Fuel scarcity looms as NUPENG threaten to widen strike action!

The week-long fuel crisis in Abuja is likely to spread all over the country from tomorrow when the oil workers’ union said it will widen its strike to cover all the states.

Abuja has been experiencing fuel scarcity since Wednesday last week when the FCT chapter of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) began a strike, disrupting Eid el-Fitr travels for many people.

By Friday, most fuel stations in the capital city shut down and they remained closed as at yesterday, while black marketers sell petrol at about N350 per litre.

As this went on in the FCT, fuel supplies remained generally normal in other parts of the country.

But this is likely to change beginning from tomorrow when NUPENG said it would go on national strike to press on government to pay billions in outstanding subsidy claims, among other demands.

Speaking at a news conference in Lagos yesterday, NUPENG president Achese Igwe said the subsidy backlog was posing threats to jobs of the union’s members who are in the employ of oil marketers.

The subsidy arrears standoff took a new dimension late last week when the Federal Ministry of Finance published names of 21 oil marketing companies that it said were indicted in the government subsidy probe, and accused them of stoking the fuel crisis as a blackmail tool.

The ministry also said it had begun to repay marketers whose claims were verified to be authentic.

But Achese yesterday questioned the veracity of the payment claims, and challenged the ministry to publish the names of the beneficiaries.

He denied allegation by Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the union was being used by indicted oil marketers to cause fuel crisis.

He said the refusal to pay the subsidy claims were a ploy by government to stoke crisis.

“This is a plan for them to put-up the refineries for privatisation to their cronies at ridiculous rates. That is why we are asking the minister on the rationale behind the selective payments of the subsidy claims if her hands are clean,” he said.

“We also state emphatically that if the government is sincere in its subsidy payment, without having a selfish interest, why are they not fully implementing the findings of the ad hoc committee on subsidy set up by the House of Representatives?”

He urged the Federal Government to undertake turn-around maintenance on the refineries to boost fuel supply.