By Ernest Chinwo
The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has called on the Federal Government to resume the allocation of crude oil to refineries in the country to save the economy from collapse.
The union also expressed concern that rather than supply the refineries with crude oil, the product was being sold at the open market, thereby rendering the refineries redundant.
The National President of NUPENG, Mr Achese Igwe, who said this in Port Harcourt, at the weekend, also explained that it is worrisome that crude oil that is officially allocated to Port Harcourt Refineries were being stolen and sold in the open market with nobody raising a voice against that.
He said there appeared to be a deliberate attempt to give the impression that the refineries were not functional and use that as a reason to sell off the refineries to some interest groups.
“I wonder if this is a tactics to tell Nigerian people that look the refineries are epileptic, it is not functional and it cannot refine local content product and so the best thing is to take this product off-shore and refine them,” he said.
According to him, who is a refiner by profession, “the refineries in the country are still capable and the workers there committed in making sure that these products allocated to them are refined and the products also made available to the consumers in the market.”
He noted that the situation was having adverse effect on the business of independent marketers as some of them had taken bank loans to pay for the supply of products to their filling stations which had not been given to them for about six months now.
Apart from not getting products to sell, the markers, he also said have staff salaries to pay and “the only way they can sustain their business is when these products are available for them.”
The NUPENG president said the union was not averse to the commercialisation of the refineries but warned that the union would fight against the use of the refineries as gratification to some individuals.
“We will not fold our hands as a union to watch a situation where the Nigerian refineries will be sold as a gratification to some Nigerians and to international investors. We believe the new leadership of the NNPC will ok into this matter with a view to solving the problem. If government does not reverse the policy of withdrawing crude oil allocation to refineries, we (NUPENG) will be forced to take other actions,” he said.
In separate interviews, the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Port Harcourt Unit, Messrs Sunny Nkpe and Achilike Skills, respectively said they had been badly affected by the scarcity of crude to the refinery. Nkpe and Skills called on the Federal Government to intervene in this matter, adding that most of them had borrowed money from banks and paid into NNPC system with the expectation of getting allocation and making their profits.
They lamented that some members of the association had fallen ill, while others had been thrown out of business as they could no longer cope with the rising debt.
They said the Port Harcourt refinery was in good working condition and they had reported the matter to NNPC which said the issue of the non-allocation of crude to the refinery was being directed from Abuja.