By Ndubuisi Francis, Chineme Okafor in Abuja and Peter Uzoho in Lagos
Oil marketers under the aegis of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN) yesterday directed their members to shut down all depots in the country at midnight to protest federal government’s failure to pay them their outstanding subsidy claims estimated at N800 billion.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has, however, described the action of the marketers as economic sabotage.
The Ministry of Finance had announced, at the weekend, that the federal government had reached an agreement with the marketers after meeting the parties to begin the payment of the money owed them.
But DAPPMAN, in a counter statement yesterday by its Executive Secretary, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, denied the ministry’s claim, saying they never signed any agreement with the federal government, insisting that their planned seven-day ultimatum still stands and ordered the shutdown of depots.
Adewole said, “Premised on our inability to pay December salaries and to avoid owing staff for work done without any hope of pay, it is hereby agreed, since our staff have been disengaged, all DAPPMAN member depots are not in a position to operate hence will shut down all loading operations at midnight, Sunday, December 9, 2018 until the federal government pays our calculated claims.
“This decision is binding on all members of the association and full compliance is expected from every member company of the association. The association shall revert in the same vein with any other directives as might be deemed necessary.”
According to Adewole, the association took the bold step to stop the financial haemorrhage of its members, which arose from the federal government’s failure to pay its members’ outstanding claims.
He said, “As you are aware, the association reviewed the suspension of the ultimatum given to the federal government in December 25, 2017, which was suspended due to the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and the federal government’s promise to immediately pay marketers the outstanding subsidy-induced debts.
“Unfortunately as at today, and almost 12 months to the date, all we got so far are invitations to meetings and dialogues which have so far not stopped the daily increasing interest on these debts (which are owed to banks, AMCON, PPPRA, and PEF(M)B) and FIRS) and which, also has not manifested as credit to marketers.”
In a telephone interview with THISDAY, the Special Adviser on Media to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Paul Abechi, said the relevant agencies of the government met with oil marketers last Thursday to resolve the subsidy payment controversy, adding that it was unfortunate for any group to claim otherwise.
Abechi noted that people had begun to exploit the political season to advance their interests, adding that to further show government’s commitment to defray the subsidy arrears, it offered to pay the first tranche of N236 billion last Saturday.
It’s Economic Sabotage, Says NNPC
Meanwhile, the NNPC has described the action of the marketers as economic sabotage.
The Managing Director of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Mr. Umar Ajiya, stated this yesterday in Abuja after a meeting between the officials of the NNPC and the oil marketers.
Ajiya warned that the government would not tolerate any attempt by any individual or group to disrupt the distribution of petroleum products during the Yuletide.
The corporation said, “All IPMAN and major marketers, as well as all NNPC Retail sites would continue to work throughout the period, 24 hours and seven days in a week. In addition to that, there is a commitment from the NNPC, the majors and the unions to ensure that all their workers participate in the distribution of petroleum products throughout this festive period.
“Therefore, a repeat of the 2017 situation is what we are prepared to avert because government, this time around, would not tolerate from anybody, whether single or group, the issue of petroleum products scarcity, as it happened last year, because that would be termed as economic sabotage.”
Similarly, oil workers under the aegis of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) urged the government and marketers to quickly resolve the issue before it plunges the country into another round of crisis.
Speaking on behalf of the oil workers, the National President of PENGASSAN, Mr. Francis Johnson, said the association had intervened in the crisis to protect the interest of its members, as well as that of the country.
He said, “PENGASSAN, as one of the major stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, we are concerned. We are also looking at it that the year is coming to an end; they are also talking about 2019 politics and elections. We do not want to do anything to overheat the polity and make Nigerians go through a lot of stress.
“For us, we have said, and we are aware that there have been series of meeting to resolve the issue. We stand by that; and we appeal to both government and the oil marketers to look at the larger interest of Nigeria and do what is needful for Nigeria to grow from strength to strength.”