Long queues of motorists resurfaced in most petrol filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory and Minna, Niger State capital, on Monday following the commencement of a three-day warning strike by the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers.
The strike is scheduled to end on Wednesday (tomorrow), after which the union plans to embark on an indefinite industrial action if its demands are not met.
Many petrol filling stations in Abuja and Minna refused to sell petrol to stranded motorists and gave no reason for their action, while motorists besieged the few filling stations that opened for business.
In Lagos, the effect of the strike was not felt on Monday as many filling stations sold the product, but marketers said the situation might change on Tuesday (today) or the day after if the demands of NUPENG were not met.
However, the Secretary-General, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Obafemi Olawore, said the strike might lead to slight scarcity in Lagos if people embarked on panic buying of petrol from Tuesday.
While motorists decried the impact of the strike on business activities in the FCT, those who spoke with one of our correspondents expressed diverse views as to why NUPENG always resorted to industrial action as a way of pressing home its demands.
Mr. Okafor Nelson, a motorist on a queue at the Oando petrol station, Central Area, Abuja, said, “Must they (NUPENG) ground activities because of their grievance with oil companies in the country? And must the government and the generality of Nigerians pay for the mischief of a few companies?”
Another motorist, who simply gave his name as Stanley, said the strike was the best option available for the union since the government had failed to listen to its demands over time.
Although Stanley described the rush for petrol as “panic buying,” he, however, said it was surprising to see that many filling stations had decided not to sell the commodity because of the warning strike by NUPENG.
“People say this rush is panic buying and I think it is true. But why is it that many filling stations all the way from Kubwa are not selling? I bought N1,000 worth of petrol yesterday, but when I got there this morning, they said they are not selling even though they have the product. This is ridiculous,” he said.
The National President, NUPENG, Mr. Achese Igwe, told our correspondent that the union had ordered workers to stop loading products at the depots.
He said the strike became necessary following longstanding labour dispute between it and some major oil companies in the country.
Igwe had said on Sunday, “We are going on strike from tomorrow (Monday). We issued an ultimatum and since then, there has not been any improvement. We had wanted to embark on this strike earlier but we shifted it till Monday.
“We want to see a serious commitment on the side of government on this issue.”
He said the strike was also to protest the refusal of Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners to implement the signed collective bargaining agreement with the petroleum tanker drivers.
A motorist in Minna, Mallam Isah Ilya, described the situation as a setback for the transformation of the oil and gas sector.
He said, “I think it is really very sad that we are back to those days when we have to queue at filling stations to get fuel.
“The Federal Government needs to step in and meet with the oil unions with a view to finding a lasting solution to this perennial problem.”
Information from Punch was used in this report.