The Federal Government and operators in the downstream oil sector are all culpable for the nationwide prolonged scarcity of the premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria has said.
Oil sector operators in the downstream include: the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, as well as major and independent oil marketers, depot owners, among others.
PENGASSAN, a major union in the oil sector, also stated that the operators were looking for ways to hike the cost of PMS, but stressed that this would be opposed by the union.
The union’s President, Festus Osifo, spoke in Abuja on Thursday at PENGASSAN’s national executive council meeting that was called to address the implications of the numerous challenges confronting Nigeria and oil workers.
The group further opposed the proposed increase in the salaries of lawmakers and other politicians, while calling on the Federal Government to halt its ‘reckless borrowing’.
Speaking on the incessant fuel shortages and price hike, Osifo said, “The persistent shortages of PMS across the country has become a source of pain to the Nigerian people as the current shortages are being perpetuated by players in the downstream sector in order to hike the price far above the government approved threshold.
“It is an added problem when non-state actors begin to arrogate to themselves the power to determine the price of a litre of fuel far above the rate pegged by the government in the current subsidy regime.
“It is more disturbing that the government is equally demonstrating high level of culpability in the unwholesome situation by its silence and unwillingness to frontally and publicly address the harrowing experiences of Nigerians in the current situation, because no concerned and responsive government will bury its head in the sands like the proverbial ostrich while the citizens are being brutally exploited.”
Osifo added, “We demand that the various security agencies, especially the men of Nigerian Customs Service and immigration charged with manning the nation’s borders, act professionally and in dictates to their oaths of allegiances to stop the high rate of smuggling of the products across the West African countries.
“The various depots and other storage facilities, especially those owned and operated by the NNPC, should be upgraded and made accessible to all operators to lift the product.
“Consequently, we demand an immediate end to the avoidable, unnecessary, crippling and pain-inducing fuel shortages and unapproved price hike across the country. No excuse is good enough to cripple the country.”
Osifo stated that if there were challenges, they should be fixed, stressing that “we have a government in power to fix challenges not to make excuses.”
He said PENGASSAN was ready and willing to collaborate with the Federal Government and assist in all ways possible to overcome the country’s present challenges.
“But we caution it not to take the Nigerian people for granted as it seems to be manifestly doing on various crucial national issues,” the PENGASSAN president stated.
The union observed that Nigeria had suffered two recessions in five years under the current administration, with the workers and the poor masses left to bear the brunt, as the economy remained in a bad shape on all fronts.
“Based on the above summations, we view the recent clamour by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to increase the salaries and allowances of top public office holders as highly insensitive and an affront to the struggling masses and the working class,” Osifo stated.
He added, “The only group entitled to pay rise are the downtrodden Nigerian workers and at best Nigeria judges. The President, his Vice, governors, lawmakers and other political appointees do not require pay rise.
“The Economist of London already lists Nigeria’s lawmakers as the highest paid in the world. It is therefore provocative to consider increasing their pay packages without acceptable justification.”
He said PENGASSAN was also saddened by the continuous payment of pensions to ex-governors and their deputies even in states nearing insolvency.
“More painful is the fact that many states are not paying the N30, 000 national monthly minimum wage, whose implementation commenced in 2019,” the union’s president stated.
He added, “Pensioners in some states have not been paid for 75 months or more with backlogs of unpaid salaries, while others deduct workers’ pension contributions and fail to remit to the pension fund administrator which by law is a criminal offence.”
“PENGSSAN therefore demands for the stoppage of pension to all political office holders and kill any idea of further increasing their salaries until they justify such increment by first putting the economy in a proper shape and lifting millions of Nigerians out of poverty.”
The oil workers also called on the government to heed advice of economic and financial experts.
It said experts had warned that “if they (government) continue their reckless borrowing, debt servicing will gulp over 100 per cent of the Federal Government’s revenue in about a year or two.”
It said this would only be averted if urgent steps were taken to expand the revenue base of the nation to curb the rising imbalance of the debt service-to-revenue ratio.
“The NASS ((National Assembly) we believe can still knock prudence into the 2023 Appropriation Bill, prune wastages, look deeply into service wide vote and the recurrent expenditure, and then move all cash saved to increase capital spending.”