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Relief for Nigerians as NUPENG suspends planned strike

…NNPC to fix deplorable highways

Nigerians can breathe a sigh of relief as the National Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers (NUPENG) on Sunday suspended its strike planned to commence from Monday, October 11, following a meeting with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which has committed to fixing some highways in the country.

The planned strike could have resulted in petroleum products scarcity as tanker drivers (PTD) who are under NUPENG had been fully mobilised to withdraw their services – product lifting from depots and supply to filling stations.

Olawale Afolabi, the general secretary of NUPENG, in a telephone interview with BusinessDay on Sunday evening, said the strike was shelved after a meeting with the NNPC during which the union extracted a commitment from the oil company to address its demands.

One of the key demands of NUPENG was for the government to fix collapsed highways which continue to cause accidents and claim lives of tanker drivers nationwide.

“The NNPC gave us a commitment to utilise part of funds, just like Dangote is doing, to fix identified highways. They also assured us that they address the issue of safety valve. But we’re going to meet with them again on Tuesday to take decision on some of the roads to be fixed and the timeline,” Afolabi said.

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On its part, the NNPC disclosed plans to invest in the reconstruction of select federal roads as way of addressing the grievances of the petroleum tanker drivers to move products across the country.

The corporation, in a statement signed by its group general manager, group public affairs division, Garba DMuhammad, also appealed to the union to shelve its planned strike in the interest and welfare of the Nigerian people.

“Even though it is not the responsibility of the NNPC to build or rehabilitate roads, any disruption in the distribution of petroleum products to different parts of Nigeria will adversely affect the business of the NNPC and endanger energy security, which the country has enjoyed for a long time now,” the statement read.

“In recognition of this, the NNPC wishes to assure the petroleum tanker drivers that in addition to ongoing efforts by other agencies of government, the NNPC has initiated a process that will provide a quick and effective solution to the road network challenges as expressed by the petroleum tanker drivers.

“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.”

“We also wish to strongly advise Nigerians not to engage in panic buying of petroleum products as the NNPC has sufficient stock to last through this festive season and beyond,’ he said.

Tayo Aboyeji, the South-West Zonal chairman of NUPENG, had said on Saturday that the tanker drivers would commence strike on Monday (today) over the deplorable state of the nation’s highways and other issues.

Aboyeji said the union has lost many lives and property due to bad roads.

“This is not the first time that we will signify our intention to go on strike but we have to call it off because it will generally affect the majority of Nigerians but now our hands are tied,” he said.

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