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Enugu: Petroleum marketers cry over NNPC depot closure

The long closure of the Enugu depot of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is no doubt hitting hard on oil marketers in the South East who now source their products from far distances with the attendant risks involved.

The depot has been shut for over 10 years running, inflicting serious hardship on the dealers and consumers of the products, without hope of when it would be reopened.

Petroleum products dealers under the umbrella body of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), at a meeting week back, lamented the agony they have been passing through getting products to dispense to their customers as they took turns to lament the negative impact of the long closure of the Enugu depot by the Federal Government.

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Activities at the once boisterous depot have been grounded for over a decade following the closure. The long closure has exposed marketers in the South East zone and beyond who used to load petroleum products from the depot to various risk such as accident on account of poor road network, robbers attacks as well as wear and tear suffered by their vehicles.

At the meeting, summoned by the new executive committee of IPMAN led by Chinedu Anyaso, the marketers solicited the help of the South-East Governors in reaching out to the Federal Government to reopen shut down in 2001.

Since then, oil marketers operating under the depot had resorted to travelling to Lagos, Port Harcourt, Warri and others far depots to lift products, a situation they said has left untold misery on them.

Opening the floor was Anyaso, who thanked his colleagues for giving him and other executive committee members the opportunity to lead. He announced that the era of hostility in the union was over, adding that it was time to move on.

“We are now under a new phase, a phase of peace, recovery and repositioning”, the new IPMAN President, Anyaso said, adding that it was also time to liaise with leaders of the Southeast, especially the governors and National Assembly Caucus to plead with them to urge the federal government to reopen the Enugu NNPC facility.

He said that the long disuse of the depot has caused the marketers across the seven states that it covers enormous economic haemorrhage thereby forcing many of their colleagues out of business. He added that the ripple effect was that many people lost their jobs just as many businesses that had depended on the viability of the depot were as well forced to close up soon after the depot stopped functioning.

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Anyaso further lamented that several of their members had died as a result of health complications that arose from shock over loss of their investments through accidents, tanker fire, and hijacking of tankers by bandits among others.

Corroborating Anyaso’s submissions, a former IPMAN Chairman and traditional ruler of Amandimeze, Ugama autonomous community in Ezeagu council area of Enugu State, Igwe Dr Harford Agana, noted that it has been hellish for marketers under Enugu depot as a result of non-functional state of Enugu NNPC Depot.

He bemoaned the dormant condition of the deport pointing out that lifting products from far distances, exposes oil marketers and tanker drivers to immense hazards.

“Our means of livelihood is under dangerous threat and I support the motion that we should cry to the government for help towards the resuscitation of the depot.

“My most recent experience was in January 2019. I lost over N70 million when my tanker was involved in road crash with 50,000 litres of PMS, and I lost everything. The situation has caused us colossal losses. Everybody knows the terrible state of our highways, most of which are death-traps. That is the cause of repeated incidences of tanker falls, tanker explosion and all that.

“We lift the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, at N133. 28k official uniform price, per liter, and they still compel us to sell at government’s regulated pump price of N145.00 per liter. It costs us N360 thousand to transport a truck of PMS from Lagos to Enugu and N250 thousand to convey a truck from Calabar to Enugu, whereas, it takes just N30 thousand to transport same truckload of the product from Enugu depot to my station at 9th Mile Corner. We are sweating and we have to cry out”, Igwe Agana said.

“It is to the knowledge of this house that my fully loaded tanker was once hijacked in Lagos by hoodlums who diverted it to Kwara State. By the time we traced the truck to Kwara, the criminals had sold everything but the skeleton of the truck which valued over N12 million at the time. But I was only able to sell the skeleton for N500 thousand.

“Again, in November 2019, my truck that was carrying 60, 000 litres of PMS to our station fell down at Onyeama Hill, near Enugu. Luckily, it did not catch fire and some content was saved through the effort of men of the Enugu State Fire Service. I would have lost about N8 million to that accident, outside the value of the truck”, she said.

On his part, the Grand Patron of PTD/NUPENG, Enugu branch, His Royal Highness, Igwe Murphy Chukwu, the traditional ruler of Oduma Achara in Aninri Council Area of Enugu State, noted that members were unanimous on the move to call on Southeast leaders for intervention. While expressing concern over the development, the monarch who owns Murphy Oil Nig Ltd regretted that the depot, which he said once burbled with economic activities and viability, has become a ghost of itself.

“We are all concerned about the neglect of that facility,” Chukwu said, adding that “as we speak, most of my trucks are on transit to and from Lagos, Warri and others to lift fuel and my mind cannot be at rest until they return safely. This is what we go through on daily basis and you find that majority of our members are running high blood pressure as we speak.

“We need that facility to be brought back to life, as a matter of urgency. I welcome the idea of meeting Southeast leaders for them to plead with President Muhammadu Buhari to review that old presidential order and direct that the depot be reopened”.

He said that although he has never recorded personal losses in terms of accident, loss of lives, product highjack of truck, but that all members usually share in the sorrow of affected ones owing to the saying that injury to one is injury to all.

Also speaking, Special Adviser on Oil and Gas to the Anambra State government Chief Chris Okonkwo, described the state of the depot as very deplorable and unfortunate. He called on the federal government to show concern and revitalize the facility in order to alleviate the sufferings of oil marketers under Enugu Depot Community, and, by extension, empower many residents of the seven states that the depot services.

“We believe that government can fix whatever that led to its decision to shut the depot, which is very critical to the economy of the South East and environ. We are all suffering and it has to do with bad roads, criminality on our highways, among others. So, we beg the federal government to do the needful, which is to take urgent steps to reopen the depot,” adding that the proposed meeting with Southeast leaders was a good move that promises to yield positive result.

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