There is panic in Nigeria following strong rumours of fuel scarcity as petrol stations have begun to halt the sale of petroleum products.
Despite the assurance by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that it has in stock sufficient quantity of diesel, kerosene and aviation fuel to serve the country, fuel crisis looms as the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers (NUPENG) yesterday stopped loading at the various depots in Lagos.
This is coming as the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, assured motorists and other consumers of petroleum products nationwide that the fire incident, which occurred at Apapa loading jetty at the early hours of yesterday would not affect supply of petroleum products.
According to the NNPC boss, the corporation has more than 1.6 billion litres of petrol, enough to last for 48 days. No fewer than four people lost their lives with several others severely injured when the Apapa PWA loading jetty belonging to the NNPC caught fire in the early hours of yesterday.
Apapa has three jetties – PWA, BOP and NOJ-all belonging to NNPC for the discharge of imported petroleum products.
Despite the NNPC’s commitment to ensure uninterrupted supply of petroleum products, NUPENG has embarked on strike in solidarity with the Joe Ajaero-led United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC), which commenced nation-wide industrial action yesterday.
NUPENG, which also comprises Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), belong to Ajaero’s labour faction. Efforts to reach the Western Zonal Chairman of NUPENG, Alhaji Tokunbo Korodo, were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was switched off, but THISDAY confirmed that the drivers did not load fuel at the depots.
ULC had urged Nigerians to stockpile foodstuff and other basic necessities that could last them during the duration of the strike as critical sectors of the economy would be affected by the action.
Ajaero listed critical sectors that would be affected to include transportation, petroleum products supplies, power supply and banking and other financial operations.
ULC’s action was in protest against what it described as the militarisation of some states and had demanded that “the federal government bans the stationing of the army and police in our workplaces and factory premises.”
“This will stop employers who are now colluding with the army and other security agencies from setting up garrisons in our factories for the purposes of intimidating and harassing workers in order to deny them their rights and privileges. The army and the police should immediately withdraw their garrisons in the different workplaces where they are currently stationed.”
The NNPC has, however, advised motorists not to engage in panic buying over the jetty fire incident, adding that they should report any challenge they may have in the course of purchasing to the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which is statutorily empowered to deal with such issue
THISDAY gathered that the fire at PWA Jetty started around 3 a.m. when hoodlums tampered with the manifold, which is the connecting pipe to the vessel, to scoop fuel.
It was not clear how hoodlums managed to enter the jetty, which is heavily guarded by personnel of the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies.
But there are concerns that security officials allegedly connived with miscreants, who scoop fuel from the pipelines at the jetty every night and in the early morning hours.
The fire incident was said to have occurred shortly after a vessel, MT HISTIA IVORY, finished discharging petrol at the jetty. Though the jetty was gutted by fire, the vessel was not affected.
It was also gathered that the casualty figures would have been much higher if security officials of NIPCO Plc on duty had not opened the company’s exit gate through which the people at the jetty escaped from the raging inferno.
When THISDAY visited the facility, the four dead bodies were still lying unattended to. A source close to the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), which manages the three NNPC jetties at Apapa, told THISDAY that it took the intervention of fire fighters from the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and NIPCO for the fire to be put off.
“The fire started around 3 a.m. when hoodlums tampered with the manifold at the jetty to scoop fuel. Nobody knows how hoodlums managed to enter the jetty with the large number of naval personnel on ground. MT HISTRIA IVORY just finished discharging petrol and was supposed to have sailed away on Sunday. When a vessel finished discharging, the pipelines and manifold still contain many trucks of product and that was what those people went to scoop,” he explained.
The spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu has, however, assured motorists and other consumers of petroleum products nationwide that the fire incident would not affect supply of petroleum products.
Ughamadu said in a statement yesterday that NNPC had also deployed a team of engineers to the jetty while the repair of the affected parts would commence immediately.
He disclosed that the fire was sparked from the activities of hoodlums who were scooping fuels spilled from ships discharging fuels at the jetty.
According to him, Baru, who has been fully briefed on the incident, described the occurrence as unfortunate, assuring that NNPC has more than 1.6 billion litres of petrol, enough to last for 48 days.