BENIN CITY – With less than 24 hours into the ongoing strike by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), the multiplier effects have taken their toll on motorists and commuters in Benin City and its metropolis.
As at noon yesterday, all the petrol stations visited in Benin City, including NNPC Mega stations were devoid of  normal business activities as none of them opened for sale of petroleum products.
This development resulted in scarcity of petroleum products and subsequent re-emergence of black marketers of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise referred to as fuel.
Managers of some of the petrol stations, Chairman of Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Benin Depot, Mr. Douglas Iyiki in a chat with The Nigerian OBSERVER said the union is not on strike, but  disclosed that the PMS in Benin depot finished on Friday last week.
According to him, only PENGASSAN and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) members are on strike.
He disclosed that there was no scarcity as such, but “perennial scarcity”.
Managers of some of the petrol stations visited who declined mentioning their names said they decided to close down because they were not   expecting supply soon due to the PENGASSAN strike.
They disclosed that PENGASSAN had unresolved issues with government which had to be resolved before there could be hope of re-opening for business.
According to them, very many petrol stations opened for business uptill about noon when received directives from their bosses to stop sales.
Meanwhile, the price of five litres jerrycan of fuel has skyrocketed to between N800 – N1000 while 10 litres jerrycan of fuel sells for between N1,500 to N1800 in the black market.
Due to the scarcity of fuel, the cost of transportation in both intercity and intra-city has gone up relatively, inspite of the upsurge in commuters, occasioned by the yuletide.
Most fuel stations visited by newsmen within the city centre had queues around them.
Mr Aboki Danladi, a civil servant, said that the strike was ill timed and would impact negatively on the masses.
“The strike is very unfortunate; why are they going on strike at this critical time when Nigerians are trying to celebrate Christmas.
“This is not good for the masses; the whole trouble will be on the masses as usual, “he said.
Mr Alex Felix, an Engineer with a telecom company, said Nigerians were trying to feed their families and preparing to travel for the yuletide when the strike commenced.
“I am sure, unless otherwise, many people will not be able to travel for the Christmas and New Year festivities due to scarcity of petroleum product.
“It is not even the matter of travelling but you know petrol touches virtually all aspect of Nigerians’ lives,“ he said.
He urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, carry out the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the refineries and all other issues related therein.
Hajia Salmat Bello, a businesswoman, called on both the government and the two associations to sit down and work out modalities that would solve the problem.
“ With the slump in global prices of crude oil, government should reduce pump prices of petroleum products so that we will have some sigh of relief.
“We are really suffering in Nigeria, compared to other oil producing countries, in terms of supply, selling and importation,“she said.
Mr Mohammed Jia, a taxi driver who came to buy fuel at the Area 10 Oando filing station, said that it was too early to experience this fuel situation.
He said that the situation should be remedied immediately by government now that Christmas was around the corner.
According to him, he has been on the queue for over three hours without getting the product.
Meanwhile, motorists in Abuja yesterday decried the three-day warning strike embarked upon by the major oil workers in parts of the country.
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) recently gave a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet their demands or face industrial action.
Their demands, according to a statement, include the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), immediate conversion of all contract staff to regular workers in accordance with the approved Contract, Casual and Outsourcing in the Oil and Industry Guideline.
Others issues at stake include the transfer and termination of appointments of national officers of the two unions.
A cross section of the motorists told newsmen that the strike would affect Nigerians, most especially when Christmas was at the corner.