Oil Workers’ Union, NUPENG Shelves Strike

A worker inspects facilities on an upstream oil drilling platform in the Niger Delta in 2009. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

A worker inspects facilities on an upstream oil drilling platform in the Niger Delta in 2009. By Pius Utomi Ekpei (AFP/File)

The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, has on Thursday night shelved a planned strike to protest the refusal of government to pay subsidy claims to indicted petrol importers after talks in Abuja.

They had threatened to start the strike on Friday if outstanding subsidy cash is not paid to marketers. Yesterday’s meeting lasted over seven hours.

“The strike action has been called off… Within two weeks we will come back again, to sit down to look at the issues again,” National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers President Igwe Achese told reporters in Abuja.

He directed tanker drivers to resume the distribution of petroleum products to Abuja which has been hit with scarcity since last week, causing long queues of motorists at petrol stations.

“We have also directed immediately that our tanker drivers should go back to work and make sure product is being lifted into Abuja” he said.

In Lagos, long lines formed on Wednesday because of panic buying.

The union claims some 15,000 of its members have not been paid by petrol sellers, saying the government is to blame for the salary backlog because the authorities have not made fuel subsidy payments to petrol sellers.

The petrol sellers have claimed they cannot pay tanker drivers because of cash shortages.

The minister added that the Federal Government and the unions agreed to work together towards finding a lasting solution to all the issues in dispute.

He noted that the meeting set up a two sub committees to look into issues concerning unfair labour practices in the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and of penalty clauses in the Petroleum Products Price Regulatory rules.

The parties agreed on a platform of the Federal Government, Labour and all critical stakeholders to develop infrastructure and the rehabilitation of refineries.

To make fuel affordable, Nigeria has frozen the price of a litre at 97 naira ($0.60), lower than market rate, and fuel sellers expect subsidy payments from the government to make up the difference.

However, the subsidy programme has been found to be rife with corruption, including false claims and overpayments.

In April, a parliamentary probe said Nigeria lost $6.8 billion (5.3 billion euros) between 2009 and 2011 through the subsidy programme.

Some indicted importers have since been taken to court.

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