DG, NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi
Chika Amanze-Nwachuku and Chineme Okafor
The current fuel scarcity being witnessed in some parts of the country may worsen, as Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON), a branch of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has threatened to shut down their operations nationwide over the forceful take-over of depots and facilities of Integrated Oil and Gas Limited by armed military personnel and officials of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The threat by JEPTFON also came on a day the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) condemned the alleged harassment and arrest of former Minister of Interior, Captain Emmanuel Ihenacho, by NIMASA.
However, the Executive Secretary of the association, Mr. Enoch Kanawa, at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, stated that the association had given NIMASA and its agents till close of work today, to vacate the company’s facilities, failure of which it would have no choice than to shut down all depots and facilities belonging to its members.
Iheanacho and some members of staff of his company were arrested by some military personnel and NIMASA officials last week on allegation that a cargo “M.T. Grace” allegedly laden with stolen petroleum products, which was traced to the tank farm of the company.
Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, had claimed that pirates used the impounded vessel to hijack oil-bearing vessels thereby stealing their fuel.
But shedding more lights on the incident, Kanawa said Integrated Oil and Gas, in the usual course of business received some quantities of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) under a throughput arrangement from a third party.
Kanawa said the decision to shut down operation was taken at an emergency of the association, and after an extensive deliberation on the issue.
He said: “After hearing the facts of the whole episode, the meeting noted with dismay the following; that the illegal and unlawful seizure of the depot and facilities of integrated Oil & Gas and its head office, in total disregard of the safety and sensitive nature of such a humongous asset was totally condemned; that the association, having also considered the fact that its members have been bleeding excessively as a result of the wishful and deliberate policy of the government to withhold subsidy reimbursements, viewed this latest onslaught on one of its own as a carefully scripted agenda by some persons in government so as to test the waters, sent our members and their employees out of business.
Meanwhile, HURIWA at a press briefing yesterday in Abuja, stated that it was uncomfortable with the circumstances surrounding Ihenacho’s arrest, saying it was a violation of the fundamental human rights of the former minister, who is a Nigerian citizen.
National Coordinator of HURIWA, Mr. Emmanuel Onwubiko, said at the briefing that as a human rights organisation, HURIWA recognised the sanctity of fundamental human rights as enshrined in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
According to him: “We are aware of the widely circulated defence put up by the former minister whereby he cleared himself and company of involvement in the storage of the alleged stolen petroleum products.”