Following the return of long queues to filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory, as oil workers began a strike action yesterday, commuters have decried the development, giving that they began to feel its impact.
They complained that apart from the usual hikes in transport fares that always accompany fuel scarcity, they have started experiencing difficulties on their usual route to work, as they had to wait for hours at bus stations for vehicles.
It was gathered that the industrial action embarked upon the oil workers under the umbrella of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG).
The workers reportedly embarked on the action to register their displeasure over the unfair practices, such as transfer and termination of appointment of national officers of the two unions.
Reports say the aggrieved workers insisted that the strike will affect all operations in the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, as their members will be withdrawn from all oil and gas installations.
Furthermore, the striking workers maintained that they will not suspend until there is a strong commitment from the government and affected managements/operators to resolve the issues.”
Peoples Daily reports that that long queues were observed at fuel stations along roads in Gwagwalada, Zuba, Nyanya and Kubwa axis of the nation’s capital, resulting to a less vehicular movement in and around the city.
Also, at various petrol outlets within the Abuja city centres, indicated the same scenario all over, with a lot of commuters seen stranded while waiting for few vehicles on the road, while some were forced to trek long distances to work.
It was further observed that the usual Abuja-Keffi expressway which is notorious with heavy vehicular traffic was free for movement on Monday morning, due to fewer vehicles plying the road.
Expectedly, the few commercial ones operating along the route have doubled their fares to various destinations in the city center.
However, a across section of commuters, appealed to the oil workers to call off the strike, because it will bite harder on common citizens than those they are targeting, especially with Christmas at the corner.
Narrating her ordeal, a civil servant, Nkemdilim Ezeh, whose office is located within the Federal Secretariat complex, in the Central Business District of the FCT, said she stood for several hours at Nyanya bus station, before she could get a vehicle heading towards her destinations.
“It was a survival of the fittest to board a bus from Nyanya to federal Secretariat where I work. As you can see, am not that strong to struggle with the younger ones for vehicles.
“When I stood for hours and it was dawn to me that I have to apply force to get a bus to work, I then joined and luckily, someone helped to secure a seat for me, because I cannot stand,” she narrated.
Another commuter, who simply identified herself as Sandra, expressed her dismay over the failure of both the government and the leadership of the oil workers to resolve their lingering grievances, which had subjected the masses to a lot of hardship while moving around in search of their daily bread.
“The excuse for the strike did not start today, I believe that it had been discussed several times by both parties, in a bid to find lasting solution to the lingering problems, but still, there seems to be no end in sight.
“Also, the issue of delay in passage of PIB, which had been altered several times by successive administration, all in a bid to get it right, but still, the bill is still gathering dust at the National Assembly with little or no attention.
“In as much as I support their call for the quick passage of the bill as well as other sundry demands, I appeal to them to call off the strike, because embarking on strike this season will bite harder on common people than those they are targeting,” she stressed.
Similarly, one Grace Okah, a civil servant, who lives in Kubwa and works in Area 11, said that if not for the driver of their staff bus who came at the ‘11th hour’ pick them to work, they would have been forced to go through harrowing experience for them to get to their workplace.
“Because, I have stood at my bus stop for several hours with no sign of getting a vehicle to my workplace,” she said.
For one Irimiya Musa, who works with a private firm in Wuse 2, who was seen waiting for a vehicle, looking apparently frustrated with the delay in getting a means to work, decried that he was worried of being late to work, as his boss would not understand his predicament.
According to him, his boss will assume it’s his fault, without knowing the emerging challenges he had to pass through in order to get work.
His words: “The worst thing is that he will surcharge me because am already late to work despite paying double transport fare to work, not as if I didn’t come out of my house on time, but lack of vehicle to my work place.”
Not left out, a motorist, Mr. Gbenga Oshotimehin, seen on the queue at a Total filling station in Area 11, Garki, says; “this is wickedness from the camp of the oil workers under the aegis of NUPENG and PENGASSAN to poor people.
“Why should they start this strike at this critical Christmas season that Nigerians are awaiting the joyful arrival of the Santa.
“This will obviously cause a hike not only in the transport fare but to the prices of foods and beverages mostly used during the yuletide, thereby denying some people the opportunity to have fun and travel to meet their love ones. I hope that the government will answer them speedily.”
Similarly, a commercial taxi driver who simply identified himself as Nnamdi, said that he heard the impending fuel scarcity as a rumour on Sunday night, and quickly rush to a nearest fuel station to fill his tank.
“But to my greatest surprise, it resulted in me spending the night under a cold weather at the filling stations,” he said.
In the meantime, there are mounting fears and anxiety that the strike may last longer than expected if the government fail to grant audience to the workers with a view to bringing to an end, the rift between the both parties.