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PENGASSAN strike begins today in Nigeria

*Fuel queues return to Lagos, persists in Abuja, others

Nigeria’s oil situation has deteriorated by Sunday evening with the order of closure of filling stations following threats by members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) to embark on a nationwide strike from midnight Monday.

The lingering petrol scarcity which pretended to be thinning out in many parts of the country grew worse on Sunday in Lagos, Abuja, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Niger states as many filling stations were shut.

Many fillings stations that dispensed petrol during the week refused to sell the commodity on Sunday, as some of their managers stated that they were obeying the directives of PENGASSAN.

Officials of PENGASSAN said that the Department of State Services (DSS) had invited the association to a meeting, which commenced at 6pm on Sunday and was still ongoing as of the time of filing this report.

The lingering supply shortfall was largely responsible for the queues at filling stations.

He said a new vessel, which came in on Friday and had started discharging about 35 million litres of PMS, would improve the supply situation at depots and filling stations this week.

The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Ndu Ughamadu, said in a tele on Sunday that the management of the NNPC was meeting officials of PENGASSAN.

“As we speak right now, the NNPC is holding consultations with the association on this matter and we are optimistic to reach a resolution and common ground,” he said.

On the meeting with the DSS, the Public Relations Officer, PENGASSAN, Fortune Obi, said it was as a result of the planned strike by the association.

He stated, “At the moment, nothing has changed but we will be having a meeting with the Department of State Services by 6pm today (Sunday). That is the latest development. However, we will still go ahead with our Central Working Committee meeting Monday morning. The strike is supposed to become effective from Monday midnight.

“The meeting with the DSS should be basically on the strike issue and I think the management officials of Neconde are likely going to be at the meeting.”

PENGASSAN had announced last week that it would embark on an indefinite strike from Monday midnight following a stalemate in the peace meeting, which the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, brokered between the union and Neconde Energy Limited.

The oil union and Neconde had been embroiled in a crisis over allegation of anti-worker practices by the firm.

The union alleged that the management of Neconde wrongly terminated the employment of some of its workers and threatened to go on strike if the sacked workers were not recalled within 72 hours.

It was also gathered that officials of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment were meeting with the association to shelve the strike in order to prevent further hardship on the people.

The Federal Government appealed to PENGASSAN to shelve its planned strike in the spirit of the ongoing conciliation between it and Neconde Energy Services.

It said that the appeal was imperative in order to save Nigerians from further hardship, especially in the Christmas and the New Year seasons.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, in a statement in Abuja on Sunday, asked the Central Working Committee of PENGASSAN to reconsider its decision.

He urged the union to respect the agreement and call off the scheduled action in the interest of the nation, “more so when adequate notice of strike was not given.”

The statement by the Deputy Director, Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, noted that Ngige had on December 13 and 14, 2017 brokered long hours of conciliation between PENGASSAN and Neconde Energy Services and secured an agreement.

It added that with the agreement, the impending action by PENGASSAN was effectively arrested in line with the provisions of the relevant labour laws whose powers were invested in the minister.

“By that agreement, Neconde shall invite the sacked branch chairman of PENGASSAN and hold heart-to-heart discussion with him, while PENGASSAN is to hold back the proposed action pending the reconvening of the meeting in the second week of January 2018 when other contending issues relating to other oil companies would also be sorted out,” the ministry explained.

The Executive Secretary, Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association, Mr. Olufemi Adewole, said the queues would not disappear overnight, adding, “Once there is a gap, you need to double or triple your effort to bridge the shortfall and bring everything back to normal. It’s taking quite a while but we are working on it.

“I know some of our members have started loading; when I say loading, they are receiving from the NNPC; so, once it gets to their depots, they will start trucking out.”

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