Damilola Oyedele and Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Nationwide supply of petrol and other associated products may face fresh disruptions in the next seven days as members of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) on Tuesday served notice of their intention to withdraw their services if their demands are ignored.
Speaking at a press briefing on the outcome of an emergency meeting convened in Abuja, where issues affecting their operations were discussed, the National President of NARTO, Dr. Kassim Bataiya, told journalists that if they withdraw their services as threatened, up to 98 per cent of petroleum products used in the country would not be moved from point to point.
He said the associations were protesting longstanding operational challenges which include alleged unjust withdrawal of insurance premiums from freight payments to transporters by oil marketers; non-payment of accumulated transporters’ claims by the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF); delay in review of freight rate by the PEF despite increasing economic challenges; as well as charging of Goods-in-Transit (GIT) insurance premiums on transporters by members of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN).
He also said the associations wanted the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing to expedite work on major roads across the country now that the 2016 budget has been passed into law.
The association said if the PEF failed to commence immediate full payment of transporters’ bridging claims, as well as their accumulated arrears of claims for January to May 2016 and oil marketers failed to settle and reimburse transporters’ claims from rejected freight rate for the same period, it would have to withdraw its services and deny petrol stations products supplies.
“Nigeria depends largely on roads to truck petrol. There will be no movement of petroleum products from one point to another when we withdraw our services and you know the implications of that to the economy,” said Bataiya.
He further said: “Consequently, we wish to place the organisations on notice that we have exhausted our patience as our businesses are gradually grounded.
“We are therefore giving them a notice that after seven days from today, if they fail to address the issues satisfactorily, then we would be left with no option but to take all necessary measures legally available to us including the option to withdraw our services in pursuit of our legitimate demands.”
He said PEF has specifically failed to objectively address its protest against its increasing operational challenges.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the oil and gas industry have said that incentives for private refineries in the country would go a long way in boosting Nigeria’s economy.
The stakeholders who spoke at a public hearing on a bill to provide for the licensing, regulation and incentives for petroleum refineries in Nigeria, organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Resources (downstream) said they were in total support of any legislation that would liberalise the industry.
One of them, the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), through their legal adviser, Modu Shettima, said their support for the incentives for private refineries was to encourage local investment, ensure fair competition and encourage participation of Nigerians in the ownership, control and management of the downstream oil sector.
Shettima explained that their resolve to support such legislation was to attract direct foreign investment; boost general employment for people in the country; check-mate capital flight; and make petroleum products available in the country.
The Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) on its part said it would support the move. It asked the government to put measures to guide against abandonment of refineries and that structured industrial management plan should be evolved to create synergy in the sector.
PTI said as part of the incentives, such refineries should be exempted from value added tax (VAT) as well as import and export duties for a specified period and that the provision for tax and levies should be for a period more than 10 years, even as appropriate price regulatory agencies should be empowered to determine prices without recourse to the National Assembly for approval.
The institute also suggested that there should be provision for adequate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to host communities in order to maintain industrial harmony and that Nigerians should constitute a minimum of 70 per cent of the employees of the refineries.
The Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, who was represented by Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa (APC, Kano), declared the session open.
He said the bill was part of the ongoing reform in the oil and gas industry, which was expected to increase efficiency and address perennial shortages of products supply and curb corruption.
He equally stated that the level of production and utilisation of bitumen in Nigeria needed a boost to broaden the economic opportunities of the country and prevent wastage of foreign exchange on the importation of the product.