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Fuel scarcity worsens as tanker drivers begin indefinite strike

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By Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
HOPE of early end to the current fuel scarcity across the country was yesterday dashed as members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), began an indefinite strike over alleged extortion, harassment, brutality,  arrest and detention of eight of their members by men of the Nigerian Navy at the Naval base, Apapa, Lagos.

But the Naval authorities have dismissed the tanker drivers allegations, describing tankers drivers as a group of unruly, undisciplined and people who have constituted a menace to other road users especially around the base.

Chairman of Western Zone of Chairman, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo, told Saturday Vanguard that members would not return to work until Naval authorities not only guaranteed the safety of members but also stop their men from extorting tanker drivers.

“For over a month now, men of Nigerian Navy, at the  Naval Base Apapa, have been extorting tankers drivers before allowing them to pass through to NIPCO Plc depot to load products. Since the fuel scarcity started, they have been demanding between N5,000 and N30,000 from tanker drivers before allowing them to pass. Because of this, yesterday (Thursday), we held a meeting with their leaders who told us that if it is true that the tankers drivers are being extorted, we should take the identities of those involved and that if possible, we should take their photograph and get back to them.

So, this morning (yesterday), when they started, our members challenged them and resisted. The Chairman of NIPCO unit of PTD, Alhaji Ambali, who led others to challenge them was beaten to a coma. Eight of our members were arrested and detained at the Naval Base, Apapa, while many others were seriously brutalised.  Other members had to run away to prevent the Naval personnel from brutalising and arresting them.

The Naval personnel were threatening  to deal with any tanker driver seen  around the vicinity. Because of that, members have decided to withdraw their services until further notice. So, members have since morning stopped  lifting products.”

But the Naval authorities dismissed the tanker drivers allegation, describing them as a group of unruly, undisciplined and people who have constituted themselves into a menace on the road.

Speaking to Saturday Vanguard on telephone, Director of Naval Information, Commodore David Nabaida, said neither was any tanker driver arrested nor brutalised, stressing that even the allegation of extortion was unfounded.

He noted that contrary to the tanker drivers’ claims, “a tanker driver used his tanker to block the road and caused a heavy traffic. When our men came down to find out what was happening, the tanker driver abandoned the truck and ran away.

Our men had to tow the tanker to Naval dump site. This incident happened in the morning. Nobody was arrested or brutalised.

You know how these people behave. They are a group of unruly and undisciplined people who like to constitute menace on the road. Immediately, they started saying they would go on strike. Because they transport an important community needed by everybody, does that give them the right to block the road and prevent other road users from using the road?”

He challenged the tanker drivers to provide evidence of any extortion by his personnel and see if such officer would not be disciplined.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.