Tuesday, April 16, 2024

NARTO calls off strike as FG begins bridging claims payment

The minister promised that the engagement would be sustained to ensure a friendly environment for businesses to thrive.

• February 21, 2024
Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)
Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO)

The Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners has called off its strike as the Federal Government has announced payment of their bridging claims.

The Federal Government said though NARTO’s issues were purely commercial, its intervention and transportation claims payment (though figure undisclosed) became necessary to ensure fuel availability nationwide and maintain a business friendly environment.

Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, announced this after a meeting with some major oil marketers, hosted by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority on Tuesday in Abuja.

The oil marketers included members of NARTO, Petroleum Tankers Drivers, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, and Major Energies Marketers Association of Nigeria.

Others are representatives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd., and Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria among others.

The meeting was a continuation of the one which began on Monday to resolve issues hindering the operations of the oil marketers who embarked on strike.

Fuel queues and emerging scarcity were witnessed at fuel stations in the Federal Capital Territory and nationwide as a result of the suspension of fuel transportation and distribution by NARTO.

The strike was in fulfillment of their threat to suspend lifting of petroleum products nationwide and down tools from Monday due to high cost of operations and maintenance.

NARTO and the oil marketers complained of the high cost of diesel being used by their trucks to transport products across the country and challenges facing their freight rate payment (bridging claims) among others.

The minister, however, said after due consultation with all stakeholders, they resolved to call off the strike, adding that all the issues they raised had been addressed.

“Going forward we will keep our commitments, we have started payment of some bridging claims as they were raised; as we get more money, we will continue to pay them. We are also committed; by March we would have been done with the reconciliation to ascertain the level of liability, that will reveal members who have supplied products across the country,’’ he said.

The minister, while thanking the oil marketers for their patriotism and commitment in the industry, pledged that the engagement would be sustained to ensure a friendly environment for businesses to thrive.

The Chief Executive, NMDPRA, Farouk Ahmed, said the increase in the bridging claims (freight rate) was as a result of the high cost of diesel to fuel trucks to transport fuel.

He said the rate was last increased in March 2022 during the subsidy regime, adding that the price of diesel which was N700 per litre as of then had increased to N1, 400 currently.

“So, they requested an increase but as a regulator we are not going to enforce any price increase because the market is deregulated. Therefore, they should reach out to the marketers and negotiate on a one-on-one basis. But the marketers were reluctant to negotiate, which resulted in the strike.

“After meeting with the minister, as much as we understand the issues of NARTO, the issues were resolved. We don’t want Nigerians to continue to suffer because they have sacrificed more because of the economic downturn,’’ he said.

Also speaking, NARTO President, Yusuf Othman, said the engagement did not concern pump price of fuel as the price remained the same, but its agitation bothered on freight rate for the transportation of fuel.

He said, “Fuel has to be transported from the depot to stations before being sold, if the amount that is paid is not adequate to move the product to the station you will not find it. Going forward, we will continue to negotiate with the marketing companies based on economic realities. The pump price of fuel does not affect the increase in the freight rate.’’

Mr Othman confirmed improvement in the new rate, though undisclosed, and expressed the hope of receiving the claims before week end.

He urged members to ensure normalcy considering the pains of Nigerians.

(NAN)

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