Fuel scarcity spreads as NUPENG strike enter day 2

By The Rainbow

Fuel scarcity is gradually spreading across the country, just the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG has vowed to continue its three-day warning strike.

The union's president, Comrade Achese Igwe, said on Monday there was not let up on the strike by members of the union. .

According to Achese, the meeting called by the Minister of Petroelum, Diezani Allison Madueke, where the grievances of the union could have been discussed could not hold because the minister did not show up for the meeting.

The  NUPENG president, at a press conference in Abuja, expressed disappointment over the attitude of the Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, who called the leadership of the union for a meeting on Monday, but failed to meet them.

Petrol stations in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city have been shut down following the directive by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) workers.

The situation is not likely abate on Tuesday (Today) as all oil lifting activities have been suspended at major loading depots in Appaa and Tin Can Island ports.

THE RAINBOW checks indicated that members of NUPENG did not allow any lifting of products from the depots there.                                 

NUPENG started a three-day warning strike on Monday over alleged unfair labour practices by oil multinationals and the poor state of road network across the country.

The close-down has resulted in long queues across the FCT as motorists hope to buy fuel as soon as the stations re-open.

Also in Kaduna state, all petrol stations were shut down as a result of the warning strike called by NUPENG.

Most of the petrol stations visited were not dispensing fuel as they claim the union had directed them not to sell fuel to customers until the federal government addresses their problems.

A trip around the town by our correspondent revealed that black marketers are taking advantage of the industrial action to enrich them, as they sell a four litre gallon of fuel at N800.

Both major and independent oil marketers complied with the directive.

Residents appealed to relevant authorities to settle their differences with NUPENG so that the strike can be called off.

NUPENG had directed all its members in depots and branches to stop loading petroleum products for the next three days.

The union is protesting the alleged refusal of the National Association of Road Transport Owners to implement the signed collective bargaining agreement with the petroleum tanker drivers, the poor state of roads across the nation and the ill-treatment of their members by some oil companies.

Achese however did not rule out resoltuin ahead of the three-day period. He said hthat the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, had  invited the union for a meeting along with the management of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) late Monday night.

He expressed hope that the meeting with the Minister of Labour could go a long way to ensure that the multinationals who continue to engage in anti-labour practices come to the roundtable.

Although he stated that the union had no plan to picket Chevron and Shell, which it accuses of unfair labour practices, Achese  lamented that the government chooses to identify with the multinationals by militarising their premises.

This action, he said, points to the fact that the government is in bed with the  multinationals that enslave Nigerians.

He said: 'How can a person, after working as contract staff for 25 years wake up one day, have his contract terminated, and be given just N300,000 as severance package.

He called for a stakeholders meeting to discuss the policies operational in the sector which it said are not in line with international best practices.

Achese also noted that there is a need for the Ministry of Petroleum to publicly define what should be termed as 'core job' under which guise multinationals choose to keep staff as contract workers.

He added: 'How can you say a plant or rig operator is not a core staff? When a casual staff works on a core job, then he should be converted to a permanent staff.'

On the hardships being suffered by the looming scarcity, the NUPENG president appealed to Nigerians for understanding and added that the union fought for democracy and would fight for any segment of the society that is being oppressed, and therefore would not deliberately bring hardships on the citizenry.

The union, still raging due to the action of the minister of petroleum, had said that people like her have no place in President GOodluck Jonathan's cabinet.

It called on President Goodluck Jonathan to immediately reshuffle his cabinet, declaring that in as much as the President meant well for the country, those working with him do not want his government to succeed.

When asked if the union was calling for the sack of Diezani, the NUPENG president said: 'We are saying that President Jonathan should as a matter of urgency reshuffle his cabinet to allow the country to move forward.

'There is a systemic failure in the country. The failure is not from the president, but those who are working with him. The man needs to reshuffle his cabinet and look for committed people. We will continue to support the President, but not with the ministers who are not allowing his good work to show, we will not allow that.

'We as a union fully support the president, because he means well for this nation, but most of the people working with him in his cabinet are only working for their own pockets,' Igwe said.

He regretted that they could not hold any meeting on Monday because the minister who invited them was not in town, even as he added that when they got to the Ministry of Petroleum for the meeting, workers in the ministry were also protesting against the minister's style of administration.