The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, yesterday, blamed the upsurge in fuel queues in filling stations across the country on the activities of unions in the petroleum industry who have pitted themselves against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
She made government's position known while fielding questions from State House Correspondents on the lingering fuel scarcity.
The minister said that this was happening despite the fact that government was doing its best to give other oil marketers level playing field to own tank farms instead of an individual owning many thereby holding the nation to ransom when it comes to offloading fuel at the ports.
A recent sack of some oil workers by Shell had sparked a protest by NUPENG and PENGASEN. The unions threatened to embark on strike if their request to government to intervene and ask Shell to recall their colleagues was not granted by December 4. The unions eventually embarked on strike.
Alison-Madueke said, "Well, we had a slight union issue over the last few days which we are also trying to handle that created the upsurge again in the fuel queues but that is well on its way to being sorted out and so it will go down again.
"I think that the NNPC is doing everything it can to ensure that there is a level playing field for all interested marketers and operators. You will bear in mind that these are private sector operators and marketers who actually set up their facilities to make a profit and what we do on government side is to support them in terms of the allocations."
On the pessimism that the yuletide is likely going to be celebrated with fuel queues, the minister said, "We are doing everything possible to ensure that it did not happen. Initially, the queues came out of the whole fuel subsidy issue and the fact of course that verifications of certain amounts and certain marketers' claims were being made very stringently and this had toned down.
"We cannot eat our cake and have it. We cannot keep calling out for transparency and accountability and pointing at corruption if we are not prepared to bear some of the hardship that will obviously come when you are trying to clean up a sector," he said.