…As ex-workers picket BUA hqtrs over unpaid entitlements
By Bimbola Oyesola
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has urged the organised labour and civil society organisations to shelve their planned strike and join forces with government to ensure the full deregulation of the nation’s downstream industry.
The Chairman of IPMAN Committee on Land, Marine and Border Operations, Dr. Uche Ezeala, said that deregulation, if fully implemented, will open up the market and allow market forces to determine the prices of goods and services.
The IPMAN Committee on Land, Marine and Border Operations was set up under the leadership of Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja, Ezeala noted that “outside Abuja and probably Lagos, no consumer in any part of the country has been paying the approved pump price of N86.50.
Meanwhile, Workers of the defunct BUA Flour and Pasta yesterday pulled a surprise protest at the headquarters of the conglomerate in Lagos, demanding full payment of their entitlements from the sale of the company.
The workers had arrived the headquarters of the company around 11 a.m, without informing the management about their action, with several placards with inscriptions such as, “We are not slaves, a workman is entitled to his wages”; “Our redundancy is not negotiable”; “We need full contract employment with OLAM.”
The Coordinator of the workers, Akasan Sylvester, said the workers were at BUA’s headquarters to hand over their protest letter to the management and had decided not to inform them earlier so that the management would not disrupt the peaceful protesters with police.
In the letter to the management, the workers stated: “Your ‘Letter of Disengagement’, which specified our entitlements under some categories ignored the most essential of all disengagement of workers whose company had been sold and taken over by a new investor and owner. And this most essential, a redundancy pay off, was completely missing.
The rest of the country buys fuel between N150 and N250 per litre.”
He further noted that key to deregulation is its inbuilt ability to allow business to determine the operational procedure in an atmosphere of freedom and competition without government monopoly or unnecessary interventions.
According to him, the forces of demand and supply will now determine the prices of petroleum products. This, he added, will create a conducive atmosphere which will make it possible for consumers to buy the products in any part of the country without stress.
Ezeala stated that the present economic realities as reflected in the price of oil in the international market and the foreign exchange situation has made the fuel pump price increase inevitable.
According to him, the new fuel price regime will go a long way in removing all distortions in fuel supply and distribution in the country. He pointed out that with the new pump price, some of the sharp practices engaged in by major players in the petroleum industry would be eliminated.
Ezeala whose committee has the mandate to ensure that fuel is made available to Nigerians at the official price, noted that the new pump price will make the job of his committee easier as no marketer would have any justification to tamper with the official pump price.
He further explained that Nigerians will enjoy the petroleum sector as is the case with the telecommunications industry, where the consumer is king, with all the operators jostling for his attention.
Ezeala stated that IPMAN, which controls more than 80 per cent of all retail outlets in the country, is determined to support the government initiative as it will have a huge positive effect on the economy.
He assured that his committee will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that petroleum marketers play by the rule in order to ensure that Nigerians get full value for their money.
As part of strategies to ensure the smooth operations of his committee, he announced the appointment of Brig. Gen Lansdale Adeoye (rtd) as the National Coordinator of the committee, explaining he was engaged because of his vast experience in the fight against vandalism and other associated vices.
“It is our contention that our due entitlements have not yet been paid and that what was given to us is pittance compared to what actually should be paid to us.”
The coordinator who said the workers’ toil and sweat grew the company to the value of $275 million, insisted that it was a global practice to pay severance package to workers whose service are being severed due to sale of their company.
Consequently, he said the workers believed that their entitlements have not been paid fully and are therefore demanding payment of redundancy package to all workers of BUA Flour and Pasta to a tune not less than 20 per cent of the total sale of the company.