering on the welfare of workers, such as bad roads, poor remuneration, insecurity and the alleged excesses of some security agencies.
The communiqué reads in part: “The CWC-in-Session considers as inhuman, the refusal of the National Association of Transport Owners NARTO, to commence negotiations with the union for the renewal of the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement CBA on the working conditions of our Tanker Driver members in the PTD branch, after several appeals and even an ultimatum”.
“The CWC-in-Session, therefore, resolves to give full backing to any industrial action the members in this sector might decide to take with effect from Monday, April 3, 2017”.
According to the president, NUPEND had sought the intervention of the Federal Government to avert the pains and discomfort the strike action might cause innocent Nigerians by encouraging NARTO to meet its obligations to tanker drivers.
The communique however urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, in order to tackle all the issues of corruption plaguing the oil and gas sector in the country.
The group also made a strong case for the Federal Government to urgently commence a process for the full commercialisation of the operations of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC, on the one side and also the turn-around-maintenance for the nation’s existing four refineries with a view to increasing their refining capacity,
This, the group believes, would go a long in increasing local production of petroleum products thereby reducing the over-dependence in the importation of petroleum products, with the attendant pressure on the nation’s scarce foreign exchange.
The group however commended efforts of the government to shore up the value of the local currency, the naira against the other foreign currencies including the dollar, which led to a marginal reduction in the rate of inflation to 17.5 per cent from the former 18.4 per cent.
Conversely, the group observed that despite this marginal reduction in the rate of inflation, the problems of poverty, youth unemployment with the attendant rise in crime rates as well as rising cost of goods and services in the face of excruciating hunger and poverty have remained on the increase and therefore urged the Federal Government to urgently address these challenges.
While urging the government to adopt measures to restructure the economy, as well as address challenges confronting the power sector, the union however vowed to resist any attempt to hike the pump prices of petroleum products.
The communique commended the efforts of the federal government to encourage operators of illegal refineries to be integrated into the establishment of modular refineries.
Recall that the nation had in the last 11 months had a temporary respite in terms of adequate supply of petroleum products.
This relative peace follows the decision of the Federal Government to hike the pump price of petroleum products in May last year including the Premium Motor Spirit PMS, also called petro from N87 per litre to N145 per litre.
This increment, which ended a one-year scarcity of petroleum products has however caused serious dislocations in the economy, as it brought about a galloping inflationary trends, which increased the rate from about 7.8 per cent to 18.4 per cent in less than two years.