By Uche Usim, Adewale Sanyaolu and Magnus Eze
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) yesterday, suspended its nationwide strike, thus raising hopes that Nigerians would be spared another traumatic experience this yuletide.
A statement by the National Public Relations Officer (PRO) of PENGASSAN, Mr. Fortune Obi, disclosed that the suspension of the strike followed the intervention of the Director of the State Security Service (SSS), Lawan Daura, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu.
PENGASSAN had earlier alleged anti-labour practices against some of its members by some indigenous oil companies, including Neconde Energy Limited.
The umbrella body of senior workers in the oil and gas industry had accused the management of Neconde Energy Limited of wrongful termination of the employment of some of its workers for associating with PENGASSAN.
Managing Director of Neconde Energy Services Limited, Mr. Frank Edozie, represented the management of the oil company at the parley.
At the end of the meeting, however, Neconde issued letters of recall to the affected workers, which was one of the conditions given by PENGASSAN for the strike to be suspended.
The management of Neconde also agreed to allow workers participate in union activities, while the Labour Minister is to resolve the alleged anti-union posture by other indigenous companies and marginal field operators. The meeting further agreed that labour issues related with other oil and gas companies were to be addressed in the second week of January 2018.
Ngige had last week, brokered a two-day meeting with the warring PENGASSAN and Neconde Energy Services Ltd, and secured an agreement.
Deputy Director, Press, at the Federal Ministry of Labour, Mr. Samuel Olowookere, who spoke on behalf of the minister said, “By that agreement, Neconde will review the termination of the affected staff members with a view to making it conform with the relevant labour laws as regards disengagement of staff.
Neconde should also within three months restore the PEGASSAN unit in its establishment in the spirit of the freedom of association as enshrined in the ILO Convention as well as section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which deals with the same issue.”
But, despite yesterday’s suspension of strike by PENGASSAN, fuel shortages in Lagos and Abuja continued unabated, compounding the traffic situation in the two locations.
In Lagos, most of the filling station dispensing fuel had long queues of vehicles struggling to buy.
Some of the filling stations visited by Daily Sun, were rationing the product, prefering to service the interest of their corporate clients before attending to smaller customers.
On Monday, several filling stations in Abuja were without petrol, a development that left commuters stranded as commercial vehicles queued to refill their tanks.
Already, petrol hawkers have since taken over Abuja, selling petrol in jerrycans at exhorbitant prices.
This was as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) also warned marketers to desist from hoarding petrol as anyone caught will be severely sanctioned.
“NNPC warns marketers not to hoard products as law enforcement agencies, working with industry regulators, have been detailed to take appropriate measures against any defaulter”, the NNPC spokesman, Ndu Ughamadu said.
The corporation has, however, assured motorists and other petroleum products consumers not to engage in panic buying.
NNPC also said it was working with industry unions to arrive at an amicable resolution of issues over which there are threats of industrial action.