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Our problems with government-planned deregulation, NUPENG

Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
NIGERIA Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), has said organised labour will continue to find it difficult to support Federal Government’s planned full deregulation of the downstream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry because among other things, the policy will add little or no value to Nigeria’s quest for self-reliance and industrialization.

President of NUPENG, Comrade Igwe Achese, told Sweet Crude that several hurdles and impediments to efficient distribution of products and fair pricing of the products have not been addressed, stressing that this position was made known to government by labour at the recent NNPC organised stakeholders meetings in both Abuja and Lagos.

According to him: “Yes as a union I must confess to you, I have been bitter in my mind that this country would continue as an oil-producing country, a major oil-producing country, plan to continuously import petroleum products. It pains me when we hear people talk about having products and that the products are on the high sea.

This kind of thing can only happen in Nigeria. What we want to hear as a union is, that we have products, our refineries are functioning but the quantity produced from these refineries cannot serve us and so, we want to import few quantity to supplement. So, we have some products on the high sea to support and in future, we are thinking of building additional refineries to meet up the challenge. This is just what common sense dictates and this is what we want to hear.

We have told them during the stakeholders’ meetings in Lagos and Abuja. Our position is to make sure we put pressure on government to make existing refineries function to serve Nigerians and to build additional ones.

We all have a responsibility because government keeps laying emphasis on pipeline vandalism and so on and so forth, I do not believe that the effect of pipeline vandalism is what is causing the refineries not to function as expected. Because some of us have asked ourselves, why are the refineries not functioning? If today we say the pipelines are okay, that they can move in products, could the refineries produce at least 70% capacity?

We want to see a situation where government decentralizes petroleum products distribution system. In a situation where all products are being concentrated in one location, which is Lagos, is difficult for product distribution.

“Even if you are importing products as a country that is not an oil-producing country, you cannot centralize the distribution processes in one location. That itself has a lot of challenges such as the massive trucks moving into Lagos and its attendant problems. We want a situation were NNPC should also be thinking of how to establish more jetties outside Lagos. Government should think of establishing more jetties and to make sure there is equity in the distribution of these products to other parts where we have jetties, eg, Calabar.

Port Harcourt is also a major environment where we have other depots around, so that you de-congest a particular environment to avoid incessant crisis that rocks the system. It is a major concern to us. It is not an easy job for a tanker driver to haul the product from Lagos here to the north with all the bad roads we have in this country. We know how many of our members have lost their lives hauling petroleum products to far north from Lagos, and to far east. So we are asking government to make sure our roads are fixed and the refineries are working.

The NNPC distribution strategies should be geared towards spreading these products across depots that they think they can make use of rather than centralizing it in Lagos and then having flocks of trucks come into Lagos to for haulage of products. These are the issues government must address.

I want to assure Nigerians that NUPENG is 100% ready and committed to transport products to wherever they want provided, with emphasis, there are good roads that can enable us competently haul products to wherever they want it, especially when the products are available. It is our responsibility to transport these products.”


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