Nationwide Fuel Scarcity Looms as NUPENG Orders Tanker Drivers to Suspend Lifting

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• Cites bad Apapa roads, extortion by security agencies, area boys

By Ahamefula Ogbu

The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) has directed Petroleum Tanker Drivers to withdraw from Lagos State with effect from Monday, over failure of relevant authorities to address their concerns about bad roads, extortion by security agencies and street urchins, among others.

The action is expected to cause fuel scarcity, as the drivers would no longer load products from tank farms, most of which are in Lagos, especially as pumping products through the maze of pipelines has become inadvisable because of pipeline vandalism.

A statement by the National President of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Eniredonana Akporeha and the National Secretary, Comrade Olawale Afolabi on behalf of Oil workers in the country said they were left with no option than to resort to withdrawal of services as their complaints and demands after several months were left unattended.

“The entire rank and file members of the Union are deeply pained, frustrated and agonised by the barrage of these challenges being consistently faced by petroleum tanker drivers in Lagos State and are left with no other option but to direct the withdrawal of their services in Lagos State until Lagos State government and other relevant stakeholders address these critical challenges.

“It is sad and disheartening to note here that we had made several appeals and reports to the Lagos State government and the Presidential Task Force for the decongestion of Apapa on these challenges but all to no avail.

“We cannot afford to fold our arms while our members are being consistently and continually extorted, intimidated, harassed and victimised by different groups and segments in Lagos, hence we highlight to the general public the following three major challenges Petroleum Tanker Drivers are facing in Lagos State.

“It is really disturbing and as well inexplicable that security agents, who are expected to ensure free-flow of traffic and protection of road users now use their uniforms and arms to intimidate, harass and extort money from Petroleum Tanker Drivers. This reprehensible conduct is taking serious tolls on the psychological, emotional and financial state of Petroleum Tanker Drivers and their capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver services to the nation.

“This menace must stop and the leadership of these security operatives in Lagos State must go all out to call their men to order with immediate effect. Every one of them should be contented with their salaries and allowances rather than turning hapless Petroleum Tanker Drivers to money making machine,” they said.

They listed as part of their grouse, the “Menace of containerised trucks at Apapa, Kirikiri and Beach Land axis of Lagos State and collusion of government officials hindering petroleum tankers from loading activities at depots and tank farms,” adding that often, traffic gridlocks were deliberately created and that this stops their members from loading products.

According to them, “Persistent traffic gridlock and indiscriminate parking of containerised trucks on major Lagos roads and bridges leading to Apapa port, Kirikiri, Beach Land, Satellite Town, Ijegun, are other major setbacks bedeviling the smooth running of the operations of Petroleum Tanker Drivers in Lagos State.

“As of today, MRS depot has been held captive for more than three months from discharging products to Petroleum Tanker Drivers despite heavy availability of Petroleum products stockpiled in their tank farm facilities.

“For safety reasons, Petroleum Tanker Drivers cannot continue to struggle with these containerised trucks in these corridors, considering the inflammable nature of the products our members carry and we cannot afford to undermine safety standards, procedures and protocols in the course of our services.

“This is a situation that appears to have defied solution, considering government’s non-intervention, lack of sensitivity over the years and collusion by those called upon by the Presidency to proffer solutions to the problem.

“Ikorodu road through Funsho Williams Avenue (formerly Western Avenue) to Ijora inward Apapa and Oshodi-Apapa Expressway through Mile 2 to Berger Yard inward Tincan Island, have been overwhelmed with indiscriminate parking of these articulated vehicles, aggravating the gridlock faced by Petroleum Tanker Drivers that ply the roads daily to lift products.

“For several months now, the Mile 2-Apapa Expressway (formerly Malu Road, now Mobil Road) has been witnessing terrible traffic gridlock leaving petroleum tanker drivers stranded and helpless.

“It’s really worrisome that Lagos State which is known to be a mega city and centre of excellence has now become a safe haven for area boys and area god-fathers who now see Petroleum Tanker Drivers as soft targets, extorting money from them every day, assaulting them and vandalising their trucks in some instances, especially when some of the tanker drivers show restraints in paying them illegal fees and levies.

“Petroleum Tanker Drivers now battle with both area boys and area god-fathers amidst deplorable state of the roads in Lagos State, and this is really causing PTD lots of havoc on a daily basis. A distance of just about 10 kilometres for example, now takes seven to eight hours of maneuvers and meandering by petrol tankers, many of which break down in the process, upturning their contents, killing PTD members and endangering the lives of several other Nigerians who traverse the roads. Without sounding immodest, further delay in their repairs portends greater danger to the citizenry.

“Tanker Drivers whose activities cut across Oguntedo, old Ojo road, Ijegun-Egba, Abule Ado and its environs in Satellite town, Oriade Local government Area, and Apapa corridor of Lagos State have continued to work in fear, following incessant attacks by members of various notorious groups who have developed penchant for extorting money forcefully from tanker drivers. They are known for operating unchallenged and freely around Apapa, Kirikiri, Mile 2, Maza-Maza and Abule-Ado, near Trade Fair flank etc.

“Consequently, as a socially responsible organisation, we have made wide consultations with various leadership organs of our Union and with other key stakeholders in the oil and gas industry and therefore resolved to embark on an indefinite strike beginning from 12 AM, Monday, August 10, 2020 if there are no decisive and convincing actions from Lagos State government to address these concerns and challenges,” they warned.