Tanker Drivers Accuse Ministry, Politicians of Hijacking N621bn NNPC Road Funds

todayFebruary 10, 2022

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•Be patient, stop the blackmail, works ministry cautions

Emmanuel Addeh

The Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) yesterday alleged that the N621 billion for the rehabilitation of 21 critical road infrastructure in the country had been hijacked by politicians and persons in the concerned ministry.

Speaking during a press briefing in Abuja yesterday, National Chairman of the PTD, Mr Salmon Oladiti, told journalists that some persons were bent on frustrating the repairs programme as agreed by the stakeholders.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had committed to spend the amount on road rehabilitation, following the suspension of the planned strike by the organisation.

The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the parent body, at the time, had threatened that the petroleum tanker drivers would commence a strike over the deplorable state of the nation’s highways, among other issues.

However, the planned strike was later suspended after the union and the management of the NNPC reached an understanding, but with a caveat that it would not hesitate to embark on the strike without any notice if the understanding reached was not fully implemented within the timeframe.

The NNPC is financing the programme through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme in collaboration with the federal ministry of works and housing and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

The scheme is an initiative of that allows the private sector to get involved in road construction in exchange for a tax credit.

With the renewed agitation by the drivers, products scarcity may be imminent as the union lamented that the deplorable state of Nigerian roads had continued to kill its members through road crashes and incessant breakdown of vehicles.

Oladiti noted that aside accidents, the tanker drivers were always exposed to the risk of attacks by kidnappers, bandits and terrorists, with the criminals having taken over some of the roads.

He maintained that the union had been on the matter of bad roads for more than three years before reaching the agreement to rehabilitate the critical roads, adding that till now there is no work currently going on from the group’s investigation.

“You will all recall that at the end of the quarterly branch executive council meeting of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers, held at PTD House, Emene, Enugu on the 25th of September2021, the union issued a firm and decisive ultimatum on the deplorable state of the federal highways and the painful experiences of our members while carrying out their duties across the Country.

“You will also recall, that to avert the situation of industrial action of the union, the management of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation ‘apprehended’ the situation by calling the leadership of the union for two separate meetings the 10th of October 2021 in Ibadan and 12th October 2021 in Abuja.

“All critical stakeholders were at these meetings, including FIRS, FRSC, federal ministry of works and housing, Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the union.

“These two meetings resulted into signing of a communique indicating the readiness and willingness of NNPC to finance the rehabilitation of identified 21 critical roads at an estimated sum of N621 billion through Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme.

“On the basis of this communique, we suspended the intended industrial action but with a very clear warning, that should the spirit and letter of the agreement not fully implemented with focus on those jointly identified critical roads, the union will not hesitate to resume the intended actions without further warning.

“To the delight of all of us, the issued was tabled before the Federal Executive Council FEC and was expressly approved within two weeks as agreed.

“Unfortunately, and to our greatest shocks, we heard it from very reliable sources that some vultures in the garbs of being state governments, officials of ministry of works and housing and politicians are already depleting these funds.

“They are misappropriating them on roads and projects not intended in the agreement as approved by the FEC,” the drivers alleged.

Describing it as an open day robbery, the leadership of the union vowed to go to all lengths to expose these “unscrupulous individuals.”

PTD insisted that every kobo of the approved fund must be accounted for and that the union must see and broadcast the pre and post rehabilitation of all the identified 21 federal road to the whole nation.

“Tax payers’ money must be accounted for. We urge every patriotic Nigerian to rise up and join us in this struggle, this is not a fight for NUPENG alone, it is our collective fight,” Oladiti stated.

But when contacted, the Director, Highways Construction and Rehabilitation in the ministry, Mr Folorunso Esan, stated it was wrong for the tanker drivers to deploy blackmail as a tool, accusing them of being impatient.

“Why are they impatient? They can’t damage us. This thing has just started and the contractors are just mobilising, so what is the issue? And the minister even explained to them that it is meant to for the completion of some projects.

“It is not necessarily for new roads, so they have to be patient. Why are they like this? It’s even the NNPC that will disburse after verification from the FIRS. But the bottom line is that they have to be patient. The contractors are set and there are no issues. They are already on site,” he assured.

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