by crossriverwatch admin
The three days warning strike by junior oil industry workers is causing severe hardship on motorists and commuters in Calabar the Cross River State capital.
The fuel scarcity has hit the city since Monday following the strike by Natural Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, over their disagreement with major oil companies and government.
A CrossRiverWatch correspondent who went round Calabar on Tuesday report that most major and independent marketers’ filling stations in the city have been shut since Monday morning leaving the NNPC mega station to sell fuel to hundreds of motorist on the queue. Groups of stranded commuters were also seen huddled in groups in the rain with some clutching umbrellas to take shelter from the rain.
From Calabar Road to Muritala Muhammed Highway, Mary Slessor, Marian road and Mayne Avenue, there was a huge presence of the black marketers who sold the product to the highest bidders while the filling stations remain closed.
Findings further revealed that major marketers were monitoring their stations in Calabar to ensure 100 percent compliance while few independent marketers selling fuel jack up the price to as much as 200 Naira per liter.
The fuel scarcity has caused transportation fares to rise with taxi and bus drivers doubling the cost for the distances covered. For instance before the strike, the journey from Marian to MCC Road, which is a distance of about three kilometers was 50 Naira but that has jumped to 100 Naira. From 8 Miles which is the outskirts of town was 100 Naira but it now cost 200 Naira.
Commuters and other fuel users who spoke with our correspondent said they have suffered untold hardship in the last 48 hours as a result of the scarcity and urged government to see to the demands of the petroleum workers.
“Somebody told me about the planned strike by NUPENG on Sunday evening but I was too tired to go out to buy fuel; I thought the strike would be gradual not knowing that all stations would be closed on Monday morning”. James Ekpong a resident of the city told CrossRiverWatch.
“I live at Bakoko and to get here at 8 miles Junction I take okada for 50 Naira before I take taxi to the Federal Secretariat for 100 Naira but now the cost has doubled and my salary remains the same, tell me if this strike lasts for two weeks my budget for the month would be wiped out”. Mercy Atta, a federal civil servant moaned.
Miss Geraldine Igbang, a staff with one of the Ministries in Calabar said: “I have to report for duty today before I lose my job because last week I was not in the office on Thursday and Friday because of this rain, today I must get there”.
The federal government in a bid to find a solution, yesterday conveyed an emergency meeting with leaders of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and management of Chevron, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Agip Oil Company as part of efforts to avert a looming fuel scarcity that could result from the oil workers’ strike.
NUPENG on Sunday had directed its members to commence a three-day warning strike to protest alleged inhuman treatment by management of the affected multinational oil companies.
The strike is also to protest the refusal of the Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) to implement the signed collective bargaining agreement with the petroleum tanker drivers and the sorry state of roads across the country.
To ensure the effectiveness of the strike, the union yesterday directed all its members in the depots to stop loading petroleum products for the next three days, while members in all its branches nationwide were to follow suit.
The meeting between the union and the oil companies, which was held at the instance of the Minister of Labor and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, started yesterday evening and was expected to last through the night until there is an amicable resolution to the dispute.
It was gathered that an earlier meeting called by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, could not hold because she was said to have traveled out of the country.
NUPENG President, Igwe Achese, said government was treating the dispute with levity because Alison-Madueke, who convened the meeting was said to have traveled out of town.
Achese called on President Goodluck Jonathan to reshuffle his cabinet as a matter of urgency to ensure that only those who have the interest of Nigeria at heart were in the cabinet.
“We as a union fully support the President because he means well for this nation, but most of the people working with him in his cabinet are only working for their own pockets,” he added.
The union called for a stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the policies operational in the sector, which it said are not in line with international best practices.
Achese also added that there is a need for the Ministry of Petroleum to publicly define what should be termed as ‘core job’ under whose guise multinationals choose to keep staff as contract workers.
Commenting on the hardships being suffered by the looming scarcity, Achese appealed to Nigerians for understanding.
NUPENG had earlier argued before declaring the strike that if the agreement reached with the multinational companies at a meeting called by Wogu in May 2012, was implemented, these issues would have been resolved.
Meanwhile, the National Executive Council (NEC) of NUPENG, met yesterday in Abuja, to strategize on the next line of action, which they said would include an indefinite strike should government and the multinational oil companies fail to address the workers’ grievances.
The NEC meeting deplored the rate of unfair labor practices in the oil and gas sector and insisted that the issues should be addressed finally.
However, the NNPC has assured Nigerians that it has adequate stock of petroleum products to cushion the effect of the ongoing warning strike embarked upon by the oil workers
NNPC yesterday in Abuja, stated that it was doing all it could to reduce the impact of the disruption on the supply of petroleum products as a result of the NUPENG strike.
It said in a statement from its Public Affairs Division that while it was working with relevant stakeholders to ensure quick resolution of the issues, it had in stock over 32 days sufficiency of petrol and other petroleum products.
The NNPC called on members of the public to refrain from panic buying or hoarding of petroleum products.
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