It was bound to happen. After closing state roads to effect repairs and curtail damage by heavy duty trucks, the backlash was swift, and the Niger state government finds itself under pressure to reverse its decision.
A knowledgeable source said after tanker drivers declared they would not supply the northern part of the country with petroleum products, the federal government began to pile subtle pressure on the state to reverse the decision so as not to cause a terrible fuel scarcity in volatile parts of the country.
In a well-publicised closure ceremony, the state closed the Minna-Bida road, and announced closure of other state roads following damage caused by the articulated vehicles moving goods between the north and south of the country.
The Niger state government claims it has been unable to complete work on the Minna-Bida road because the trucks damage it as contractors rehabilitate
They advised the trucks to resort to the use of federal roads, but truck drivers say the roads are very bad, and harbour bandits and other criminal elements.
According to reports, the powerful Petroleum Tanker Drivers, PTD, Wednesday, asked its members to down keys and stop the distribution of petroleum products from Lagos to the north for now.
PTD, in a statement by its National Chairman, Otunba Salimon Oladiti, said: “we want to use this medium to inform the general public that from … Thursday, September 17, our members will not be lifting products from Lagos to the northern part of the country because the Niger State government has shut out heavy-duty trucks, including tankers, from passing through the state.
“The only alternative road is not motorable. This is Bida- Agai- Lapai-Lambata Road. In fact, this road is a deathtrap.
“When we got wind of the plan of the Niger State Government to shut the roads about weeks back, I spoke to the Minister of Works through one of his aides and he assured that the ministry would do palliative and remedial works on the road.
“Unfortunately, over two weeks after our discussion, nothing has been down on the roads.
“As leaders, we have to do the needful and protect the lives of our members from avoidable accidents and attacks from hoodlums.
“So starting from tomorrow, September 17, our members will not be lifting products from Lagos to the Northern part of the country. Until the Federal Government makes the alternative road motorable, our members will not resume lifting of products to the northern part of the country.
“In the letter to our State Chairman, the Niger State Government, through its Ministry of Transport, dated September 9, by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Abdullahi U. Imam, informed us about its decision to shut out all heavy trucks vehicles from passing through the link and major roads in the state from Tuesday.
“The letter read ‘You are aware of efforts of the Niger State government to rehabilitate Minna-Bida Road and major roads leading to Minna.
“‘These efforts have largely been frustrated because of the heavy presence of heavy trucks plying these roads.
“‘In view of the forgoing, we hereby notify you of government’s decision for a total shutdown of all linking roads to Minna to heavy trucks from 12 midnight of September 15.
“‘You will, please, bring this information to all your members in order to guide them to find alternative routes for their movements’.
“Consequently, we have directed our members (tanker drivers) to stop lifting products from Lagos to the northern part of the country until further notice.”