Queues by motorists for Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, surfaced in parts of Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger states on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers threatened to embark on strike.
NUPENG had given the Federal Government a two-week strike notice, raising the possibility of fuel scarcity across the country in the coming weeks.
NUPENG members basically control the downstream arm of the oil sector and an industrial action by the union would ground the supply and distribution of petrol nationwide.
Citing the need to attend to oil workers’ welfare, NUPENG said it would begin the proposed strike at the expiration of the notice.
But oil marketers explained on Tuesday that the threat by NUPENG triggered the rush for petrol despite the fact that the two weeks ultimatum given by the union was over one week away.
“The downstream oil sector responds to shocks swiftly and any shift or threat to products’ supply could trigger queues at filling stations by motorists,” the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, told our correspondent.
Although some petrol stations in the affected areas in Abuja, Nasarawa and Niger states were shut, the ones that dispensed petrol on Tuesday were greeted with queues.
This was despite assurances by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited that it had enough supply to last all through the festive period and beyond.
Motorists formed long queues at the Major Oil filling station along airport road when driving from the Life Camp area of Abuja on Tuesday afternoon.
Also, our correspondent observed the long queues at the Shema filling station in Nyanya, Nasarawa State, while the same situation played out at another NNPC outlet in Zuba, Niger State on Tuesday afternoon.
The NNPC retail outlet on Arab Road in Kubwa also recorded queues, as motorists and other petrol seekers thronged the filling station in search for the commodity.
Officials of the NNPC insisted that the company had enough stock and described the queues as panic buying by motorists.
The oil firm had repeatedly urged the general public not to engage in panic buying of PMS, as it announced last week that NNPC had over 1.7 billion litres of petrol in stock and that more product was expected to arrive into the country daily over the coming weeks and months.
“It is therefore unnecessary to entertain any fear of scarcity of petrol throughout the festive season and beyond,” the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Garba-Deen Muhammad, had stated.
When asked what was being done to stop the strike, the spokesman, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said he could not confirm whether the union had formally informed the ministry about their planned action.
He stated, “If they don’t bring the issues to the ministry we cannot respond. As long as we don’t have document (on the strike threat), we cannot respond to the issue. If they bring the document to the ministry, we shall surely conciliate. I cannot confirm if they have brought the issue to the ministry, my boss has not told me about it, so I cannot confirm it.”