The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) workers has declared its support for the imminent industrial action by the Petroleum Tanker Drivers branch of NUPENG, stating that it has started mobilising members of the union for the sudden strike.
This was disclosed in a statement jointly signed on Sunday by the President, Mr Williams Akporeha, and General Secretary, Mr Olawale Afolabi, adding that agreements reached on the matter with the government and other stakeholders in two separate meetings were not upheld.
NUPENG also claimed that its investigations revealed that officials of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing were currently diverting the N621 billion provided by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited for the rehabilitation of 21 critical highways.
“ln as much as we understand the unfortunate situation the Transporters have found themselves, NUPENG, as a responsible and responsive Trade Union Organisation cannot afford to sit idle and watch her able-bodied members continued to be wasted away as sacrificial items as well as the wanton destruction of millions of public lives and properties, so as to manage the operational costs by transporters due to inadequate freight rates being paid to them.
“ln similar vein, you will all recall that at the end of the quarterly Branch Executive Council meeting of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, held at PTD House, Emene, Enugu on the 25th of September, 2O2l, the Union issued a firm and decisive ultimatum on the deplorable state of the federal highways and the painful experiences of our members while carrying out their duties across the country.
“The management team of NNPC under Mallam Mele Kyari immediately apprehended the situation then, to avert the situation of industrial action of the Union, by calling the leadership of the Union to two separate meetings on the 10th of October, 2O21 in Ibadan and 12th October, 2021 in Abuja.
“ln attendance at the 12th October were critical stakeholders such as the FIRS, FRSC, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners and NUPENG.
“These two meetings resulted in the signing of communique indicating the readiness and willingness of NNPC to finance the rehabilitation of identified 21 critical roads at an estimated sum of N621 billion through road infrastructure tax credit scheme.
“On the basis of this communique, the union suspended the intended industrial action, but we were very clear in our statement, that should the spirit and letter of the agreement not fully implemented with a focus on those jointly identified critical roads or attempt is made to divert the funds, the Union will not give further warning to resume the intended actions,” the statement read in part.
NUPENG added that “The officials of the Ministry of Works and Housing are going around showing pictures of roads done in June and August 2021 to justify payment made from the N621bn which was approved in October 2021 for the identified 21 critical roads.
“We have our facts and figures, and we shall not be cowed into allowing the N621bn to go the same way other budgeted funds have gone.”
The union demanded the immediate halt to the further release of the fund until a competent monitoring and validation team comprising all stakeholders that signed the communique was formed.
Although the works ministry in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Boade Akinola, stated that the FMWH was committed to making sure that all the roads financed under the NNPC scheme were completed and delivered as scheduled, NUPENG demanded that the pre-award pictures of the 21 identified roads be taken, which would be compared with pictures of post repairs/reconstruction.
“The N621bn was approved because of our demand and struggle, therefore, we owe our members and the general public the responsibility to ensure that every kobo of the approved fund is accounted for,” NUPENG stated.
It added, “Taxpayers’ money must be accounted for. We demand an immediate review of transport freight rates to reflect the operational realities of the petroleum distribution value chain.
“For these critical issues, we have the mandate of the National Executive Council of the union to commence immediate mobilisation of all our members for resumption of our earlier suspended action.”