PENGASSAN begins strike, Fayose blames FG for fuel scarcity

The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) said it had mobilised its members for a nationwide strike beginning from today following inability of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kackikwu, to resolve the disagreement between it and an oil and gas firm, Neconde.

The industrial action will worsen the current fuel crisis in some parts of the country.

A meeting facilitated by Kachikwu in Abuja at the weekend between PENGASSAN and Neconde over the sack of some workers by the oil company was deadlocked.

PENGASSAN, in a statement by its National Public Relations Officer, Fortune Obi, said the union would hold an emergency meeting this morning. He said the oil workers were being put on standby for the strike that might begin midnight today.

PENGASSAN had issued a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government, warning that the industrial action would result in shutting down of oil and gas installations and disruption of fuel supply across the country.

The union is also protesting against alleged anti-labour practices by some indigenous oil and gas companies, marginal field operators and agencies of government.

The Communications Manager of Neconde, Segun Fafore, told that the allegations against the firm by the oil workers were unfounded. He said the workers were sacked due to failure to meet the firm’s expectations after series of assessment.

“The allegations against us are unfounded. As an organisation that is performance-driven, we do reviews and we pass assessment regardless that you are an affiliate of a labour union. If you don’t measure up to the expected standard, you’ll be sacked. It is propaganda to ensure that unnecessary attention is focused on us.

“We will continue to operate above the standard level and we’ll continue to protect the welfare of our workers. We don’t just throw people out, we review our performance frequently and any one that does not work to meet up will be walked out,” Fafore said.

Meanwhile, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose has accused the Federal Government of causing the current fuel scarcity to justify alleged plan to increase the pump price of petrol from N145 to N185 per litre.

In a statement, Fayose said: “Petrol is scarce across the country because the Federal Government deliberately reduced supply since it is only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is importing the product.

“Allowing fuel scarcity to persist for over two weeks when Nigerians are preparing to celebrate Christmas and New Year is the height of wickedness on the part of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government.

“Funny enough, instead of directing its anger at President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Minister of Petroleum on December 7, 2017, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) choose to give the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu seven days ultimatum to end the fuel scarcity. Today is December 17, exactly ten days after the misplaced
 ultimatum was given, the situation has even gotten worse.”

“By the time PENGASSAN goes on strike as being threatened,
 the whole country will be shut down and one wonders what will become
 of Nigerians that desire to move around during the festive season.”

The governor urged the government
 to tell Nigerians the truth about fuel supply in the
 country, noting that the restriction of supply to NNPC caused the situation.

“The thinking is that by 
the time the scarcity persists for like one month, with Nigerians 
already buying at N200 per litre, the people will jump at it if petrol price 
is increased from N145 to N185 per litre. This time, Nigerians will resist any attempt to further impoverish 
them by increasing the price of petrol.”

Fayose said that instead of the Federal Government withdrawing $1 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Account to fight insurgency, it should tackle hunger in the country.

He threatened to challenge the decision of the government to withdraw the money that belongs to all tiers of government.

“In the first instance, the money belongs to the federal, state and local governments and if anything would be taken out of it, it must be with support and agreement of all tiers. If there is any tier that is not interested in spending the money in a particular manner, the total amount must be calculated and the said tier of government be given its appropriate money.

“States and local governments have peculiar needs and many are finding it difficult to meet their constitutional obligations. There are many ‘harams’ in the land that we must fight and hunger is one of them,” he said.