Should the current strike action embarked upon by oil workers under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) be allowed to persist beyond Wednesday, Nigerians may likely face one of the worst fuel crisis ever.
Already, the industrial action, which started on Thursday, had crippled loading of petroleum products from the Apapa depots where many marketers bank on as their source of stock.
Following the absence of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Board workers at the ports, fuel distribution has been limited to Lagos and other South-Western states which require no payment of bridging funds controlled by the PEF.
A source, who is an official of an independent marketing company in Lagos, squealed to The Punch that:
“Terminal owners can only load what is in their tanks, but they cannot receive any product now from vessels. If they finish what is in their tanks now and bring in any vessel, the Department of Petroleum Resources is not going to certify it for discharge. They do a lot of tests on any product that comes to Apapa.
“That is how it is going to affect the supply in Lagos if the strike lingers on. Depots in Apapa should finish their stock on or before Wednesday. I don’t see any depot that will still have stock after Wednesday in Apapa.”
Also speaking, the Chairman, Trade Union Congress, Rivers State chapter, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said:
“I think the main impact will be this week when production facilities, export terminals and gas supply to power plants will be shut down. It will affect the government’s revenue significantly. I pray we don’t get to that extent, because the economy is already in a bad shape.
“That is why the government should act fast and engage the union to resolve the issues.”
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation on Friday cautioned members of the public against embarking on any form of panic purchase of petroleum products in anticipation of scarcity due to the ongoing strike”.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has urged PENGASSAN to call off its strike in the interest of the nation.
“The federal government therefore urges PENGASSAN to urgently call off the strike so that all sides will freely negotiate. I am very optimistic that when we sit for negotiation on Monday, July 11, issues that had led to the situation on the ground will be resolved in the greater interest of the nation,” he said as he urged Nigerians to avoid panic buying of petroleum products.