Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy, human and environmental rights advocacy group, after two weeks of monitoring the artificial scarcity and hike in the price of premium motor spirit (PMS/fuel) due to industrial action embarked upon by regional union members of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, wishes to appeal to both parties to the dispute (Imo State Government and NUPENG) to, in the interest of the suffering masses, find amicable solution to the lingering fuel crisis.
FENRAD understands that sometime during the administration of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, construction work under the state government affected a filling station owned by a NUPENG member for which the owner/dealer approached the court and got a favourable judgement for damages to be paid him by the state. This matter which has been lingering till now has had Governor Hope Uzodinma file an appeal at the appellate court (Court of Appeal) instead of paying the damages which, he believes, an adminstration other than his caused. With this status quo and in the spirit of unionism, NUPENG embarked on an indefinite strike urging its arm, Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) to follow suit. Since then, the product has been relatively scarce and where available sold at exorbitant price as against the pump price. There is no win-win situation in all of this, FENRAD says, should the imbroglio continue without amicable resolve.
The sufferers are not only the union (NUPENG) and its affiliates nor only Imo State or the regional governments whose officials may still buy at the pump price of ₦165/L. It is the poor citizens in the region who now have to pay upwards of ₦300/L in some cases, and who given the declining purchasing power, inflation, Mondays sit-at-home plaguing the nation and region are used as the cannon fodder in the battle of the giants.
FENRAD observed that, over the week, the cost of transportation has skyrocketed by as much as 80%, affecting the ease of doing business in a region where non-state actors have suspended business and work-related activities on Mondays. This, the Foundation says, is not the best of times! The economic contraction the Southeast has suffered recently is, going by the Foundation’s reckoning, huge and so adding to this yoke could be an overkill!
While it is the right of the Union and unionists to embark on boycott or resort to the legitimate tool of strike to drive home a point, and while the courts are there for governments to approach, whatever does not meet or serve the common good in a democracy should not be maintained since democracy works for the greater good, FENRAD says.
At this rate, businesses will go under while markets shrink as the region is not served any better. On the surface, it smacks of injustice that for what happened in Imo State, a whole region – not just the State alone this time – is made to suffer this! FENRAD urges NUPENG to reconsider its stance and stand in the interest of the poor and indigent citizens so that the strike does not appear as an orchestrated economic sabotage targeted at a region at a time like this.
FENRAD calls for both parties to come to a discussion table and dialogue, agree – as is permissible under Nigeria laws – to, in public interest, have alternative resolution capable of bringing about a consent judgement that favours both parties than dwell in an endless legal duel that kills homes, businesses, transportation and services in the region.
FENRAD, this way, calls on all the five affected regional governments to do what is best for a region now at the throes of economic strangulation. It is tragic and disheartening that while businesses thrive at other regions, Southeast, a region known for its industry and enterprise, plays catch up because of price of essential commodity two (Abia and Imo) of its five states produce with Anambra soon to join the league.
While an injury to one is an injury to all, we do not have to lose our lives just to save our limbs; limbs could wisely given to save lives and not the other way round, as Lincoln counseled. So FENRAD calls on the five regional governments and the Union to save the regional public from hardship.
FENRAD calls on all parties to resolve peacefully so that pump price reflects the current modulation and accessed by all
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Executive Director FENRAD Nigeria
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head Legal Team/ Litigation
Barr. Akande Femisi
Head Corporate Accountability and Human Rights Enforcement
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD Nigeria)