If there is one thing Nigerians dread, it is fuel scarcity as it heralds several other pains. However, it seems Nigerians should prepare as another fuel scarcity looms large in the horizon, if indications coming from the various unions involved are anything to go by.
For the Federal Government (FG), though, it’s back to the negotiating board where they have spent a lot of time in the past few months. Just as the FG was completing the negotiations with university staff, they had to deal with the possible shutdown of the electricity sector and then the health sector. As it stands, there will be no breathing space as it’s back to the table, this time with the petroleum sector.
First, oil marketers are protesting the non-payment of over N800 billion subsidy claims by the Federal Government. This has led to their making moves to shut down depots nationwide until the payment of the claims, which they claim has left their members financially handicapped and insolvent.
Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) and the Independent Petroleum Products Importers (IPPIs), the four oil marketers’ unions involved claim that the debt had been acknowledged by the FG but had not been approved despite the provision for it in both the 2015 supplementary budget and the 2016 budget.
Secondly, as if the threat by the oil marketers is not enough, another fuel scarcity looms as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have also indicated that they would be embarking on an indefinite strike anytime soon. This was the content of a letter by the unions to their employees, the oil marketers, whose legal adviser, Mr. Patrick Etim, confirmed receipt of.
The reasons for their proposed strike are however, a little trickier than the money-related issues of the oil marketers. According to them, apart from the backlog of salaries owed their members by the oil marketers, they want a redress of the looming job losses in the downstream sector and the current situation which they described as a “continuous deteriorating welfare of their members.”
While it is one thing to pay debts, how the FG is expected to handle the welfare situation between oil marketers and their employees is a greater hurdle as another fuel scarcity looms closer. At best, the FG will hope that payment of the backlog, if they can get that done, will translate into more funds for oil marketers and then in turn, better working conditions for their staff. If not, Nigerians should get ready for another arduous round of fuel scarcity.