PENGASSAN issues strike notice over oil theft, holds rallies in Abuja, Lagos, others today

Another round of fuel crisis might be in the offing as the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) threatened to embark on a nationwide strike over rising cases of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

Addressing a press conference, yesterday, in Abuja, on the theme, ‘Chasing Oil Thieves and Vandals Out of Business’, PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo, said government must gather political will to chase out oil thieves vandalising the nation’s pipelines. He noted that oil theft has crumbled the economy, insisting the union will no longer sit back and watch.

This was as Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, solicited “100 per cent support” from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to be able to float the country’s shipping fleet.

Sambo stated this in Abuja, yesterday, while receiving an interim report on establishment of a sustainable fleet. He said: “I don’t know whether, in the course of the committee’s consultations with other stakeholders, you were able to have some conversations with the NNPC, because if NNPC can give 100 per cent support, this matter can be closed in two months.”

OSIFO said, beginning today, (Thursday), the union will organise rallies in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri, Kaduna and Abuja to show its anger over the menace.

He lamented that due to oil theft, Nigeria can no longer meet the OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels per day, even as the country struggles to produce a million barrels.

Osifo said the union had dialogued with critical stakeholders, agencies of government and service chiefs on how to curb the menace. He said series of meetings had not yielded desired result because cartels are feasting on the economy.

He said: “This is a menace that is overtaking the country. This is the reason Nigeria keeps borrowing to finance the national budget. Enough is enough! We have to add our voices to the current struggle. It is not going to be a one-off thing. Companies are shutting down; our members are losing their jobs in services and production companies.”

He urged service chiefs to hold officers manning pipelines accountable, stressing that anyone who compromises should be made to face the law.

MEANWHILE, Sambo said he is keenly interested in the establishment of a national fleet, given that Nigeria is a maritime country. He said if right steps are taken, the country will have no business looking for money from the oil sector.

He added: “How can we, being an oil producer? I think we are the sixth largest oil producers in the world, and I don’t think that position has shifted. Yet, we don’t have one single boat carrier.”(The Guardian)