Ejiofor Alike, Linda Eroke and Ernest Chinwo
The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has announced the suspension of its solidarity strike against the non-payment of subsidy funds to importers of petroleum products.
The national public relations officer of the union, Mr. Bassey Harry, said Saturday while briefing Journalists in Port Harcourt, that the suspension was sequel to an agreement reached at the end of the stakeholders' meeting conveyed by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity last night in Abuja.
The meeting was attended by officials of the Ministry of Finance, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners Association (JEPTFON) and NUPENG.
Harry said the federal government, in the agreement, accepted to commence the payment of the subsidy funds to the jetty and tanker farm owners immediately, which was the sole reason the union went on strike.
He said: “Since January this year when government increased the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from N45 to N97, the government has not paid any subsidy and has not also imported fuel.
“We feel this is a game plan by government because if government has refused to import PMS and has also refused to pay the subsidy, it amounts to government deceiving Nigerians; the federal government reached agreement with labour unions yet it is not doing as agreed. It is insincerity of the highest order; that was why we went on strike.”
He also decried the state of roads leading to fuel depots but said the union was happy with the state of emergency declared on the affected roads.
Harry lamented that all roads leading to Nigeria depots had been in a deplorable state but expressed hope that government would commence construction work immediately.
However, a communique issued at the end of the meeting reads: "After noting the concerns expressed by the NUPENG and JEPTFON, government affirmed that the payment of petroleum subsidy for 2012 has commenced. The issuance of Sovereign Debt Notes (SDN) for verified and processed batches will be concluded within two weeks.
NUPENG expressed its dissatisfaction on the state of the refineries in the federation and requested to know whether the TAM of the refineries will commence as scheduled. NNPC gave details of steps already being taken for the TAM and rehabilitation of the plants and assured the trade union that the TAM/rehabilitation of the refineries would be done as planned. NNPC will ensure availability of crude to all the refineries. On bad roads, the communique noted that "The trade union expressed concern over the deplorable state of roads in and out of refineries and the danger posed by such roads especially the Port Harcourt Refinery Road. The government assured NUPENG that immediate attention would be given to the access roads leading to the refineries in Port Harcourt and Warri.
"On the complaints of labour issues especially on Contract Staffing in SPDC and Chevron, the Federal Ministry of Labour & Productivity is committed to look into the issues raised by the trade union. NUPENG requested for the restructuring of loans of JEPTFON members into long term debts. AMCON will consider the request. All the parties agreed to follow up on all the issues agreed upon as stated above and ensure their actualisation. Based on this understanding, NUPENG agreed to suspend the on-going industrial action while JEPTFON shall open the Jetties and Depots owned by its members."
In a related development, the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMA) last night resolved to resume business activities after closing their depots for three days in protest over unpaid subsidy claims.
Chairman of the marketers, Mr. Dapo Abiodun told THISDAY last night that the decision to call on their members to resume business activities followed a meeting held with relevant stakeholders at the weekend.
According to him, the association was informed by the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) that the Federal Ministry of Finance had requested for all the verified subsidy claims for immediate payment.
“As an association of very responsible and patriotic Nigerians and in the best interest of the Nigerian public, we do accept and take in good faith that the Federal Ministry of Finance will live up to the promises made at the said meeting and request that all our members resume supply and distribution operations at their depots across the country with immediate effect,” he said.