Suspend Strike and Follow Due Process - Uzodimma urges striking Oil Marketers

...Uzodimma clarifies comment on open grazing

The government of Imo State has encouraged striking oil marketers and tanker drivers to halt their protests and go through the proper channels to resolve whatever issues they may have with the government.

In a press released on Friday by Oguwike Nwachuku Press Secretary/Media Adviser to Governor said the Government sees their action as illegal since the contentious matter of judgment debt is before the appeal court. 

Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Emelumba told a news conference on Friday in Owerri that what the oil marketers are doing amounts to blackmail and economic sabotage, reiterating that "government has reached out to them to ensure that the strike is called off." 

"We have initiated talks with them, but it is important for Nigerians to know that the matter for which they started this strike is still in court. In the eyes of the law, the strike is illegal." 

He disclosed that although the judgment which was obtained by a private firm, SUNAZ Oil Nig. Ltd. against TIMIK Consult Ltd and Imo State Government, was done without the knowledge and legal representation from the government. 

Emelumba said when the Rochas Okorocha administration demolished the filling station, the marketers restrained themselves from taking the laws into their hands by not embarking on any illegal action. 

The affected dealer went to court suggesting that the marketers believe in the rule of law. 

"It is therefore surprising that the same people do not want the law to take its full course by embarking on an illegal action when the matter is still pending in the court of appeal." 

The Commissioner noted that what Government did was simply to appeal the judgment to understand its full import since it was the administration of Rochas Okorocha that carried out the act under consideration. 

Emelumba said the Government had since informed the oil marketers that it will not hesitate to pay the money in question should judgment from appeal go against it. 

Government said it is amazing that the owner of Sunaz Oil Nig Ltd took undue advantage of his relationship with tanker drivers to drag the union into a purely private matter that has nothing to do with the tanker drivers. 

Said Emelumba - "It is surprising that the private company got the judgment in March 2021 this year. Government became aware of it only this July. Without even initiating the due process of execution, the oil marketers and tanker drivers embarked on strike. This is a premeditated blackmail and economic sabotage." 

He again reiterated the earlier call on the oil workers to immediately call off the strike for the interest of Imo citizens who are innocent victims of their ill-advised action. 

He warned that government as an institution has a responsibility to protect the interest of the masses, particularly when undue hardship is inflicted upon them for no fault of theirs and emphasized that “there is a limit any person or group of persons can test the will of government in this regard." 

He continued: "Government will not continue to fold her arms and watch her citizens suffer for no justifiable reasons hence the appeal to well meaning citizens of Imo State to talk to the oil marketers and tanker drivers to call-off their strike and allow Imo masses live their normal lives because the continued strike has in no small measure affected the economy of the State, negatively." 

In another development, Governor Hope Uzodimma has expressed regrets that his recent statement on open grazing was interpreted out of context by a section of the media. 

He reiterated that what he said was that “farmers and herders were peacefully coexisting in Imo State as a result of mutual respect and understanding.” The Governor, who spoke through Emelumba also disclosed that contrary to insinuations, the State has an open grazing law which became operative since 2006. 

According to him, the law provided for areas that are restricted from open grazing and the herders have been abiding by it. "The MOU, the farmers and herders signed was to strengthen the existing law and it is working very well." 

Furthermore, the Governor emphasized that what was important is the peaceful way farmers and herders have co-existed in the State. 

"Whereas a law on anti-grazing may be desirable, dialogue and understanding as it is the case in Imo State were more effective in addressing the conflict." 

Governor Uzodimma urged Nigerians to embrace inclusiveness and tolerance as necessary tools in building and sustaining a united Nigeria, noting that "all activities of the States and the people should be geared towards uniting the country and not creating divisions." 

The Governor finally commended the farmers and herders in Imo State for living in peace and pledged the support of government towards ensuring that they sustain their cordial relationships. 

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