Following last-minute intervention by the Anambra government, members of Independent Petroleum Marketers of Nigeria (IPMAN) in the state, will now shutdown operations on Aug. 25, across the state.
The impending strike is in solidarity with Siluch Oil and Gas Limited, an IPMAN member, being owed N13.6 million for petroleum products it supplied to Transport Company of Anambra State (TRACAS), since 2017.
IPMAN had on Aug.4, issued a 21-day ultimatum to the state government, to pay off the debt, and also address other issues raised by the association.
Speaking to newsmen on Sunday in Awka, Mr Chinedu Anayaso, Chairman of IPMAN, Enugu Depot, said that the shutdown would be total until all conditions were met.
Anayaso said apart from the debt payment, his members were resisting any form of tax/levy increase by the government, as the economy did not currently support such an additional burden on businesses.
“We are counting days, we have not seen anything that shows that the state government is treating our letter to them with the seriousness it deserves.
“We expect that they pay the young man his money, withdraw all cases against our members for refusing to pay the levies we did not agree on, and revert to the annual unified levy we reached an agreement on,” he said.
He said that the action would be total because IPMAN, NUPENG and Petrol Tanker Drivers were together in the plan, adding that anyone who violated the order would pay a fine of N500, 000.
He also said within the period of shutdown, no product destined for Anambra would be loaded, adding sadly however, other states like Enugu and Ebonyi under the zone would be affected.
Also speaking, Uche Okoye, Managing Director of Siluch Oil and Gas, said his company was having a smooth business relationship with TRACAS until the second term campaign of Gov. Willie Obiano, when they could not pay for four months.
Okoye said he had written and visited TRACAS and the transport ministry several times over the debt, but regretted that they had refused to pay him.
He noted with regrets that the money owed him was a loan secured from the bank for which he had been paying interests without making use of.
“The debt is seriously affecting me because it is a loan I obtained from the bank.
“I have more than 30 workers, and things are getting more difficult by the day due to TRACAS’ indebtedness to my company.
“Initially, I had no plans of laying off workers even with the current economic hardship in the country, but as it is, I am somehow working on a very tight rope.
Mrs Edith Madukasi, the Managing Director of TRACAS, told journalists that she was informed on the assumption of duties in the company that Siluch was owed some money by the company.
“I was told that TRACAS is owing Siluch for the product it supplied to us, but I cannot speak on the matter, it is my commissioner that will speak on that,” Madukasi said.
Reacting, Mr Afam Mbanefo, Commissioner for Transport in Anambra, said he had been briefed on the debt and that he was already working on it.
Mbanefo said that the government would ensure that every stakeholder got what was due to them.
“I have looked at the transactions of this office since I assumed office and this debt amounting to N13.57 million was presented, and IPMAN leadership had also visited me on the same matter.
“I did a review with TRACAS and requested for a lot more information about the procurement procedures, gathered enough relevant documents, and have gone ahead to raise a memo to the governor.
“I understand that the particular marketer is still doing business with the state government to keep his business running while we resolve the issue.
“My initial question was how on earth was he supplying diesel to the level that it got to that amount, and he did not question how he would be paid.
“I sent the memo mid-July, and I am sure it will be under review by now,” he said.
Mbanefo said his ministry was talking with IPMAN to ensure that there was no breakdown of their services.
He said that Anambra had a good relationship with IPMAN and would do all that it could to ensure that the marketer recovered his money; and the government maintained a good relationship with the association.