The leadership of the state oil firm, NNPC, has scheduled a meeting with striking tanker drivers whose strike is already affecting the distribution of petroleum products across Nigeria.
The Petroleum Tankers Drivers, PTD, section of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, commenced the strike on Monday.
The spokesperson of the NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Maikanti Baru, has scheduled a meeting with leaders of the oil workers for Monday afternoon.
Mr. Ughamadu said representatives of the National Association of Transport Owners, NARTO, the employers of the drivers, would also be attending the meeting scheduled for the NNPC Towers in Abuja.
The tanker drivers had said at the end of their Central Working Committee, CWC, meeting in Lagos on Friday that their demands included a reminder to the federal government on some unresolved issues bordering on their welfare.
The NUPENG President, Igwe Achese, had said the welfare issues included the perennial problem of bad roads, poor salaries and other conditions of service, insecurity and alleged high-handedness of some security operatives against their members.
But, Mr. Ughamadu said the NNPC management was uncomfortable with some underlining issues about the strike, which appeared beyond what the tanker drivers have given as reasons for their latest action.
Although Mr. Ughamadu refused to expatiate on these underlining issues, another senior official of the national oil company said they may not be unconnected with an attempt by some union leaders to politicise the NNPC management’s recent decision to recover huge debts from some products marketers.
The official, who requested that his name should not be revealed, as he does not have the permission to speak, said it appeared some oil workers were sympathetic to the travails of the chairman of Capital Oil & Gas Limited, Ifeanyi Ubah.
The official said the oil workers, particularly in the south-west zone, were pushing for the current strike to arm-twist the NNPC to abandon its resolve to recover its debt from some oil marketers.
“It is clear that the tanker drivers’ union has been infiltrated by members sympathetic to Mr. Ubah, particularly in the South-West led by the Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Tokunbo Korodo.
“But, we should guard against politicising the issue. We should try to divorce genuine issues affecting the welfare of members from those affecting NNPC’s legal effort to recover its debt,” the official said.
Recently, the NNPC petitioned the State Security Service, SSS, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as well as the committee in charge of the downstream oil industry in the National Assembly to facilitate the recovery of the ‘missing’ 130 million litres of premium motor spirit, PMS, popularly called petrol.
The missing product, valued at about N11 billion, was owned by the NNPC Retail, a downstream subsidiary of the NNPC, but stored in the products depots belonging to Capital Oil & Gas and MRS Petroleum as part of the NNPC national strategic reserve.
The products stored in the companies’ private facilities under a throughput arrangement was used in controversial circumstances without proper authorisation from the NNPC.
In the past one week, Mr. Ubah has been reporting to the SSS headquarters in Abuja twice daily to hold discussions expected to culminate in an agreement on a debt repayment schedule.
So far, sources close to the security agency told PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Ubah was unable to come up with an acceptable schedule on when he would repay the debt, blaming the NNPC for refusing to consider several written requests for full reconciliation of accounts for debts owed his company over the last two years.