By Emmanuel Addeh
Nigerians may once again have to deal with fuel scarcity, following the decision by the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), the umbrella body of all commercial vehicles owners in Nigeria, to embark on a two-day warning strike from today.
The organisation, which engages in the haulage of petroleum products, general cargoes, and movement of goods and passengers within the country and the West-African sub-region noted that, thereafter, it will issue a 10-day ultimatum for a full-blown industrial dispute.
In a press briefing yesterday, NARTO said it received with shock the recent government decision to place an immediate ban on all petroleum trucks above 45,000 litre-capacity from plying Nigerian roads.
National President of the group, Alhaji Yusuf Othman, told journalists that the body considered it as insensitive and unappreciative of the efforts and contributions of the NARTO members as businessmen and investors in the very critical and sensitive distribution and supply chains of petroleum products across the country.
NARTO stated that following the total collapse of petroleum products pipelines and strategic depots across the country as a result of the economic sabotage by vandals, the government in power then pleaded with private investors to assist in ameliorating the situation by ensuring that product scarcity is brought to the barest minimum.
It stressed that it was in response to the call that many of its members took the initiative to invest heavily in expanding their fleet of various capacities to deliver products to all nooks and crannies of the country.
It said: “Our members took loans from various commercial banks with very high interest rates and with no form of support from the government. We were doing it for the sake of the country and we all achieved the desired goal of removing scarcity of petroleum products and its attendant long queues from our streets and communities.
“It is, therefore, distressing and discouraging that when it was discovered along the line that one of the side effects of our efforts to fix the problem is the fact that our roads were not built to accommodate vehicles that carry loads in excess of 30 tonnes.
“The new government now wants to impose and introduce a new policy about maximum capacity on our roads. The government is doing so without any consideration for the plights of our members and other attendant effects.”
It noted that though it is not against the decision of the federal government to ban the use of truck more than 45,000 litre- capacity in the conveyance of petroleum products considering the dilapidated state of Nigerian roads, it is particularly concerned about the sudden nature of the ban.
NARTO lamented that the huge investments the owners of the trucks who had run into debts incurred in executing the mandate given by the previous administration were not considered.
“This move by the government will definitely be counterproductive considering the fact that sudden withdrawal of these trucks will impact heavily and negatively on the operations of our members and the withdrawal will also create heavy gaps in the supply and distribution chains.
“This is bearing in mind the fact that NARTO, being the owners of these trucks, is an integral part of the supply and distribution of petroleum products across the nation.
“We wish to also remind the government to be mindful of the coming ember months that is characterised by heightened activities, thus requiring the use of such high capacity trucks to curb the scarcity.
“In view of the above, we are, therefore, constrained to allow the decision of all our members to park their trucks as from tomorrow 22 to 23, September 2020, as warning.
“And we furthermore, issue 10 day-ultimatum with effect from 24, September 2020 for a full-blown withdrawal of service.”