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Ministry, NLC Tango Over Filling Stations Monitoring

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The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Rivers State, has set up a taskforce to identify the causes of the scarcity of petroleum products in the state, even as the state Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources has warned labour against the move.

The 10-man petroleum monitoring taskforce was to help put a stop to the apparent artificial scarcity said to be caused by filling stations managers and petroleum independent markets.

State Chairman of the NLC, Chief Chris Oruge, said that the taskforce was charged with the responsibility of among others, monitoring filling stations and arresting managers of those of them found to be hoarding the products.

The taskforce was also to close down such filling stations in partnership with other government agencies to ensure the availability of the products in the state.

Oruge said that members of the taskforce also had the power to close down filling stations selling fuel above the Federal Government’s approved pump price of N97.00.

The NLC chairman said  the organised labour has the power to protect the interest and welfare of the masses against unjust policies.

“Labour has the statutory power to protect Nigerians and we derive our power thereto from such statutory legislation by setting up taskforce in the interest of Nigerians”, he said.

However, the state Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Hon Okey Amadi has threatened to arrest any taskforce member of the organised labour seen harassing filling stations owners in the state, saying that petroleum was on the exclusive list of the 1999 Constitution’s second scheduled and therefore outside the purview of  labour.

A source from the ministry who expressed the commissioner’s position shortly after the inauguration of the NLC taskforce said the NLC had no constitutional power to set up any petroleum taskforce to regulate the dealing of  petroleum products in the state.

The source queried, “can the state chairman of NLC provide the relevant sections of the constitution where the organised labour derived their power to set up petroleum taskforce?”.  According to him, “we are in a democratic setting, our behaviours and actions must be regulated by laws of the country”.

But the NLC while reacting to the comments credited to the commissioner said the setting up of the petroleum taskforce by labour had woken the commissioner from his slumber and inaction to his social contract responsibility with the people of the state.

In a statement, the NLC chairman said recently,  the Commissioner had done nothing to check the long queues occasioned by the shortage of petroleum products in the state, “it is only when labour took the bull by the horn to set up a taskforce with the intention to unravel the reason behind the artificial scarcity, that he now said NLC had no power to set up a taskforce”.

Oruge said, “it is not out of place for organised labour to set up a petroleum monitoring taskforce to check the ugly trend of artificial scarcity of fuel”.

Comrade Oruge stated that the NLC fought the Federal Government which brought down the pump price to N97.00  against the Federal Government initial N141.

According to him, labour has the right to ensure that there is no economic sabotage in all ramifications to engender hardship in the country.

Oruge said that it was not the first time labour was setting up a petroleum monitoring taskforce to monitor filling stations in the state, insisting that a precedent had been set over the years.

The NLC boss further stated that the commissioner had no right to challenge the statutory power of  labour to monitor the dealing in petroleum products, adding that the organised labour could not fold its arms to see the masses suffer.

Also speaking, the state Chairman, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Chika Onuegbu expressed the support of TUC over the NLC petroleum taskforce.

The TUC chairman expressed surprise and dissatisfaction over the threat of the commissioner to arrest the taskforce members.

Comrade Onuegbu said the organised labour was in doubt as to whether the commissioner has a better constitutional power than the NLC or TUC in this matter especially considering  that petroleum is on the exclusive list of the 1999 Constitution.

The TUC boss said that the ordinary people of Rivers State who are victims of the fuel crisis expect the NLC and TUC to ensure that they are not denied the benefits of the January 2012 general strike which gave rise to the regime of N97.00 pump price.

He further said, “the NLC and TUC have a moral duty to ensure the benefits get to the ordinary people by setting up a taskforce for that purpose”.

According to him, if the fuel crisis did not persist as it is now, there would be no need for any taskforce, stressing that the organised labour had observed that the concern of all Rivers people was how to end the fuel crisis.

He said the TUC welcomed all efforts by the various stakeholders to end the fuel crisis.

Meanwhile, a constitutional lawyer, Jab Awanen has cautioned the organised labour to always ensure that their actions were in conformity with the constitution.

He said, “NLC or TUC has no constitutional power on the issue of petroleum as it is an issue under the exclusive list of the constitution.

He said that the petroleum taskforce of the organised labour was an illegal taskforce, insisting that the state government through the commissioner  has the right to arrest members of the taskforce harassing filling stations dealing in petroleum products which is under the Federal Government. Others, however, said that despite the constitutional limitation of NLC, there was need for synergy between the state government and the organised labour to ensure constant availability of petroleum products in the state to cushion the hardship currently experienced by the people.

This synergy, they said would also put an end to the unscrupulous profiteering activities of petroleum independent marketers and their cohorts at the expense of the ordinary Nigerians.

 

Philip-Wuwu Okparaji

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More Youths Engage In Artisanal Refining

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As unemployment bites harder amidst rising cost of living, more youths in rural communities in Rivers State are now going into artisanal refining business to earn a living.
The Tide reliably gathered that some youths residing in Port Harcourt City were gradually moving to rural communities for bunkering business otherwise known as ‘kpo-fire’ 
Narrating his experience to The Tide, Mr Godwin Ibeneme who resides in Rumuekini in Akpor, said he was introduced into the kpor-fire business by his father.
Ibeneme, who hails from Ibaa/ Obelle area of Emohua Local Government Area, said his father compelled him to join other youths who were thriving in the business in the community.
“My father came to my house here in Rumuekini, and told me to come to the village, that other young men are making it through kpo-fire’ bunkering since I have lost my job.
“ I didn’t waste time to give it a trial, because I had really looked for what to do, since I lost my job at a fast-food company. Since then, I can tell you that I have been taking care of myself, unlike before when everything looked hopeless”, he explained.
The Tide also learnt that the kpo-fire’ business was currently thriving in Isiokpo axis of Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
A resident of the community who pleaded anonymity, told The Tide that there was a high level of discrimination in the business.
According to him, he decided to engage himself at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, to hustle for his daily bread, instead of staying idle.
The Tide recalls that the Federal Government had promised to build modular refineries in the Niger Delta region since 2019 as an alternative to illegal oil bunkering in the region as well as to create employment for the youth. 
The Tide also reports that three years after the promise was made, nothing has been done in that regard.

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Oyigbo Cassava Plant, Legacy Project   -Akawor

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The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, Amb. Desmond Akawor, says the cassava plant project, being executed by the Rivers State Government in Oyigbo is a legacy project that will generate huge employment for Rivers people.
He said the project was well thought out and would stand the test of time to tackle unemployment as well as ensure food availability in the state.
Akawor made the remarks during an interaction with journalists at the weekend in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the cassava plant which was supposed to be executed by the previous administrations, was initially planned to be a joint venture between the state government and some organisations, but that the other partners did not pay their counterpart funding.
“The steps taken by the Wike-led administration to bring this project to life without the counterpart funding is commendable, because of the huge economic benefits it will give to the state.
“Many people have also been employed at the construction sites of flyovers being executed by Julius Berger. Eighty percent of those working there are indigenes, while the company provides the expatriates”, he said.
The  PDP chairman also hinted on the plans of the state government to privatise the Buguma fish farm and banana farm, among others, so as to make them more viable.
He said that the state government had not abandoned the projects initiated by the previous administration, but was thinking on what to do with them. 
Akawor maintained that the employment of 5,000 persons into the civil service was still ongoing, saying the government is only taking time to ensure that indigenes of the state are employed.

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PH Airport Resumes Skeletal International Flight Operations

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Skeletal flight operations have resumed at the international wing of the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa.
This follows the lifting of the curfew that was imposed in the state by the Rivers State Government to check cases of insecurity in the state.
The Tide’s checks show that many of the airlines that operate international flights are yet to resume flight operations, even though the coast is clear for them to resume operations.
The Cronaux Airline, it was gathered, is the only airline at the moment that has fully resumed international flight.
Other airlines that operate at the international wing, like the Lufthansa Airline, Turkish Airline, and Ethiopian Airline are yet to resume operations. 
The Acting Head of Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Kunle Akinbode, confirmed the resumption of international flight operations at the airport, last Friday, saying the international wing is now open for international airlines to operate.
He explained that the curfew that was imposed in the state delayed the resumption of international flights operations, even when issues of Covid-19 standard protocols had been addressed.
“Now that the curfew is over and the international wing is open for flight operations, it is left for each of the airlines to work out its own schedule for operations.
“It will not be the duty of the airport management to sort things out for them and know when to resume. I know that some have started. Lufthansa has said they will resume next month, August”, Akinbode said.
The Tide reports that the international wing of the Port Harcourt Airport had been shut since the Covid-19 lockdown, and did not reopen when other international airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano among others reopened for international operations.

Stories by Corlins Walter

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