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Fuel scarcity looms as tanker drivers begin strike today

By Fatima Muraina & Kayode Afolabi, Ore

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Nigerians may experience  another round of artificial fuel scarcity as tanker drivers have threatened to stop petrol lifting starting from today, Monday.

It was gathered that the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), hinged its decision to stop lifting petroleum products to the high cost of operations.

NARTO members had raised concern over the high cost of diesel required to power their trucks for the transportation of petroleum products across the country, as they argued that diesel price is between N1,250 and N1,400/litre, depending on the spot  of purchase.

NARTO President, Yusuf Othman, in a statement in Abuja said it was an official announcement from the association’s headquarters that members of the group would withdraw their operations and park their trucks starting from Monday.

According to him NARTO NEC has directed all its members not to make their petroleum trucks available for petroleum products loading activities with effect from February 19, 2024, and called on all its employees to show maximum cooperation, support and understanding to the collective efforts for continued sustainability of the petroleum haulage business by ensuring adequate and immediate compliance.

Speaking on the development yesterday, some petroleum marketers in Ore, the headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area of Ondo state, and Akure, the state capital, warned that the Nation might  experience another round of fuel scarcity which could worsen the current economic hardship in the land.

Some of the petrol marketers who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said the fuel scarcity with its attendant long queues may resume again in the country.

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“I am afraid this time, that if there’s is no supply, there will be a serious problem, and we will be forced to witness another artificial fuel scarcity,” a marketer cautioned

Efforts to speak with NARTO officials at the Ore Depot proved abortive as the office was not open.

But the Vice Chairman, Petroleum Tankers Association, Ondo State Chapter, Mr Pius Adebusuyi, explained that the body in charge of tank drivers called NARTO is a very powerful association that can not be toyed with, hence the Federal Government has to quickly intervene to address the looming crisis.

Adebusuyi stressed that the NARTO’s withdrawal of operations will worsen the current situation, saying as many major marketers who depend on their trucks for supply of fuel will not be able to lift fuel, thereby creating a serious vacuum in the sector.

“Federal Government of Nigeria, as a matter of urgency, should meet with the petroleum tank drivers to halt the proposed strike action which will stop lifting of Petroleum products as from today (Monday) as a result of high cost of operations.

“They are talking about diesel. The price of diesel has escalated, and that what the major marketers are paying them as cost of transportation is no longer taking care of the total expenses.  That is exactly what they are saying and it is not the major marketers that determine the price of diesel, it is the market forces,” he stated.

“There is no way the Federal Government can bring down the price of diesel at the moment but just have to increase the price of transporting litres of petrol to their different locations.

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“This is not the first time it is happening, but that when it happened, Government would sit down together with their transporters, and  increase what they are paying them as cost of transportation which automatically affects the cost of every litre”, Adebusuyi stressed.

Also, in a telephone chat, the Ondo State Chairman of Marketers and Dealers Association, Mr. Bayo Olowookere said he was not in town to comment on the situation.

He, however, observed that the high operational cost was not in petroleum alone but also affects all other sectors of the economy

“The cost of loading now is high and it is becoming unbearable to all the marketers. If you can see, most of the fuel stations have increased their fuel prices.

” I know the government will come in and pacify them not to do that because the adverse effects would be much on the masses,” he declared.

A former State Chairman of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Emmanuel Adewunmi observed the non challant attitude of the government in facing reality which he attributed to reasons for the persistent crisis.

“What is going to happen is that we should keep our hands closed as we have received a call from Ibadan that there is going to be a demonstration on this issue.

‘The fuel will be like that when Dangote is producing fuel and exporting it, how can we survive? There are many people that are ready to sabotage Nigeria because how can some people carry dollars and put it in their houses and nobody is making use of the dollars. We have not reached the limit of the mess, we are still going down,” Adewunmi declared

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