Reprieve as petrol tanker drivers suspend strike, resume operations immediately

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Tanker NARTO
  • FG threatens to allow cement importation, crash price

The Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners has suspended its planned nationwide strike.

The suspension followed a meeting of the association with the Federal Government and stakeholders on Monday after tanker drivers stopped lifting petroleum products.

The national president of NARTO, Yusuf Lawal, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

NARTO had requested that oil marketers review freight rates after the deregulation of the downstream sector.

In a letter dated February 15, 2024, addressed to the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, the association said oil marketers turned down its request, stating that it can no longer continue with operations due to the state of the economy.

NARTO stopped operations on February 19, the same day a meeting with the Federal Government ended in a deadlock.

However, after a meeting with the Federal Government in Abuja on Tuesday, Lawal said the association has agreed to suspend the strike.

Speaking after the meeting, he said the association has reached a meeting point with the marketers.

Lawal said they have agreed to commence operations with immediate effect.

According to him, the strike was suspended due to the economic hardship.

“We’ll commence operations immediately,” he said.

Lawal said the marketers had proposed additional freight rates, saying there is room for improvement.

FG threatens to allow cement importation, crash price

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has threatened to open the borders to facilitate cement importation if the cement manufacturers refuse to reduce the price of the commodity in the country.

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Ahmed Dangiwa, stated this during an emergency meeting with cement manufacturers in the country in Abuja, on Tuesday.

He said key input materials for cement production such as limestone, clay, silica sand and gypsum sourced within the nation’s borders should not be dollar-rated.

According to him, the price of gas that manufacturers are using as an excuse was not tenable because gas is a raw material found within the country.

He added that the excuse of an increase in the prices of mining equipment should not come up because equipment bought by the manufacturers have been used for decades and not purchased every day.

The minister said the border was closed to the importation of cement to help local manufacturers.

He, however, noted that if the government decides to open the border for mass importation, prices of cement would crash and local manufacturers would be gravely affected.

Dangiwa, who called on the manufacturers to be more patriotic, said BUA Cement, for instance, has been willing and is still willing as at the last time he spoke with them, to crash the price of their cement, lower than the between N7000 and N8000 the Federal Government agreed by the manufacturers, adding that he sees no reason others should not do same.

“The challenges you speak of, many countries are facing the same challenges and some even worse than that but as patriotic citizens, we have to rally around whenever there is a crisis to change the situation.

“The gas price you spoke of, we know that we produce gas in this country. The only thing you can say is that maybe it is not enough.

“Even if you say about 50 per cent of your production cost is spent on gas prices, we still produce gas in Nigeria. It’s just that some of the manufacturers take advantage of the situation. As for the mining equipment that you mentioned, you buy equipment and it takes years and you are still using it,” he said.

Earlier, the Group Chief Commercial Officer of Dangote Cement, Rabiu Umar, blamed the high cost of gas and mining equipment for the hike in cement price.

“It is safe to say we are all Nigerians and we are all facing the current head weight that is happening. I would like to speak on the popular belief that most of the raw materials to produce cement are available locally.

“While we have limestone and in some cases, we have gypsum and some cases coal, the reality is that it takes a lot of forex-related items to produce cement,” he said.