By Chineme Okafor and Paul Obi in Abuja
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Friday said it has begun dialogue with striking members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to address their grievances.
This is as the federal government cried out over the depleting level of oil output, stating that this was not the right time for Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to embark on strike.
It also cautioned members of the public against embarking on any form of panic purchase of petroleum products in anticipation of product scarcity due to the ongoing strike action by PENGASSAN.
It said in a press release from its Group General Manager Public Affairs, Mallam Garba Deen Muhammad in Abuja that while the Corporation had commenced talks with the leadership of the senior oil workers’ union, it had in stock enough products to satisfy local consumption requirements for the next 45 days.
NNPC said there was no need for motorists and other users of petroleum products to embark on frenzied wholesale purchase of fuel in anticipation of possible scarcity.
It assured that it was doing everything possible to guarantee that the prevailing sanity in the supply and distribution of petroleum products across the country which was achieved with the recent downstream liberation policy was sustained.
PENGASSAN had on Thursday begun nationwide strike action in protest of sundry industry related issues it said the government had refused to attend to. It also said on Thursday that it was not in negotiations with the government despite claims by the government that it had begun engaging with it.
The government begged the oil workers to consider the present economic situation in the country and the excruciating pains faced by Nigerians and call off their on-going strike.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige in a statement signed by the Deputy Director of Press, Prince Samuel Olowookere said the call on PENGASSAN to call off its industrial action had become necessary given the crisis bedeviling the oil sector and the need to put the interest of the nation first.
According to Ngige, “Strike neither solves industrial disputes nor contributes to industrial growth. Our economy is already reeling from severe hemorrhage occasioned by decade long mismanagement. Further action, which stunts the efforts currently being made to reverse the trend, should therefore be shunned.
“A situation where oil workers leave their offices and oil loading bays will not make for an increase in oils export nor assist make available, enough petroleum products in this time of deregulation,” the minister stated.
He explained that the strike would compound the vandalism in the Niger Delta, occasioning low output and export in our OPEC quota, apart from the unwarranted hardship on the populace.
“The time therefore calls for more patriotism more so when negotiations have already been kick-started with PENGASSAN and International Oil Companies (IOCs) on most of the areas especially the issue of cash calls and arbitrary sack of personnel.
“The Federal Government therefore urges PENGASSAN to urgently call off the strike so that all sides will freely negotiate.
“I am very optimistic that when we sit for negotiation on Monday, July 11, issues that have led to the situation on the ground will be resolved in the greater interest of the nation.”, he said.
He further urged Nigerians to avoid panic buying of petroleum products, as the fuel products have been made available.