- Firm says FG responsible for hike
Barely few weeks after NIPCO Plc reopened its seven Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Filling Stations in Benin, Edo State, after they were shutdown for several days by aggrieved motorists in protest against the hike in price of gas, the motorists are threatening fresh showdown with the company, THISDAY has learnt.
Over 4,000 motorists, who use CNG as vehicular fuel had shutdown the company’s seven CNG Filling Stations after the company increased the gas price from N55 per standard cubic meter to N95 per standard cubic meter for commercial vehicles.
For private cars, the company had also increased the gas price from N80 per standard cubic meter to N120 per standard cubic meter.
The private and commercial vehicle owners, who shutdown the company’s seven stations in Benin for several days, accused the company of sabotaging the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to encourage the use of gas as vehicular fuel.
One of the motorists and a staff of an oil company, who spoke to THISDAY from Benin, accused the company of deceit by encouraging the conversion of vehicles from use of petrol to the use of gas only to turn around to hike the price of gas.
NIPCO and the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the NNPC had formed Green Gas Limited (GGL), a joint venture, which built CNG Filling Stations to sell gas to motorists
However, NIPCO’s Head of Human Resources, who led the team that negotiated with the motorists, Mr. John Okpeku told THISDAY that the federal government was responsible for the hike in gas price.
“CNG is a local gas but it has international price. The same federal government increased the price. The price of CNG was N55 before. Now, what has happened is that the government side increased the price of gas. So, we also increased the price we sell to motorists,” Okpeku said.
He described the action of the motorists as irresponsible, saying that they have no right to shutdown the company’s stations.
“When they protested and shutdown our stations, our management reduced the price by N5. But one of their leaders called Peter, who claimed to be an Ijaw man, boasted that he had fought soldiers and policemen in Niger Delta and also threatened to deal with our company. We did not negotiate with them as a union when they wanted to convert to CNG. It was based on individual negotiation and if they no longer want to use gas, they can go back to PMS (petrol),” Okpeku added.
But one of the motorists argued that it was unfair for the company to ask them to go back to petrol after luring them with several incentives to convert from petrol to gas.
He accused the company of sabotaging government’s efforts to eliminate gas flaring and create safer environment by encouraging the use of gas.
According to him, the price of the conversion kid, which is supposed to be included in the price of gas, has now been separated and hiked to N150,000 for new vehicles and N300,000 for old vehicles.
“They lured us with incentives to convert to gas. They did the conversion on credit and we paid in installment because the cost was built into the price of gas. But they suddenly changed everything and created monopoly after we converted. It is GGL that sells spare parts of CNG-powered vehicles and the price of these parts has gone up suddenly. The price of refilling has gone up and there was no meaningful engagement with us before the hike,” said one of the owners of the CNG-powered vehicles.
Okpeku however blamed the high cost of the kids on foreign exchange fluctuation, saying that the kids are imported and thus, subject to foreign exchange fluctuations.
“When government increased the price of gas, we had to reflect it. When we increased the price, they shut us down for four days but it is not our making,” he added.