Abdullateef — Oil workers yesterday suspended the day-old strike they embarked upon to protest a major restructuring at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Fuel queues however persist in major cities across the country despite the suspension of the industrial action, Daily Trust findings showed.
At majorfillings stations yesterday, chaos reigned as motorists struggled to buy fuel. Soldiers were drafted to filling stations located opposite the NNPC towers to douse the pressure and also control the resultant traffic gridlock.
Fuel shortages were still being felt in the city before the oil workers downed tools on Wednesday which led to the shutdown of product depots, mega filling stations and other critical facilities thus worsening the fuel distribution glitches.
The NNPC, in a statement yesterday, announced the suspension of the strike by members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN).
It said the strike action was called off after an extensive session presided over by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. IbeKachikwu with the leadership of the unions led by the National Presidents, Comrades IgweAchese and Francis Johnson of NUPENG and PENGASSAN respectively, at the NNPC Towers, Abuja.
The statement added that the in-house unions reviewed their stance after a decision was reached to set up the committee with representatives from the unions and NNPC management to look into the new structure with a view to considering amendment where necessary.
The NNPC noted that consensus was reached on other outstanding issues bordering on pension matters, job security as well as staff performance and appraisal.
Meanwhile, normal activities have since resumed at the towers.
Restructuring in order - Senate
The Senate yesterday said the restructuring of the NNPC did not contravene any law.
The Senate had on Wednesday summoned the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. IbeKachikwu, over an alleged violation of the law establishing NNPC in the restructuring of the corporation.
Addressing newsmen after an executive session with Dr. Kachikwu, chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) Senator JibrinBarau and his Upstreamcounterpart Senator Donald Alaosaodura said the restructuring of the NNPC was in the best interest of Nigerians.
"After our session with the minister, we found out that he did not contravene the law. No law of the NNPC was violated. The only problem was lack of consultation between the ministry, the NNPC and the National Assembly.
"We also found out that what he actually did was in the best interest of the masses. By and large, we are satisfied with his explanations and what he has done," they said.
"The minister also assured us that they will be making profit and that the era of loss in the corporation would be over by July this year," they added.
Why Sokoto is the worst hit
An official of the Department of Petroleum Resources in charge of Sokoto and Kebbi,Mohammed Makera,saidyesterdaythat Sokoto is the worst hit in the current fuel scarcity in the country.
He said 98 percent of marketers in the state purchase fuel from third parties because they have no "Bulk Purchase Agreement with the NNPC and as such they could not buy their oil from the government depot."
Makerasaid few of the 242 filling stations in the state entered into such agreement with corporation.
He said out of the 36 trucks sent to the zone, only three were directly coming to Sokoto state while the rest were for Kebbi and Zamfara states.
"Scarcity was caused by the inability of the major marketers to access forex, but the NNPC had supplied enough fuel for the country. If not for the short strike by oil workers the queues in our filling stations would have disappeared by Friday," he said.
In Lagos, our correspondent observed that only few filling stations were dispensing fuel with incredibly long queues.
This has, however, worsened traffic gridlock across Lagos metropolis which many people attribute to the chaotic queues and scramble by motorists to buy fuel.
At Ogunnusi road along Ojodu in Ojodu Local Council Development Area (LCDA), our correspondent observed in the morning that only one filling station close to FRSC office was dispensing fuel with motorists queuing up to Berger Bus Stop.
There was at the same time traffic gridlock along the road.
One Mrs.Effurum told Daily Trust she was trapped in traffic for over two hours on her way to work, adding, "I spent one hour alone trying to cross to the other side of the road where my office is located. I was seeing my office but I couldn't leave my car and walk down to the office".
Other areas where there was huge traffic gridlock were Ayobo to IyanaIpaja, Pen Cinema, IjuIshaga, Ojota, Oregun, IkejaObafemiAwolowo road, Ikeja, Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way Airport road, Oba Akran road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway (Berger), among others.
Many residents have complained about the increasing traffic snarls in Lagos, calling on government to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Jos residents grumble
Residents of Jos, the Plateau State capital are grumbling over the prolonged scarcity of petroleum product as long queues continue to stretch across kilometres in the city.
Findings by Daily Trust reveal that only a few fuel stations including the NNPC mega station around DogonKarfe, were selling fuel. This however attracted very long queues leading to traffic jam on the major roads where the petrol stations are located.
Other petrol stations claimed they had exhausted the product while roadside petrol vendors sold a litre of fuel between N210 and 220.
Mrs Rita Dul, who was queuing at one of the filling stations, said she had been on the queue for almost three hours.
She said "though the NNPC has said that the situation will ease we are still suffering in Jos".
On his part, Alex Amos said "the government should not only concentrate on the availability of fuel in Abuja, Lagos and Kaduna, they should investigate why fuel is not getting to some states.