The nationwide scarcity of petrol worsened on Wednesday as oil workers embarked on a full-scale industrial action, which led to the shutdown of the corporate headquarters of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Abuja as well product depots, mega filling stations and other critical facilities.
The workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, who gathered at the corporation’s headquarters early in the morning, shut the NNPC in protest against the restructuring of the national oil firm by the Federal Government and immediately embarked on a nationwide industrial action.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had on Tuesday evening announced that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the restructuring of the NNPC into seven new divisions, comprising 20 subsidiaries.
But the oil workers said they were aggrieved because they were not carried along in the entire process.
One of our correspondents gathered from some marketers in Lagos that the poor fuel supply situation was exacerbated by the directive of the unions to their operations personnel at the depots in the metropolis not to issue tickets for loading of products to the marketers.
A marketer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The petrol supply situation in Lagos and its environs became worse on Wednesday because of the directive by PENGASSAN and NUPENG to their operations men not to process tickets for the marketers to load the product.
“The supply problem before now has not been addressed. Over 80 per cent of the petrol in the country is being supplied by the NNPC. Out of the seven depots doing throughput, only about three had the product on Wednesday and marketers could not load from them because of the directive by the unions.”
It was gathered that officials of the NNPC who ought to supervise the discharge petrol from vessels into the storage facilities of Aeito, Capital Oil, Ascon, Nipco, Eden Petroleum, MRS and Folawiyo in Lagos did not report for duty in compliance with the directive of the unions.
In Abuja, the main entrance to the corporation’s headquarters was blocked early in the morning. Employees of the corporation and its subsidiaries, whose offices are located in the NNPC Towers, were turned back by the protesting union members.
According to them, the shutdown of the NNPC is nationwide.
The Group Chairman, NUPENG, NNPC Branch, Mr. Odudu Udofia, told journalists in Abuja that the protest by the workers was against the unilateral decision of the minister to reorganise the corporation without carrying along any of the stakeholders, especially the two trade unions in the oil and gas industry.
He stated that workers were suspicious of the reorganisation as nobody could explain its direction, adding that “this even became clearer with the consolidation of operational units that have heavy financial transactions under the office of the GMD.”
Similarly, the Group Chairman, PENGASSAN, NNPC Branch, Mr. Salah Abdulahi, said the unions had earlier expressed their opposition to the reorganisation when it was first raised by the minister during the annual Oloibiri Lecture on March 3, 2016.
Asked if the unions were not concerned about the effect of the strike on the already bad state of fuel supply across the country, Abdulahi said, “The fuel scarcity problem has been there before we embarked on this strike, we did not cause it.
“However, we know this strike will increase it; that’s the only way to let the government know that we are not comfortable with the unbundling or restructuring that it has done at the NNPC.”
Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday directed Kachikwu to appear before it over the restructuring of the NNPC.
The minister, who also doubles as the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, was asked to appear before the Senate Joint committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream, Downstream and Gas) to explain the Federal Government’s action.
A letter signed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Tayo Alasoadura, and sighted by our correspondent, stated that the upper legislative chamber was shocked by the news of the unbundling exercise.
The letter read in part, “Shocked by the announcement, three committees overseeing the industry wish to invite the minister to appear before them to brief them on this critical decision in a meeting scheduled for Thursday.”
Alasoadura said the the action was taken “without recourse to the Act establishing the NNPC and approval by the Senate of Nigeria.”
The Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, also told journalists that the announcement of the unbundling of the corporation had generated issues that the Senate was looking into.