Petrol Scarcity Looms As NARTO Begins Warning Strike Today

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NNPC truck carrying fuel

Petrol scarcity is imminent as the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, on Monday announced plans to proceed on a warning strike today.

NARTO is the umbrella organisation of commercial vehicles owners engaged in the haulage of petroleum products, cargoes, and movement of goods and passengers within the country and the West-African sub region.

Its National President, Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, who spoke to reporters in Abuja, said the association  was shocked by the recent Federal Government’s decision to ban petroleum trucks above 45,000 litres capacity from plying the roads.

Owing to the ban, he said the association would proceed on a warning strike today and issue a 10-day ultimatum on September 24, which would be followed by an indefinite strike.

The NARTO chief said: “In view of the above, we are, therefore, constraint to allow the decision of our members to park their trucks as from tomorrow 22nd to 23rd September 2020, prevail as warning, and furthermore, issue 10 days ultimatum with effect from September 24, 2020 for a full blown withdrawal of service.

“If such scenarios occur, we earnestly plead with those who will lose employment, income and general public that will be negatively affected by this avoidable situation.”

According to him, the sudden ban is considered highly insensitive and unappreciative of the efforts and contributions of the NARTO members as businessmen and investors in the very critical and sensitive distribution and supply chains of petroleum products across the country.

He recalled that not too long ago and following the total collapse of petroleum products pipelines and strategic depots across the country as a result of the economic sabotage of the vandals, there was the painful era of petroleum products scarcity across the country.

Othman said it is in response to the socio/economic challenges of the scarcity era that the government in power then pleaded with private investors to assist in ameliorating the situation by ensuring that product scarcity is brought to the barest minimum.

He added that it is in response to the national call for service and in line with this mandate then that many of the association’s members took the initiative to invest heavily in expanding their fleet of various capacities to deliver products to all nook and crannies of this country.

He stated that the members took loans from various commercial banks with very high interest rates and with no form of support from government.

Othman disclosed that the measure was in national interest and the association achieved the desired goal of removing scarcity of petroleum products and its attendant long queues from the streets and communities.

The ban, he said: “is therefore distressing and discouraging that when, it is discovered along the line that one of the side effects of our efforts to fix the problem is the fact that our roads were not built to accommodate vehicles that carry loads in excess of 30 tons and the new government now want to impose and introduce a new policy about maximum capacity on our roads, the government is doing so without any consideration for the plights of our members and other attendant effects.”

The Leadership of NARTO, according to him, is not in any way against the decision of the Federal Government to ban the use of truck more than 45,000 litres capacity in the conveyance of petroleum products considering the dilapidated state of Nigerian roads but it is particularly concerned about the sudden and prompt nature of the ban.

He disclosed that the association considered the approach to be highly insensitive to the huge investments the Owners of these trucks have made and debts they incurred in executing the mandate given by previous administration.

He said: “This move by the government will definitely be counterproductive considering the fact that sudden withdrawal of these trucks will impacts heavily and negatively on the operations of our members and the withdrawal will also create heavy gaps in the supply and distribution chains bearing in mind the fact that NARTO, being the owners of these trucks, are integral part of the supply and distribution of petroleum products across the nation.

“We wish to also remind the government to be mindful of the coming ember months that is characterised by heightened activities, thus requiring the use of such high capacity trucks to curb the scarcity.

“Most importantly, our concern is also the fact that the suddenness of the action is a great discouragement to any form of investment in the country in view of the fact that our members secured bank facilities for the procurement of these trucks which normally attracts high interest rates, thus adding extra financial burden on our members.

“We also want to use this medium to draw the attention of the federal government that if these trucks are withdrawn suddenly and promptly as being demanded by the government’s decision, it would create another side effect of avoidable unemployment, as it is estimated that more than 40,000 drivers/drivers mate and artisans would lose their jobs.”

Othman said NARTO members are already discouraged and distressed even with the fact that the transport sector which is one of the sectors that are worse hit by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the total restriction of movement, the Federal Government refused to extend some intervention to the sector as done to many sectors of the economy including aviation, agriculture and others.

“In the light of the foregoing and the fact that we understand the reasons behind government decision, we equally demand that government should be more empathetic and sensitive to the plight of our members and the very harsh economic situation of the time by giving us ample time to source for money to re- engineer all affected trucks and operations accordingly.

“We can assure you that none of the major transport companies across the country can continue any form of operations with this policy within this short time frame,” Othman said.

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