The umbrella body of indigenous operators in the haulage of petroleum products, goods and services in the country, Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), has raised the alarm over the rate at which insecurity crippled its activities across the country.
National President of the association, Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, who stated this on Wednesday during the Annual General Meeting of the association in Abuja, lamented that kidnappers not only hijack trucks but drivers on the nation’s highways and in many instances resulting in human casualties.
The AGM was attended by players in the oil sector, including representative of the group chief executive officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Mele Kyari; the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers ( NUPENG); Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria ( IPMAN); Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria ( DAPPMAN), amongst others.
Addressing the gathering, the NARTO President said, “The activities of bandits, kidnappers, and thieves have made life miserable for drivers. We have had many cases where drivers were kidnapped while on duty and some had their trucks hijacked at gunpoint along some of the critical routes in the country.
“Many drivers and their assistants have lost their lives and losses incurred from such incidents. Sadly, we have witnessed the resurgence of these ugly incidents recently with the increasing wave of kidnappings in the country, particularly within the federal capital territory, Abuja.
“While commending the efforts of the security agencies in tackling the problem, we pray that the government will review its security policies and plans to holistically contain the situation.”
Apart from insecurity and the bad shape of federal roads, Alhaji Othman also expressed concern over the deregulation of the oil sector without a corresponding review of freight charges paid to members of his Association.
He said, “While the deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector is commendable, it has introduced a substantial challenge in determining freight rates. In a theoretically free market, freight costs should be dictated by demand and supply dynamics, with rates negotiated between marketers and transporters.
However, achieving this has proven difficult.
“Despite our operational costs, particularly in forex and diesel, skyrocketing to unsustainable levels, marketers consistently refuse our requests for freight reviews, citing government restrictions on adjusting PMS pump prices, even when international market prices for the product increase.
“I wish to convey that we have brought this matter to the government’s attention through the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, where it is currently under consideration. It is my ardent hope that our continuous engagements with the authorities will yield the desired result.”
In his remarks, the GCEO, NNPC, Mele Kyari, who was represented by executive vice president, Midstream and Downstream, NNPC, Dapo Segun, acknowledged the challenges members of NARTO are encountering in the sector.
He said, “We have a responsibility to take care of supply and distribution of petroleum products. We can’t do that without the support of NARTO. We are pleased with your role in recent times. I will be failing in my duty if we don’t acknowledge the role you played to mitigate fuel queues.
“We see NARTO as very important stakeholders. We feel your pains, we know how difficult the terrain is especially at this time. So much investment has been put in this economy but people worry about the viability. I like to encourage you to continue doing what you are doing. There are always good times and tough times. We know that tough times never last but tough people and associations like NARTO last.
“The time will come when you will enjoy the benefit of the perseverance that we are going through and that time will come very soon. All it takes to make things work in this country is sincerity and commitment.”
In his goodwill message, president of NUPENG, Comrade Williams Akporeha, who was represented by the Union General Secretary, Comrade Wale Afolabi, said NUPENG would be willing to collaborate with NARTO for the Association to convince the federal government concede to its demands.
He said, “We know the challenges that transporters are going through. They are the employers of our drivers. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve together . Our relationship stands strong and NUPENG- PTD will never leave you alone. The success of NARTO is the success of NUPENG. We are committed to favourable review of freight charges for transporters, we are willing to stand by you, so that your businesses don’t go down.”
Chairman, Board of Trustees of IPMAN, Alhaji Aminu Abdulkadir, urged other players in the downstream sector to emulate the quality of leadership being offered by NARTO.
He said, “It is the only association that relates with all the other players downstream. I think it isn’t enough for us to commend NARTO but I enjoin all other players to enjoin the culture of peace and harmony in NARTO. it has played a crucial role for peace to reign in this industry.”