Senator Anyim Pius Anyim
The biting petrol scarcity that has crippled the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its environs in the last one week is expected to begin easing-off from today as tanker drivers will resume lifting of the product following the suspension of strike by oil workers.
After seven hours of talks in Abuja between the Federal Government and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the union agreed to call off the strike it embarked on which halted the supply of petroleum products to the FCT.
It will also no longer disrupt fuel supply nationwide as it had earlier planned to do to press home its demand for the payment of subsidy claims to indicted oil marketers.
NUPENG, which had earlier issued an ultimatum to the Federal Government to pay the oil marketers or face a nationwide strike by today, directed its Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch to immediately commence lifting of petroleum products into the FCT.
The meeting, which commenced at 2pm, was chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, in his office and had in attendance representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), NUPENG, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Jetty and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria (JEPTFON) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Reading the communiqué issued after the meeting, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, listed the issues which had caused the dispute by the union to include: the payment of 2012 petroleum subsidy arrears; non-payment of salaries and threat to oil workers’ jobs; the state of the nation’s refineries and roads; labour issues in Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Chevron and the restructuring of loans of depot owners and oil marketers.
Both parties agreed that all marketers accused of fraud in the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) scheme should submit themselves to the ongoing verification exercise.
They also set up two sub-committees to look into issues concerning unfair labour practices in Shell and Chevron.
“The meeting confirmed that the Federal Government has been paying verified claims and will continue to pay all claims so verified. The depot owners and oil marketers agreed to keep their facilities open and pay the salaries of their workers. The meeting agreed for continuous engagement between the government and the unions,” the communiqué read.
An agreement was reached to hold another meeting in two weeks to review the status of the implementation of the decisions of yesterday’s meeting.
NUPENG President, Comrade Igwe Achese, reiterated that the union is not in support of fraudulent oil marketers who should be made to face the wrath of the law alongside their allies in government.
“There must have been collaboration with government officials before such fraud can happen. So, all of them should be indicted and punished,” he said.
The Acting President of the NLC, Comrade Promise Adewusi, expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting.
THISDAY gathered that the union was under pressure to suspend the strike for various reasons, including the public mood being against the strike.
The union had miscalculated by expecting that the public would pressurise the government on its behalf.
THISDAY also gathered that the strike was on the verge of dividing the two labour unions and their affiliates. As NUPENG did not join the fuel subsidy strike of January this year, many affiliate unions queried why the NLC should direct them to embark on a strike to fight the cause of the oil workers.
It was made worse when NLC leaders openly declared their support for the strike by NUPENG after the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had dissociated itself from it.
“Why would NLC say we should support the strike? They should have just folded their hands and watched NUPENG solve its own problems,” a labour leader told THISDAY.
The Managing Director of Capital Oil, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, whose company is one of those indicted, joined the meeting at 8.35pm.