The oil workers, who spoke with journalists after meeting with officials of the NNPC, assured Nigerians of their support to ensure petrol scarcity is averted.
Uche Usim, Abuja
Two oil workers’ unions, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have waded into the ongoing rift between the Federal government and oil marketers over unpaid fuel subsidy claims pegged at about N800 billion.
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The two associations have called for a quick resolution of the issue before it snowballs into a huge crisis that will plunge the country into a catastrophic economic mess.
This is as the Managing Director of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC). Mr. Umar Ajiya, warned that the Federal government would not tolerate any attempt by any individual or group to disrupt the distribution of petroleum products during the Yuletide, stating that such actions would be seen as economic sabotage.
“All IPMAN and major marketers, as well as all NNPC retail sites would continue to work throughout the period, 24 hours and seven days in a week. In addition to that, there is a commitment from the NNPC that the majors and the unions to ensure that all their workers participate in the distribution of petroleum products throughout this festive period.
“Therefore, a repeat of the 2017 situation is what we are prepared to avert, because government, this time round, would not tolerate from anybody, whether single or group, the issue of petroleum products scarcity, as it happened last year, because that would be termed as economic sabotage.”
But the oil workers, who spoke with journalists after meeting with officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) and its subsidiary, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC, as well as Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, MOMAN and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketing Association, DAPPMA, assured Nigerians of their support to ensure petrol scarcity is averted.
Specifically, the National President of PENGASSAN, Francis Johnson, said the association had intervened in the crisis to protect the interest of its members, as well as that of the country.
He said: “PENGASSAN, as one of the major stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, we are concerned. We are also looking at it that the year is coming to an end; they are also talking about 2019 politics and elections. We do not want to do anything to overheat the polity and make Nigerians go through a lot of stress.
“For us, we have said, and we are aware that there have been a series of meetings to resolve the issue. We stand by that; and we appeal to both government and the oil marketers to look at the larger interest of Nigeria and do what is needful for Nigeria to grow from strength to strength.
“I believe in the commitment and sincerity of both parties to reach an amicable solution to the issue. I believe that both parties would allow the larger interest of Nigeria to supersede. I advise them to fast track every process to resolve this issue and make sure they keep to the terms of agreement reached.”
Johnson expressed concerns that if not resolved amicably, the subsidy debt issue might lead to the sack of its members by the oil marketers. However, he cautioned its members against joining any strike action not called by the leadership of the unions.
He said: “For us, our members should note that until they hear from the association and NUPENG, everybody should continue to do their work. They must be at their duty post, doing their allocated hours of work and do the needful as required from them.
“I also believe that both the marketers, the NNPC and others would resolve the issue. Petroleum Tankers Drivers, PTD, Branch of NUPENG, would also ensure that tankers are working. Our members at PPPRA, PEF, PPMC, DPR, would be on duty. They would always listen to hear from us. If anybody goes against our directive, there are consequences; there are procedures for sanctions.”
Speaking in the same vein, National President of NUPENG, Comrade William Akporeha, assured Nigerians that there would be an unhindered distribution of petroleum products during the Yuletide, as all its members would not be embarking on any strike.
“This regime of NUPENG believes in dialogue. Until we are pushed to the wall, we do not take strike as the first option. So far, between now and December ending, I can assure Nigerians that there won’t be shortage of petroleum products on our streets.
“We agreed that the oil marketers have legitimate claims and demands. However, we are also happy too that the Federal government is at this moment engaging them on how to resolve all the issues at stake.
“As a stakeholder, we are also intervening in our own right, because we are also affected, as our members there are being owed salaries. Some of them are sitting at home as we speak, all because of this impasse.
“However, we are also engaging both the government and oil marketers and so far, the feelers from government are very encouraging, because we have been told that between now and Friday, this issue would be settled with the first payment of the agreement.”
On his part, National Chairman of PTD, Comrade Salimon Oladiti, said: “We are trying to mediate in the crisis between the Federal government and the oil marketers. We are major players in the distribution of petroleum products, but at the same time, we have gotten assurances from the Federal government that between now and Friday, December 14, 2018, part of the money owed the oil marketers, about 50 per cent of the money would be paid to them.
“We do not want to issue threats, but we are losing our members; because if these marketers carry out their threats, we are going to be seriously affected. At the same time, this is our country, we don’t have another country we can call our own. We have two major issues on ground now, the Christmas holidays and the forthcoming elections next year; if the Federal government allows this threat by the marketers, it would bring about the same thing we experienced last year. We do not want such to reoccur.
“That is why we are saying the government should pay the marketers; they have to pay them.”