The Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) wing of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) is on the verge of a significant organizational shakeup. In a bold move, the PTD has issued a threat to withdraw from NUPENG, citing dissatisfaction with the current leadership. The crux of the matter revolves around the demand for the resignation of NUPENG’s National President, Williams Akporeha, and its General Secretary, Olawale Afolabi.
Expressing their discontent, the tanker drivers, represented by Gbenga Olawale and Adekunle Rufai of PTD’s Ibadan Depot, released a statement in Abuja detailing their grievances. Across the nation, these drivers staged a symbolic protest, adorning their trucks with plant leaves, and simultaneously issued a stern warning to NUPENG and law enforcement agencies against interference and harassment directed at their leaders.
The core allegation against NUPENG’s president is centered on his perceived lack of competence and legitimacy for leading the union. According to the PTD members, Williams Akporeha’s previous employment history as a cook in an oil company from the formal sector raises questions about his suitability for the presidency. Complicating matters, they claim that he was dismissed from this position while concurrently holding the office of the national treasurer of NUPENG.
The tanker drivers further assert that Williams Akporeha was strategically maneuvered into the Petrol Station Workers Union of NUPENG, a move seen as a calculated step to pave the way for his candidacy for the presidency of NUPENG. This purported deviation from NUPENG’s constitution, which traditionally requires candidates to have a background as workers or pump attendants, is a key point of contention.
The crux of their argument is that Williams Akporeha, lacking a verifiable record as a worker or pump attendant during his bid for the presidency, is unfit to hold such a crucial position within the union. The dissident faction within the PTD accuses Akporeha of orchestrating the placement of his surrogates in strategic positions to divert the union’s revenue for personal gain.
In solidarity with their cause, the tanker drivers align themselves with individuals like Lucky Osusan and Dayyab Garaga, individuals they perceive as having sacrificed for the liberation of the union. It’s a stance that reflects a desire for a leadership that prioritizes the interests of the union members over personal gains.
In response to these allegations, NUPENG’s General Secretary, Olawale Afolabi, vehemently denies the claims made by the dissident PTD faction. Afolabi counters that the individuals who issued the statement are not bona fide members of the PTD. Furthermore, he contends that the leaders of this faction have already faced legal consequences, having been arrested and incarcerated at the Kuje prison in Abuja following an attack on NUPENG officials.
The situation is a powder keg of internal union strife, with accusations and counter-accusations flying between the PTD and NUPENG leadership. The outcome of this conflict could potentially reshape the landscape of the petroleum and natural gas workers’ union in Nigeria. As the tension escalates, it remains to be seen whether the demands for leadership change within NUPENG will be met or if the threatened withdrawal of the PTD will come to fruition, causing a seismic shift in the dynamics of these influential labor unions. The unfolding events underscore the complexities and challenges inherent in the delicate balance between union democracy, leadership legitimacy, and the pursuit of members’ welfare within the Nigerian labor movement.
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