Barely 48hours after stakeholders averted proposed strike over seizure of petroleum tankers by personnel of security agencies, including the Army, the leadership of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees (NUPENG) has succumbed to pressure, and directed filling stations in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and its environs to shut down operations following fresh disagreement between tanker drivers and security agencies in the state.
But in a swift reaction, yesterday, the Rivers State Government has called on members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
Most of the filling stations monitored across Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas in Rivers State, yesterday, were discovered to have complied with the fresh directive to embark on strike over the arrest of some tanker drivers and seizure of their vehicles.
The shutdown of operations has led to fuel scarcity and resurgence of black market in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Also, black market operators have taken advantage of the development to make brisk deals.
Our correspondent, who monitored the industrial action by the filing station operators, reports that queues have continued to build up in most filling stations in the state capital.
The majority of the filling stations were said to have stopped dispensing fuel to motorists and other consumers since midnight on Tuesday after another tanker was said to have been seized by the Task Force on Illegal Parking.
Our correspondent, who monitored the situation in Port Harcourt, yesterday, observed that Tonnino Filling Station, Jet Filling Station and Royal Dynasty Filling Station on Ada-George Road, as well as some filling stations on Port Harcourt-Aba Road, and the few between Rumuomasi through Elekahia, were all shut down.
Also, Eterna Filling Station and Forte Filling Station located along Peter Odili Road were both shut down.
Our correspondent also tracked a Toyota Sienna and Hiace buses populated by NUPENG strike enforcement team, monitoring compliance with the directive within Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor LGAs.
The two buses were seen criss-crossing the roads, monitoring all filling stations from Aba Road through Waterlines, and from Rumuokalagbor-Elekahia through Nkpogu to Peter Odili, and onward to Port Harcourt Township through Eastern Bypass.
Speaking on the action, the National Treasurer of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Employees, NUPENG, Comrade Alex Agwanwa, explained that the action was due to the inability of security agents to respect the understanding they reached with the union, last weekend.
Agwanwa, who is also the chairman of the United Labour Congress in Rivers State explained that between Sunday and yesterday, more trucks have been arrested alongside the drivers by security agencies.
“Instead of maintaining our understanding, they decided to arrest more trucks. As we speak, 27 trucks carrying legal products have been arrested. It is unacceptable.
“This matter has been on for the past two years. We did not want it to get to this stage but here we are,” he added.
The NUPENG official maintained that the filings stations would remain shut until all their members and trucks seized by the security agencies are released.
Some filling station attendants, who spoke with The Tide said their services were withdrawn following directives from the leadership of the joint body of petroleum marketers in Rivers State.
The Chairman of the Licensed Filling Station Owners in Rivers State, Comrade Sunny Nkpe, who spoke with The Tide on the issue, said the action was taken because of the violation of an agreement reached by all stakeholders on the matter, which shelved the earlier planned strike.
He said their members were still facing intimidation and arrests by the state task force on illegal parking and other security operatives.
On his part, the National Public Relations Officer of NUPENG, Comrade Chinedu Ukadike, said the decision reached on February 16 for security agencies and the state government to release the union’s trucks in detention by February 17 was yet to be carried out, hence the directive to withdraw of the services of members.
He further claimed that the arrests were unnecessary and carried out without proper investigation.
He said, “Most of these trucks are carrying our products. If they continue to hold our trucks in detention, what do they want us to sell?”.
Some motorists, who spoke with our correspondent, lamented the situation, stating that it was difficult for them to operate due to scarcity of products.
A commercial driver, Akanimo Abel, said he bought a liter of fuel at N350 from black market operators.
He said, “My business is badly affected by the strike, the strike took all of us by surprise, and we did not expect it. We thought all the issues have been resolved. I want the issues to be resolved once so that normal business can go on.”
Another commercial taxi driver, Chris Agbogu, said the strike has caused grave difficulties to the users of the products, adding that he was finding it difficult to buy enough fuel to enable him do his business.
In reaction to the surprise strike by tanker drivers and filling station owners in the state, the Rivers State Government, yesterday, advised members of the public to avoid panic buying of petroleum products as it has taken steps to resolve issues leading to the protest by petroleum tanker drivers in the state.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Energy, Dr Peter Medee, who gave the advise in an interview with newsmen in Government House, Port Harcourt, said the lingering protest was as a result of several threats by the union that they want to go on strike.
“There are catalog of what they actually requested that we do, and we have been making efforts to see what we can do to resolve those things”, he said.
He explained that the state government had approached the 6 Division of the Nigerian Army on some trucks seized by soldiers and that the GOC had graciously approved release of those trucks.
“Unfortunately, some of those trucks were handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for further investigation.
“There are processes that we have to take to get those ones that were sent to EFCC released, and we are in the process of getting them done”, the commissioner said, adding that the trucks at the 6 Division have already been released.
On the trucks impounded by the state task force on decongestion of roads, Medee said they had also made efforts to get them released, and also gone to the prison to release members of the union that were imprisoned, while those in police custody for wrong parking have also been released.
“What I am saying in essence is that we are making several efforts. Now, we have started engaging directly with their national leadership because we have seen that their union people in the state are beginning to show lack of understand of the sensibility of government”.
He noted that the government of Chief Nyesom Wike was very careful with the ease of doing business initiative because it was his vision that nothing should hinder business activities in the state, hence the need to thread with caution.
The commissioner further stated that the Federal Government was battling with oil theft, which was why a lot of trucks involved in sharp practices were being impounded daily by security agencies.
He gave kudos to the union leaders for declaring that they would not support any of their members involved in illegality.
“However, we expect the union to understand and bear with us. All the efforts we are making are gradually paying off. We are releasing the trucks. We are releasing their members that were arrested.
“We are not ignoring them. We are doing our very best to make sure that the problem is resolved, and I can assure you that in a short time, whatever you are seeing will be over.
“My advice to Rivers people is that they should avoid panic buying, relax, we will definitely handle this problem”, the commissioner assured.
Chris Oluoh, Taneh Beemene & Benice Iragunima
Join Fight To Defeat COVID-19, Wike Urges Rivers People …Extends Curfew To 24 Hours …Monitors Level Of Compliance
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has appealed to the people of the state to continue to support the efforts of the state government to check the spread of Coronavirus.
Speaking at the Government House, Port Harcourt, when he received food donations from Dufil Prima Foods Plc, producers of Indomie Noodles, Wike said it was better to be alive, than to die seeking food.
Wike was represented by the Rivers State Commissioner for Special Duties, Hon Bariere Thomas.
He said: “We are aware that the COVID-19 is what we didn’t expect, but as Christians we are prayerful believing that the situation is not going to last forever. So, we are calling on our people to cooperate with the government and remain at home.
“It is better to stay hungry and be alive than to die while eating. We expect our people to cooperate with government even as we remain prayerful.”
Wike said the food donations will get to the less privileged.
“We want to assure you that the materials will be distributed to the needy. We also want to say that your company and other non-governmental organizations are equally expected to join hands with the government ensure that the hard time they face is handled.
“Let me on behalf of the governor of Rivers State and the good people of the state thank the Dufil Prima Food Plc for responding timely to the situation we have at hand”, he stated.
The governor said that he understands the hardship the people pass through, but pointed out that the sacrifice is necessary to defeat Coronavirus.
He said: “We are all aware of the order of government for our people to stay at home. The government is not equally unaware of the hard time we are facing as a result of this order, that is one of the reasons why we are most grateful for your company for considering this donation.”
The Head of Administration of Dufil Prima Foods Plc , Mr Chinedum Wali said that the food donation is aimed at assisting the less privileged as they sit-at-home.
He said: “We are all aware about the Coronavirus that is spreading across the country and the world. On behalf of the management, we have brought a token to assist and support the less privileged.
“With the situation and the lock down, we brought this to assist the needy. We have one thousand cartons of noodles and five hundred cartons of pastas.”
Meanwhile, The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, extended the curfew imposed on some parts of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas of the state capital, warning that failure by residents of affected areas would be met with severe consequences.
Wike spoke yesterday, while monitoring the level of compliance of the curfew imposed by the state government on some densely populated areas, particularly, Obiri-Ikwerre Junction (Ozuoba, Rumualogu) to Choba and from Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction.
The curfew was aimed at ensuring that residents of the areas observe the sit-at-home directive to check the spread of Coronavirus in the state.
Wike imposed curfew on Obiri-Ikwerre Junction (Ozuoba, Rumualogu) to Choba and from Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction after residents of the area failed to comply with government directive closing markets across the state as part of measures to obey the social distancing rules.
Accompanied by Security Service Commanders, Wike started the monitoring exercise at Education Bus Stop up to Agip Junction.
The governor made his observations to the service commanders and operational service operatives on ground before proceeding to Obiri-Ikwerre Junction (Ozuoba, Rumualogu) to Choba where he made further observations on making the curfew effective to check the spread of Coronavirus.
It would be recalled that, yesterday, the Rivers State Government, had clarified that the curfew imposed at Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction, Ikwerre Road and Obiri Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba was for 24 hours with effect from March 31, 2020 till further notice.
During his state-wide broadcast, last Monday, Wike stated that the Rivers State Government would continue to take necessary measures to check the spread of Coronavirus.
He said: “Let me reiterate that this government will continue to do what is right no matter who is involved. As you are all aware, no conventional war has grounded global life and economy like Coronavirus has done.
“Everybody is affected. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to defeat Coronavirus. I want to sincerely express my heartfelt gratitude to our health professionals on the frontline of this fight. Let me also thank all the security agencies, individuals and organisations who are collaborating with us to make Rivers State safe.
“I am confident that with our collective resolve our dear state will contain the spread of this virus”.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, clarified that the 24-hour curfew was meant to reinforce government’s desire to contain the spread of the virus in the state.
A statement by the commissioner, yesterday, said the measure was an improvement from the dusk-to-dawn curfew earlier announced by the governor.
He explained that it was in its quest to further prevent infection of the Coronavirus in the state, that the Rivers State Government imposed 24-hour curfew in identified key areas of the state with high human traffic.
The statement reads in part: “This is to inform members of the public that the curfew imposed at Education Bus Stop to Agip Junction, Ikwerre Road and Obiri Ikwerre Junction to Ozuoba, Rumualogu and Choba is for 24 hours with effect from today, March 31, 2020 till further notice.
“It has also come to the notice of the state government that some banks are closing down in the state. The curfew is targeted at only some parts of the state. Therefore, banks have no excuse to shut down their operations.
“Any bank that is found to be closed will find it very difficult to reopen for business in the state”, the government warned.
COVID-19: NCDC Set To Increase Test Capacity To 1,500 Daily …As Confirmed Cases Of Coronavirus In Nigeria Rise To 139
The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said, yesterday, that the centre would increase its capacity to test for the Coronavirus to 1,500 per day in the country.
Ihekweazu stated this at the Presidential Taskforce Briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, yesterday.
He said the focus of NCDC efforts was to improve the number of people that could be tested for the disease.
He said: “Last week, we had the capacity to test 500 per day, by the end of this week we will be at 1000 a day.
“By next week, we are hoping to get to 1,500 a day.”
Ihekweazu, however, said that Nigerians need to reduce the demand side of the testing to those who really needed it.
He noted that the more the people force themselves into being tested, the less NCDC would have the capacity to test those who really need the screening.
In a related development, the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said that the ministry was unrelenting in its school children feeding.
She said the ministry would liaise with the state governments to work out the modalities to know how to go about the programme, despite the stay-at-home directive.
Farouq also disclosed that the ministry has about 2.6 million poor and vulnerable households on its social register.
However, the Federal Government has said it will be reaching more than 11 million Nigerians with palliatives to cushion the harsh effects of the measures set to fight back outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Also, the government has said it will continue to increase capacity to test for cases of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on weekly basis.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, while reacting to questions, yesterday, at the daily media briefing by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja, also disclosed that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the North-East part of the country already received two months rations of relief materials.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has announced four new cases of COVID-19 in the country.
This brings the total number of cases so far confirmed on Tuesday to eight. Four cases were earlier confirmed Tuesday morning.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country is now 139 at the time of this report.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said of the four new cases reported in Nigeria, three are in the FCT and one in Lagos.
The public health agency said “as at 08:00 pm 31st March there are 139 confirmed cases of COVID19 reported in Nigeria. Nine have been discharged with two deaths.”
Of the eight new cases reported on Tuesday, so far, three are in Osun, three are in the FCT, one in Lagos and one in Ogun State.
It said all new cases have mild to moderate symptoms and are currently receiving care.
A breakdown of cases by states show that Lagos is the epicentre for the COVID-19 in Nigeria. Cases have also been on the rise in FCT, Osun and Oyo states.
Although there has been an increase in the number of cases across the country, more are expected in days to come.
The government has intensified contact tracing to identify those who have been in contact with persons who tested positive to COVID-19. They have also improved the testing capacity by adding more laboratories to the ones available.
This implies that more diagnosis would be carried out daily.
The Director-General of NCDC, Chikwe Ihekweazu, said in Abuja Tuesday that efforts are on to test more people for the virus.
“Last week we had the capacity to test 500 per day, by the end of this week we will be at 1000 a day.
“By next week we are hoping to get to 1500 a day,” he said.
Also, a multi-sectoral national emergency operations centre (EOC), activated at level 3, continues to coordinate the national response activities.
2019/20 European Season Could Be Lost -UEFA
UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin has said that the current football season could be lost if it cannot be restarted by the end of June.
Most leagues in Europe are suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, with this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament postponed for another year.
Ceferin says seasons could be finished behind closed doors.
“If we don’t succeed in restarting, the season will probably be lost,” the Slovenian said.
He told Tidesports source, “There is a plan A, B and C.
“The three options are to start again in mid-May, in June or at the end of June.
“There is also the possibility of starting again at the beginning of the next [season], starting the following one later. We will see the best solution for leagues and clubs.”
As it stands there are nine games to be completed by the majority of Premier League clubs, and up to 12 in the Football League.
All football in England is suspended until at least 30 April.
Ceferin says that playing remaining games behind closed doors would have to be an option across Europe.
“It’s hard for me to imagine all the matches behind closed doors, but we still don’t know whether we’ll resume, with or without spectators,” he said.
“If there was no alternative, it would be better to finish the championships.”
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