Fuel tanker owners threaten strike

Nigerians may be forced to contend with another round of fuel crisis in the next one week, as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, said it has issued an ultimatum to the government over some unresolved issues affecting their operations.

NARTO is the central platform for all owners of the trucks and tankers used in conveying petroleum products from Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, depots to filling stations across the country.

The national president of the association, Kassim Bataiya, said a letter dated January 15, 2015 has already been sent to the Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF to warn them that it would be compelled to boycott all its activities if the grievances of its members were not resolved within ten days.

According to Mr. Bataiya, the services to be affected include loading and transportation of petroleum products from tank farms and depots throughout the country.

He said NARTO was compelled to issue the ultimatum over some challenges its members were confronted with as a result of the implementation of Project Aquila by the Board of the PEF.

Project Aquila is an electronic business solution introduced by the petroleum agency to help monitor the loading, transportation and delivery of petroleum products at all depots.

The management of the PEF had said that cases of illegal transactions in the downstream sector of the petroleum sector would be largely curtailed with Project Aquila.

However, the association said it has come under intense pressure by its members to suspend its operations of distributing petroleum products all over the country pending when the issues involved in the project would be resolved.

“The implementation of Project Acquila has been bedevilled with various problems, which have been impeding the operations of NARTO as a vital stakeholder in the petroleum products distribution network in the country,” Mr. Bataiya said.

He listed some of the issues affecting their smooth operations to include slow response from application of Aquila to up to three months; locations for fixing Aquila, which are few and far apart, leading to trucks travelling over 500 kilometers for that purpose.

The other problems include undue delay in freight payments, leading to cash flow problems for NARTO members and problematic transmission from old to new Aquila procedures.

“The response to the application of Aquila has been very slow taking up to three months in some cases, whereas bank loans amortisation does not wait,” the Association said in its letter to the PEF.

It also drew attention to the non-payment of some its members’ entitlements for several months on the excuse that Aquila does not capture already delivered products.

NARTO also alleged that there was inconsistencies in the Aquila programme leading to three sets of Aquilas within three years of its introduction, resulting in additional costs on its members.

The association said the decision to issue the ultimatum followed the refusal of the PEF to implement decisions already taken to resolve most of the issues at various meetings with its management.

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