The Sun News

Politics, pains of Ekiti fuel crisis

‘How peace was brokered at last’

From Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti

If while you are reading this piece, the National body of Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (PMAN), is yet to lift up the ban placed on sale of petrol in Ekiti state, it would have been four weeks of hell let loose on the state by the oil marketers.

The nightmare began on May 19, when citizens of the state suddenly realised that fuel marketers had stopped selling fuel, while tankers bringing the product to the state also stopped coming.

It started first like a rumour that some marketers were planning a showdown with Governor Ayodele Fayose for daring to “poke his nose” into the allegedly shoddy manner some marketers got approvals for siting filling stations and building the stations in business and residential areas. Some officials of the Ministry of Lands were fingered as responsible for the sad development.

The bumble burst sometimes in January, when a filling station, Strive Energy, cited in a business and residential area of Ejigbo in Ado-Ekiti, caught fire and razed shops and buildings containing goods worth millions of naira.

Shop owners and landlords who fell victims of the tragic incident approached owner of the station for compensation but were disappointed with what he could offer them in return. Some of them who had claimed millions of naira as damages as low as N10,000 as compensation.

The victims took their case to Fayose who promptly intervened. According to the governor, the owner of the said filling station shocked him: “The man said he only has insurance for his fuel from the point of purchase to delivery in his filling stations. This means the oil marketer has no respect for human life and not bothered about the welfare of the people who patronise him.”

Fayose said the shocking discovery about Strive Energy led to other findings about the questionable ways some of the oil marketers got approvals for siting their stations: “Many of the stations were built in business and residential areas against the regulations for siting these stations. These and many other illegitimate dealings are what the government wants to correct and that is why we have taken them to court.”

The governor who alleged that the decision by the oil marketers to halt the sale of fuel in the state was politically motivated and propelled by the opposition, vowed to get to the root of the matter and restore sanity.

State secretary of the marketers’ union, Alhaji suleiman Akinbami, denied the governor’s allegation: “The decision to stop selling fuel is beyond us. Our national body took the decision and directed us to comply. Our hands are tied.”

Daily Sun gathered that the marketers had reported the governor to their national body alleging victimization. They cited the court case government instituted against some of their members for failing to comply with regulations guiding the siting of the stations in the state.

The marketers’ parent body therefore directed their members to stop selling fuel. The body also stopped fuel tanker drivers from bringing the product to the state. As a result, business and movement in the state were crippled.

Concerned and angry stakeholders in the state, including youths, drivers and artisans went to the streets in protest against the action of the marketers on Tuesday, May 23 and Wednesday, May 24. They described the marketers’ action as politically motivated and propelled by the opposition to destabilize Fayose’s government and issued 24 hour ultimatum to the marketers to start selling fuel or face public wrath.

The angry youths, who accused Akinbami of collecting a bribe of N50 million from the opposition to destabilize government through non-supply of fuel to the state, went a step beyond protesting to attack the facilities of some of the filling stations and vandalized many of them. Akinbami again denied getting any money from opposition party.

Fayose, however, called for caution and restraint on the part of the angry people. He also issued a 24-ultimatum to the marketers to sell the products or have their certificates of occupancy revoked. The governor issued the ultimatum on Wednesday, May 24 and from the evening of that day, some filling stations had began to surrender.

According to elder Adeyemi Adebayo, Chairman, Petroleum Task Force, Ekiti State, about four of the filling stations started selling fuel the following day when the governor’s ultimatum lapsed.

But it was not yet Uhuru as many of the marketers did not sell the product, claiming they did not have fuel. They said they had not got supply because fuel tanker drivers were prevented from entering Ekiti by their colleagues in neighbouring states.

Adebayo responded: “My advice to the oil marketers is to heed to the directive given by the governor and start to sell the fuel, because the governor is the overall head in Ekiti. He takes the final decision on any issues about the state and his decision overrides any one outside the state.

“I also want to advise the national body of oil marketers in Nigeria said to be the brain behind the fuel crisis in Ekiti, to urgently release all the petrol tankers which they withdrew, so that they don’t make the people of Ekiti to suffer.

“The genesis of this crisis was the aftermath of a petrol station, Strive Energy, in Ejigbo area of the state which caught fire and bought property and goods worth millions of naira.

“Many shop owners and landlords whose properties were affected had cried to state government to assist them get compensations from the owner of Strive Energy who at first was evading them.

“The incident led to many unhealthy under-dealings that were exposed. The government discovered that the petrol station in particular and many others in the state do not have insurance to cover damages incurred by such fire incidents. These petrol stations too, were also found to have built in residential and business areas, meaning that they have violated some environmental laws.

“When the government mandated the owner of Strive Energy to compensate the victims of the inferno in his filling station, he gave them paltry sums of money such as N10,000 and N5000 to people who lost millions of naira.”

Meanwhile, the three-week crisis has ended. Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola on Sunday brokered peace between Fayose and the oil marketers.

A communique from the peace meeting signed by parties involved, resolved:

“An ad hoc committee be constituted to fashion out in clear terms the conditions and guidelines for the establishment and operations of filling stations in Ekiti State;

“The committee comprising representatives of Ekiti State Government and oil and gas stakeholders shall commence work on Wednesday 7th June, 2017;

“In the spirit of reconciliation, Ekiti State Government agreed to pleas for reversal of the revocation of some Certificates of Occupancy of landed properties on which filling stations are built, except the ones on waterways, canals and where there is no justification for such revocation;

“In that same spirit, the government agreed to stop further demolitions pending the outcome of the committee’s report; and

“Consequently, the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and other related oil and gas unions hereby suspend the industrial action embarked upon by their members, with immediate effect.”

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