An industrial action embarked upon by members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) has triggered another round of petroleum product scarcity that has grounded economic activities in Akwa Ibom State.
The oil workers are reportedly protesting the sacking of 20 employees of state government owned Universal Energy Company, an oil production firm that has its administrative headquarter in Uyo, the state capital.
According to checks, the strike has resulted in the suspension of tanker drivers delivering petrol to Akwa Ibom State for more than a week, a development that has led to astronomical rise in the price of petrol in Uyo and its environs.
The strike, which began on Monday, has seen the price of petrol going up to N300 per litre with many of the service stations not dispensing the product.
A notice in one of the filling stations in Uyo, indicating the commencement of the strike by PENGASSAN, did not give details but however expressed dismay that it would soon run out of stock and would not be able to serve its customers.
“Dear customers, we are sorry we will soon run out of stock due to the impending strike by PENGASSAN,’’ the notice said.
But speaking on a radio programme in Uyo, Essien Esema, special adviser to the governor on petroleum matters, blamed the management of the oil company for its refusal to recall the sacked workers, saying discussions to resolve the fuel crisis had not yielded dividends.
The high cost of petrol has resulted in the hike of transport fares for about 80 percent. For instance, students returning from the May Day holiday to the Akwa Ibom State University at Ikot Akpanden in Mkpat Enin Local Government, a distance of about an hour by taxi, were forced to pay N900 from N500 it was before the current round of scarcity began.
Similarly, transport fares within the city have also gone up while the price of basic food items such as garri and yam have all witnessed an increase.
Meanwhile, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has passed a resolution urging Governor Udom Emmanuel to intervene in the crisis with a view to resolving the feud between parties concerned to allow for availability of petroleum products in the state.
The House has also called on parties responsible for the recent acute scarcity to consider the attendant effect of their action, which has brought hardship and pains on the people, and retrace their steps to allow for a free flow and supply of petrol at the approved pump price.
The House took the position sequel to a matter of urgent public importance brought before it by the member representing Okobo and deputy speaker, Felicia Bassey, who drew the attention of the speaker and members of the legislature to the non-availability of the products at fuel stations in the state.
Contributing, the chairman, House Committee on Petroleum, Aniekan Asuquo Archibong, informed the House that he had waded into the matter three weeks ago and was made to understand that the main reason for the non-availability of the product was as a result of a strike action embarked upon by members PENGASSAN.
He said findings from him revealed that the non-availability of fuel in the state was not caused by IPMAN in both Akwa Ibom and Cross River states, but due to the face-off between staff of Universal Energy and management of the company.