By NBF News

The Nigerian National Petroleum Petroleum Corporation mega floating station at Okerenkoko

Four years after it was inaugurated by the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation mega floating station at Okerenkoko in Warri South-West Local Government Area of Delta State is yet to begin operations.

The multi-million naira floating station, inaugurated on October 4, 2006 to dispense petroleum products at retail pump prices in the creeks and to boost commerce, is lying waste.

During the inauguration of the facility, the then Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Daukoru, reportedly said the floating station was an asset to the people of the Niger Delta, being the first of its kind to be operated anywhere in the world.

But during a recent visit to the mega station, a journey of about one hour by boat from Warri, PUNCH METRO observed that the multi-million facility was unutilised.

PUNCH METRO learnt from a ship captain, who did not want to be named, that the floating station had become a white elephant.

'I wonder the kind of country we are in. Things are done recklessly without recourse to citizens' interest. This is a country where billions of naira will be spent on a project and it is allowed to rot, in the full glare of everybody.

'I have always seen naval men parading the station area. I always wonder what they are still guarding, when the station has been left for four years without taking off.

'This project is a big waste. I think the problem with the floating station is not unconnected with useless politicking in the country,' he said.

A resident of the community, who identified himself as Paul, said that apart from the floating station at Okerenkoko in Delta State, there were 11 others in the Niger Delta.

He said that none of the floating stations had started business, years after inauguration. He said his investigation showed that NNPC did not want local contractors to operate the mega stations, hence they were left lie idle.

'Our findings showed that the delay in operating the floating stations was because of the Federal Government's reluctance to allow local contractors to manage the mega stations.

'Some of us have gone for interviews to manage the facilities but the NNPC wants to contract it to people from outside. But our people will not accept that arrangement,' Paul added.

He appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the immediate commencement of operations in the floating stations, so that the billions of naira spent on constructing them would not go down the drain.

He stated, 'As it is now, if you want to buy 25 litres of petrol, it will cost you about N3,000 as against the normal price of N1,500. This is because our people have to go as far as Warri to buy fuel, which the floating stations should have provided. The extra cost is borne by buyers.'

Another resident of the area, Thompson Ifade, said, 'Do not be surprised if NNPC has not been feeding the Federal Government with lies about the mega stations. They may just be telling the government that all is well with the stations.

'Let me state here, all is not well with the facilities. They are not working and our people are suffering.'

Another resident, Ejiro Young, lamented the suffering her people usually experienced while trying to get petroleum products from Warri.

'It is a horrifying experience. From Okerenkoko, you pay fares that are not fixed.

'The inconvenience is much. The floating station would have been of immense help but some people have made it not to work,' she said.

PUNCH METRO made a number of attempts last week to obtain a reaction from NNPC's Group General Manager (Public Affairs), Dr. Levi Ajuonuma. When he eventually responded, after several calls to his number, he asked for some time to obtain accurate information on the matter.

On Monday evening, he sent a statement by email to PUNCH METRO, explaining the corporation's side.

Titled, 'NNPC Floating Stations Still Operational -MD NNPC Retail,' the statement reads in part: 'The Managing Director of NNPC Retail Limited, Dr. Oladipo Ajiboye, has disclosed that contrary to speculations that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has abandoned the floating stations at the riverine area of the Niger Delta, four of the NNPC floating stations are currently operating at full capacity;

'He said that as at today, the Nembe floating station, Calabar, Nkang and Ibaka are fully operational with Automotive Gas Oils (AGO), Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) and Aviation Fuels;

'Dr. Ajiboye emphasised that the Okerenkoko floating station in Delta State has not being (sic) abandoned saying that efforts are in top gear to bring on stream all the floating stations in the riverine communities viz : Uta ewa, Bonny, Oporoma, Burutu among others;

'We have not abandoned the NNPC Floating Mega Stations and we don't intend to do that; because way back in 2005, when the Federal Government directed the NNPC to construct the floating stations, each of those stations cost the corporation a whopping N700m. Due to the restiveness of the youths in the Niger Delta, after the floating stations were deployed by Julius Berger to their various sites, the stations could not come on stream. But as at today, four of those stations have undergone preconditioning maintenance and are fully operational,' Dr. Ajiboye informed;

'He revealed that due to corrosive activities that set in on the floating stations during the restive period in the Niger Delta, the NNPC is spending about N22m on each of the floating station to bring them back on stream depending on the level of deterioration.

'Dr. Ajiboye said already, the NNPC Group Managing Director, Engr. Austen Oniwon, has given the go-ahead for the construction of another floating mega station in Edo, following the request of the state government, which will cost the corporation N982m.'