By Bassey Udo
THe Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Sunday offered to intervene in the repairs of the bad portions of the country’s roads network to avoid the disruption of fuel supplies across the country.
The offer followed the declaration by oil workers under the aegis of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), the arm of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to commence a nationwide strike action from Monday.
The PTD said their decision to embark on the strike was to protest the deplorable state of the country’s highways and other unresolved issues bordering on the welfare of their members.
The South-west Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Tayo Aboyeji, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos the union has lost many of their members to accidents due to bad roads.
Aboyeji said the union has already directed all its members nationwide to withdraw their services effective Monday as the protest begins.
“This is not the first time we will signify our intention to go on strike and have to call it off at the last minute for the fear that such an action would generally affect majority of Nigerians. But now, our hands are tied, because the government seems not tk ne doing anything about the situation.
“When a truck loads petroleum products in Lagos, the drivers spend five to six days to get to Abuja, because of the shameful state of the roads.
“All calls by the executive of NUPENG for the repairs of these roads have fallen on the deaf ears of the government, as the highways continue to deteriorate nationwide.
“The tanker drivers have been going through harrowing situations while rendering selfless national service.
“The increasing rate of fire incidents involving petroleum tankers, with accompanying massive destruction of lives and properties of our members and general public, is enough.
“This is because of government’s failure to enforce installation of safety gadgets on tanker to protect their trucks from spilling the highly inflammable contents on the road, resulting in accident,” the union leader said.
He said the oil workers see the failure of the government to repair the roads as the height of insensitivity to ghe lives of innocent Nigerians, and the union cannot continue to fold its hands while its members are burnt everyday and everywhere.
Aboyeji said the union gave the government adequate notice to take steps “to put all these issues in order to avert the nationwide strike on Monday.”
However, the NNPC in statement by its spokesperson, Garbadeen Mohammed, urged the tanker drivers to take the interest and welfare of the Nigerian people into consideration and call off its planned strike action.
“The strike is about the condition of roads in various parts of Nigeria, which are used for the distribution of goods and services, including petroleum products.
“However, even though it is not the responsibility of the NNPC to build or rehabilitate roads, any disruption in the distrubution of petroleum products to different parts of Nigeria will adversely affect the business of the NNPC and endanger energy security, which the country has enjoyted for a long time now.
“In recognition of this, the NNPC wishes to assure the Petroleum Tanker Drivers that in addition to the ongoing efforts by other agencies of government, the NNPC has initiated a process that will provide a quick and effective solution to the roads network challenges as expressed by the PTD.
“Having recognised that the major reason slowing down the rehabilitation of the road networks in the country is the paucity of funds, the NNPC has expressed interest to invest in the reconstruction of select Federal roads under the Federal Government’s Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Task Credit Scheme,” Mohammed said.
He said the thrust of the NNPC’s intervention would be to make considerable funds available for the reconstruction of roads through it Future Tax Liability.
As a responsible corporate entity, he said NNPC recognises the legitimate concerns of the PTD, but however appeal to the leadership and members of the union to reconsider their decision in the overall national interest.
Urginh PTD to immediately call off the strike notice and give the current efforts by government and its agencies a chance to solve the challenges in the interest of all, Mohammed said enjoined Nigerians not to engage in panic buying of petroleum products as the NNPC has sufficient stock to last through this festive season and beyond.