Group Managing Director of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu
The reopening of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depot in Osisioma, Aba, Abia State has reinvigorated socio-economic activities in the hitherto moribund depot community, writes Emmanuel Ugwu
It had been a long wait for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depot at Osisioma in Aba, Abia State to come back to life. And when on July 9, 2012 the depot was reopened in a fanfare the sigh of relief from all stakeholders was palpable. This is because the depot occupies a significant position in the economic life of Abia State.
At the peak of economic activities at the Osisioma depot the chairman of IPMAN, Aba Depot Unit, Sir Gilbert Nwoke, said the over 30, 000 persons that depended on the depot for their livelihood, included 11, 000 IPMAN members.
The Osisioma depot went moribund on May 23, 2007 when the depot ran out of stock. The PPMC had on March 3, 2007 cut off the supply of petroleum products to the Osisioma depot, citing “massive vandalisation” of its oil pipelines. Pipeline vandals were actually having a field-day bursting pipelines and siphoning the precious liquid products thereby inflicting economic loses to the nation. Following agitations and assurances from stakeholders that the criminals would be checkmated hope was rekindled when the PPMC “re-commissioned” the depot in May 2008. It was a fanfare as all the major stakeholders and their well-wishers gathered for the ceremony which the PPMC christened the “re-commissioning” of the Aba depot.
It was therefore understandable that the reopening of the depot attracted thousands of important dignitaries including the Abia State governor, Chief Theodore Orji and his government officials, marketers, federal and state lawmakers and the business community.
Governor Orji declared at the re-opening ceremony that “My joy knows no bound,” adding, “It is a great relief for you and me.” Equally, the Senator representing Abia Central in the Senate, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, said she was overwhelmed and excited to witness the re-opening of the depot. “As somebody from this area I know what we have suffered since the closure,” she said. Nwaogu who hails from Osisioma added “I can see economic life being improved tremendously with the re-opening of the depot.”
On September 5, 2011, Nwaogu in the course of her constituency tour addressed IPMAN members, who took their protest to her over the closure of the Aba depot and solicited for her assistance to make the federal authorities reopen the depot. The Senator who was touched by the plight of the marketers and the entire depot community, who depended on the continued flow of petroleum products to stay afloat, then promised to mobilise her fellow National Assembly members from Abia to launch their own advocacy to get the depot reopened. Nwaogu made good her promise to the IPMAN members and her entire constituents.
To Governor Orji it was yet another dividend of the effective collaboration between his administration and the Federal Government led by President Goodluck Jonathan. Orji noted that the struggle to get the authorities to re-open the depot dated back to the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
According to him, with the reopening of the depot crime would be dealt a final blow as the closure of the depot had led to exponential rise to kidnapping and other criminalities that plagued Abia few years back.
Aside the new wave of criminal activities engendered by the closure of the depot it also brought a period of economic hardships and agony for the depot community that depended on the depot for their livelihood. Consumers of petroleum products in Abia and neighbouring states equally had their fair share of the agony as they were made to pay through their noses to buy petrol and kerosene.
Marketers had explained that the price hike was inevitable as they were forced to go as far as Lagos to lift petroleum products thereby incurring extra costs in what they called “bridge” loading. The effect of the Aba depot closure reverberated beyond Abia State because of its capacity to serve not only Abia but also its catchment area comprising some neighbouring states of Imo, Anambra and some parts of Akwa Ibom.
The 33-year-old depot has 12 storage tanks, with a combined design capacity to hold 103, 241, 000 litres of petroleum products, namely PMS (petrol), HHK (Kerosene) and AGO (diesel). The Aba depot also serves as a link to for evacuation of products from Port Harcourt refinery through a 12 inch 54lm pipeline for onward transmission to Enugu, Makurdi and Yola.
“The importance of Aba Depot since inception, in products distribution in the South-east and North-eastern Nigeria need not be over emphasized,” said Haruna Momoh, the Managing Director of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC.
Area Manager of the Port Harcourt Office of PPMC (System 2E), Engineer Nnabuike Offordile, who performed the re-commissioning ceremony had announced to the relief of the depot community that the management of the NNPC had in April 2008 restated its objective to supply petroleum products from Port Harcourt to Yola hence the need to revive the depots along the pipelines, including Aba depot. “Products delivery to Aba depot is our first bus stop and pumping activity will continue to Enugu, Makurdi and Yola inclusive, through the pipelines,” he said.
According to the PPMC area manager, pumping to Aba depot had resumed on May 1, 2008 with the depot then having in stock 16 million litres of DPK (kerosene) and six million litres of AGO (diesel) while arrangement was being made to introduce PMS (petrol). He even promised that the next target in the revival process of the depots would be Enugu. But then the vandals resumed their nefarious business and no sooner was the depot re-opened than it was shut down once again by the PPMC as the pipelines were being vandalised.
The closure gave rise to the second round of struggle. All the stakeholders, including IPMAN, Abia State government, Abia lawmakers at federal and state levels were united in the struggle to get the depot re-opened. Several representations were made to the Presidency, Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, NNPC and other relevant authorities.
Nwoke said that IPMAN was so concerned over the crippling of its members’ businesses as s a result of the depot closure hence the association set up Aba Depot Reactivation Committee headed by Simple Nwankpa of Okozag Oil. “Thereafter we bought and donated to PMC a brand new Ford ranger truck to assist them patrol and maintain the pipelines. The committee made several trips and presentations to PPMC at the area office and headquarters in Port Harcourt and Abuja, respectively,” he recalled. Nwoke, who came on board as IPMAN Aba Depot chairman on October 6, 2010, said that his administration rekindled the interest of the state government in the travails of the depot community.
Abia State government on its part commenced sensitisation of traditional rulers, youth leaders and village heads of pipeline host communities,educating them on the dangers of pipeline vandalism and giving them financial assistance to fight the menace. The IPMAN chairman disclosed that the association also engaged youths of host communities to guard the pipelines “with a monthly wage bill of over N3.6 million.”
Having succeeded in getting the depot reopened all the stakeholders are still wary of the activities of pipeline vandals. The managing director of PPMC in his address at the ceremony to reopen Aba depot said that “several contractors” were engaged to repair about 1063 vandalised points recorded along the 54km stretch of pipeline between Port Harcourt and Aba.
“The notorious axis of these nefarious activities include Okrika, Eleme, Koro-Kom (Imo River), Owaza, Umuojima, Obodokwe, Osisioma, Isialangwa, Nkpa, Okigwe, Ishiagu, Aninri, Nenwe, etc,” he said. According to him, petroleum products worth N7.6 billion were lost through pipeline vandalism on the Port Harcourt – Aba pipeline segment alone. He therefore appealed to all stakeholders “on the need for collective responsibility to resist pipeline vandalism at all costs”. He equally appealed to the vandals “to stay clear of PPMC pipelines networks for the common good, as no commercially driven entity is set up to incur such loses.”
Since the nefarious business is very lucrative it is doubtful if the vandals would just fizzle out with a whimper. They could still want to take the risk since it is worth taking. But the state government in its determination to ensure that the depot did not suffer another closure has declared total war against the pipeline vandals. Already Governor Orji has donated scores of patrol vans to the security agencies specifically to rout pipeline vandals.
He has also read the riot act to traditional rulers of pipeline host communities asking them to rein in their youths or risk losing their staff of office. Orji has not hidden his determination to completely eradicate pipeline vandalism within Abia.
The governor disclosed during the reopening ceremony that his government was putting together a bill that would make pipeline vandalism,oil bunkering and illegal refining of oil a capital offence when passed into law by the state legislature. Governor Orji’s relentless efforts to protect PPMC’s oil pipelines within his domain were amply acknowledged by the company’s MD, Momoh. According to him, the Abia governor’s collaboration with NNPC to reopen the Aba depot was hugely appreciated by the management, saying that the PPMC “has crystallised the role of the governor into a template which we urge other governors whose states host pipelines to emulate”.
The Group Managing Director of NNPC, Andrew Yakubu, was on hand to reopen Aba depot, the first of such assignment since he took the reins of power at NNPC. He said that while waiting for the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to become law the NNPC management was focusing on the rehabilitation of critical downstream infrastructure after which attention would shift to gas supply to industries. Yakubu who was impressed with the efforts of Abia Sate government in securing pipelines within the state, noted how Governor Orji had sent his former commissioner for Petroleum and Solid Minerals, Akujuobi Nkoro to discuss with NNPC management the strategy to tackle the problem of pipeline vandalism.
“Today we have a formidable task force on pipeline security,” he said and called on Abia people “to be the guardian angels of oil pipelines.”
“It is our added hope that Abia chiefs, and youths along the pipelines would be our eyes, ears and whistle blowers against pipeline vandals,” he said, adding, “we will not allow it (pipeline vandalism) to happen again”.
Senator Nwaogu urged Abians “to become pipeline brother’s keepers” (because) we have to keep our economy in Abia virile.” She reminded all stakeholders that it was pipeline vandalism and the consequent closure of the Aba depot that made all the banks operating in the depot community to close shop while those making their living by providing ancillary services were equally forced out of business.
The NNPC/PPMC breathed life into the Osisioma, Aba depot by pumping 30 million litres of premium motor spirit (PMS). Momoh also said that NNPC had engaged SAPPERS, the engineering arm of the Nigerian Army to clear and grade the pipeline right of way (ROW) for smooth access to the revived depot. Not only that the managing director of PPMC said that some facilities were upgraded as six of the analogue mechanical loading metres to the latest Accuload digital metering system. He also said that a brand new 500KVA CAT generating set was installed to provide constant power at the depot, a functional fire truck deployed while the depot fence job has been awarded and some tank repair works were undergoing tendering process. The Abia State Commissioner for Petroleum and Solid Minerals Development, Chief Don Ubani, assured Abians of uninterrupted availability of petroleum products based on quantity of products already pumped into the depot. According to him, the quantity of PMS (petrol) in the depot was sufficient to sustain the people of Abia and the surrounding states “for at least six months of constant daily maximum loading.”
He described the revival of the Aba Depot as “a major dividend of democracy engineered by Governor T.A Orji’s administration. In fact the reopening of the depot was part of Governor Orji’s re-election promises.” Ubani advised Abians, especially youths and traditional rulers in the pipeline host communities “never to contemplate any situation that would lead to any attempt to vandalise any portion of the pipelines.” He made it clear that if any attempt was made to vandalise the pipelines in any community “members of that community would, for a very long time, regret their inclination to criminality.”