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PENGASSAN, NUPENG begin strike to worsen current fuel crisis

By The Citizen
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Hopes of a timely end to the current fuel scarcity dimmed further yesterday as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, began an indefinite strike that may completely cripple economic activities nationwide.

In Abuja, the protesting labour union members barricaded the entrance of the headquarters of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, thereby preventing the employees from resuming in their efforts to get its management attends to their demands.

Specifically, PENGASSAN called for a declaration of emergency in the oil and gas sector and urged the incoming government to do everything possible to address the plethora of issues bedevilling the sector in order to ensure its efficiency.

The association's President, Mr. Francis Johnson, in a statement pointed out that there were many issues requiring urgent attention from the incoming government to reposition the industry for efficient and effective delivery of its benefits to Nigerians. For instance, he canvassed the need for the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to call an all-inclusive stakeholders' forum to critically examine and proffer workable and enduring solutions to all the problems in the larger interest of the country.

'All the subsectors of the oil and gas industry have one challenge or the other and all these challenges are affecting the deliveries of the benefits of our God-given hydrocarbon resources to the country and the entire people of Nigeria.

'These challenges are as result of past neglects, wrong policies and policy summersault in some areas of the sub-sectors.

'All these are inflicting pains on Nigerians who ought to be enjoying the benefits of the natural resources that God bequeathed to the country,' Johnson said.

He listed some of the challenges to include, pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, state of the refineries, intractable and persistent scarcity of petroleum products, subsidy payment controversies, and divestment.

Others are, illegal transfer or allocation of oil blocks, irregular Joint Venture, JV, funding with emphasis on delay in cash call payment, inadequate funding of government agencies in the sector and undue interference in the management of government agencies.

The union leader said that the stakeholders' forum will chart ways of attending to the critical challenges affecting the industry and evolve a framework that will facilitate its stability, adding that machinery should be set in motion for periodic meetings to evaluate and review the success and workability of the framework.

NUPENG on its own said it was time the Federal Government assess more critically how the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, was being managed with a view to ensuring that the guiding laws and rules relating to the operations of the company are subverted.

Assistant General Secretary of NUPENG, Mr. Adamson Momoh, said that the strike against NPDC, which is an arm of NNPC, would continue until the management sees reasons with the workers.

In Lagos, the effects of the strike started manifesting as long queues, which had abated fairly since Monday, became more pronounced in filling stations as motorists renew their struggles to buy fuel.

Independent and black marketers virtually took over sales of fuel, dispensing at between N120 and N150 per litre, depending on the station and bargaining power of customers. Most major marketers had no product to sell.

The unions had given a notice, which expired last weekend, urging the Federal Government to reverse the transfer of operatorship of the Joint Venture, JV, partnership in OMLs 40 and 42 to Neconde Energy Nigeria Limited and Elcrest Exploration and Production Limited.

A statement from the JV partners, said the shut-in has affected all NPDC operated assets in joint venture with indigenous companies that had applied for operatorship, except Neconde, who, prior to the crisis, had been awarded the operatorship of OML 42, and immediately got the Joint Task Force, JTF, to secure the assets.

Elcrest (OML 40) which is next in line to be awarded operatorship, Shoreline OML 30 and FHN/Afren (OML 26) have now been shut as oil evacuation is hampered from OML 34 which relies on the OML 30 pumping station. - National Mirror.