Transporters of petroleum products under the aegis of the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) have threatened to stop lifting petroleum products in the country unless the anomalies in the new electronic payment system for processing of equalisation and bridging allowance, Project Aquila, are corrected.
NARTO issued a two weeks' ultimatum from today (Thursday, September 26) to the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to correct the anomalies in the implementation and enforcement of Project Aquila and other PEF generated problems that are adversely affecting them.
In a communiqué issued and jointly signed by its National President Kassim Ibrahim Bataiya and Executive Secretary Emmanuel Gowon at the end of their third quarter National Executive Council (NEC) meeting for this year in Gombe and Bauchi recently, the association said the ultimatum is necessary to save their members from incuring colossal loss in their business.
Project Aquila, a concept which is being driven by PEF was designed to improve operations in the downstream sector, employing electronic strategy to ease the hitches, delays, issues and gridlocks that occur in the process of loading petroleum products at the depots as well as the distribution of same throughout the country.
The transporters complained in strong terms the negative effects of this policy on their business, arising from its implementation such as scarcity of the tagging equipment and delay in payment processes.
Shedding more light on the problems, Gowon told Daily Trust yesterday that the major problem is that since the PEF insisted that payment must be tied to the Aquila process alone, a transporter losses hope of payment if he has any problem with it.
He said many of their members are now out of business because of Project Aquila hitches such as scarcity of or stolen tags.
"These transporters already have a running contract with the marketers to move their products but they cannot work because if they work they cannot get paid, because the Aquila tags are not there to facilitate the payment process and then two, the Aquila tag is openly placed on the vehicle, making it vulnerable to tampering by unscrupulous people.
"Presently, there are cases of theft of Aquila tags all over, and it is so rampant. A lot of trucks are laying unproductive because their tags have been stolen."
Reacting to the strike notice, the General Manager Corporate Services of the Petroleum Equalisation Management Board (PEF), Mr Goddy Nnadi said that the fund never had any issues with NARTO.
"As I speak, we are supposed to meet with them, to resolve the problems associated with Aquila but they asked us to postpone the meeting."
He said there are now tags available with the fund and as from Monday will begin fixing the tags on trucks in some parts of the country.
"We have tags available now in all our depots and from Monday we will start tagging the vehicles in the North East and other depots will follow. We are sending our officials out for tagging from next week, the issue of stealing the tags is almost over because we have dealt with it," he added.