Vandalism foists uncertain fate on Enugu NNPC depot
The last time petroleum products flowed from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Depot in Emene, Enugu State, to other parts of the South East, as well as, Benue and Kogi states was in 1996.The degeneration began from what was considered a temporary closure to pave way for maintenance works in the depot, and repair works on the pipelines. But by the time the repair works were concluded at the depot located at Orie Emene, so much damage had been done to the pipelines linking the depot from Port Harcourt, by vandals. It was from there that the endless wait for the repairs on the pipelines began.
From the Port Harcourt axis, it was discovered that vandalism occurred in Osisioma, Nsirimo axis in Abia State; Isiagu in Ebonyi State and Aninri in Enugu State among others.The delays in approving the repair works occasioned by administrative bottlenecks, rampant leadership change in the corporation, and other politics of interests, also ensured that immediate restoration of the pipelines could not be attained.
For many years, the pipelines were abandoned, and marketers resorted to bringing in products from Warri, Port Harcourt and Lagos by road to the zone and other areas hitherto serviced by the depot.It was not until 2013 that efforts were made to rehabilitate the pipelines. That also happened at snail’s speed and dragged till the end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration in 2015.
While the efforts were on, several taskforces were set up to monitor the pipelines. National Coordinator, Anti-Pipelines Vandalism and Petroleum Pipelines Products Adulteration Prince Udoka Ahanonu, told reporters early last year that work was almost concluded on the repairs. This revelation raised hopes that supplies would soon resume.
But when the Group General Manager of the NNPC, Dr Maikanti Baru, spoke at the recently concluded Enugu International Trade Fair about the depot, it was like singing the dirge of a once flourishing multi-million naira facility that contributed strategically to the economic sustainability of states in the South East.
Baru effectively thrashed the hope of the return of the depot when he expressed regrets that the incessant vandalism of the pipelines had continued, giving the impression that the onslaught was an orchestrated plot to frustrate efforts to return the depot to full operation, pointing out that, “in the last six months, we have recorded 685 places where the pipelines were punctured.”
Even though he explained that it was the corporation’s responsibility to ensure that pipelines and depots across the country were fully functional for ease of petroleum distribution, he added, however, that as long as such onslaughts continued on that axis, restoration of supplies to the Enugu Depot, through the pipelines was impossible.
He said: “We had a challenge during the last fuel crisis, which we have tried to address. It is part of our responsibilities to ensure that all pipelines and depots in Nigeria are fully functional for ease of petroleum distribution, but the pipeline from Port Harcourt to Enugu has been faced with challenges of vandalism, with about 685 breaches recorded in the last six months. Monthly, we try to fix the pipelines and on each occasion after the work, we subject it to hydro test and every now and then, we record breaches. As far as we are concerned, if this continues, we will find it difficult to supply petrol to Enugu Depot. Government has spent huge resources trying to put the pipelines in order, but the rate of vandalism is worrisome.”
Baru, who called on stakeholders in the South East to assist in ending the ugly trend, said the vandalism was more frequent along the Isiagu, Ebonyi State axis, and Osisioma in Aba, Abia State.He added that the Enugu Depot was strategic to the corporation because it supplies products to the South East and parts of the North, adding that it was a serious setback in ongoing efforts to restore sanity in the oil industry.
The facility with an installed capacity of 12, 000, 000m/3 was built in 1979 to reduce the stress of travelling long distances to source for products by consumers.It was also designed to create jobs, and reduce carnage on highways involving petroleum products-laden trucks. When the facility was functioning optimally, it gave direct and indirect employment to over 3, 000 persons. These jobs are presently no more.
All these appear to have given way as several tankers now cluster South East routes, in an attempt to lift petroleum products to various destinations.
Reliable sources told The Guardian that the depot, which is the only one in the South East has capacity to stock Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) and Automobile Gas Oil (AGO).
With over 500 marketers lifting products from it, the depot supplied six million litres of petrol, two million liters of kerosene and two million liters of diesel daily, a development the NNPC boss said would considerably reduce road carnage should the products be transported through pipelines.A visit to the depot last week, clearly showed that no activity had taken place there for a long time. Although the facility has not been overtaken by grasses, everywhere looked deserted, and there were visible signs of rustiness and lack of maintenance.
A resident of the area confirmed that the closure of the depot was as a result of pipeline vandalism, adding that, “the closure has affected many small businesses around here.”Some were also of the view that commencing operations at the depot may not happen anytime soon because of the activities of a cartel, alleged to be behind the numerous fuel tankers operating in the zone.
A source also pointed out that since the depot stopped functioning, several individuals and businessmen in the zone are smiling to bank as a result of the fortunes they make transporting products by land, a development that has worsened the state of roads, and endangered lives of road users in the zone.
Lamenting the situation, a member of the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) in the zone, Dr. Chike Ugwu, said the leadership of the zone should be held responsible for the unfortunate happening.He said: “I think there is a deliberate plan to ensure that no public investment works in the South East zone. We have had governors since 1999, and these governors have held several meetings on the welfare of Igbo. But as I speak, I cannot point at anything that our governors have collectively done in Igboland.
Our industries are down; the power situation is as poor as ever; several of our graduates don’t have jobs, yet, there is what called South East Governors’ Forum that meets monthly. Of what use is this forum when there is no road; when the only refinery we have cannot work? “I listened to what the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru the other day. I recall that he said that the vandalism issue can be resolved if our people want it to stop. Why can’t our governors provide joint security around these pipelines in order to protect them against vandalism? What are they waiting for? My problem with leadership in this zone is that those we elected into offices don’t care about our common good.
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