Ubah’s many battles

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By JOSEPH UDOH

FOR an enduring period now, the media has remained awash with damning stories all around the oil subsidy probe and related issues. A lot of uncovering has been and is still being done by various panels instituted by the Federal Government and the National Assembly. Nigerians are taking sides based on their different perceptions and interpretation of the reports of the panels.

From our stand point as human rights activists, however, we have been taking much more concerned and closer look at the events as they unfold. One particular case that has caught our attention is that of Ifeanyi Ubah and his Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited.

We are concerned about the observed breach of procedure and incoherent accusations being levelled against him and his business dealings. Our interest in the activities of the company, is further fuelled because of the fact that Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited, is a key player in the oil and gas industry in the last decade. In the period, the company has never been mentioned in previous probe reports. All of a sudden, the company is now wearing the toga of a bad corporate entity. Mr. Ubah is grossly being vilified while the real barons who have held sway in the sector for years, in many instances receiving indictments, are strolling around freely.

Worried by the heightening abuse of Ubah’s rights and dignity, our group, Coalition of Human Rights Groups of Nigeria undertook a fact finding tour of some of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited facilities. Our primary intention was to ascertain if the company is a genuine player in the industry based on what is on ground in terms of facilities, if the company and its CEO deserve the acrimonious treatment they are presently getting and if they are getting the commensurate support they deserve from the government in an event that they are living up to standards. We also wanted to deduce if there are underlying motives for Ubah’s present predicament.

Our tour started with the Capital Oil and Gas Limited Truck Park in Amuwo area of Lagos State. What we saw there is a beautiful truck terminal capable of holding 1100 trucks. The complex has a top restaurant, restrooms, offices and other recreational facilities for drivers and company business. But more fascinating, is the fact that the facility and link road were constructed from a swamp area about 1.5metres deep.

The facility has helped Lagos tackle the problem of tanker drivers parking on the roads and bridges. It also eliminated the frequent conflict between truck drivers and government which usually resulted in death and destruction of property, not to mention chaos and hardship from truncation of supplies.

Available records show that Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited have about 400 operational trucks that distribute petroleum products across the nation. We also observed about 300 Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, branded trucks used for its Kero-direct initiative to supply kerosene (DKP) directly to end users in states. The trucks are designed like mobile filling stations and end users buy direct from these in various states to eliminate product scarcity and ensure that end users get the products at NNPC approved retail rate. There were also 30 state-of-the-art bitumen trucks on ground to support road construction projects and eliminate the challenges of bitumen supply.

The more we looked at the available facilities, the more the vision and entrepreneurial drive of the leader of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, stared us in the face. At the depot, we marveled at the storage facilities on ground. It has four depots with a combined capacity to hold about 16 million litres of petroleum products. Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited alone, stores 35 to 40 per cent NNPC petroleum product supplies and still stores for other oil marketing majors.
We were made to understand that the company dredged its jetty which has four berths, meaning that four large vessels can berth at the same time. We saw vessels berthed in the jetty. The jetty also provides service to other oil majors to enable them avoid demurrage at the ports.

The company employs over 800 permanent staff, with only three foreign nationals. With the bitumen and refinery project in the pipeline, Nigerians are bound to have more employment opportunities.

From our investigations, we now know more. We now know which company has the largest fleet of trucks to distribute petroleum products to Nigerians. We now know who has the largest capacity to hold petroleum products. We also know who employs more Nigerians in the downstream sector. It is unarguable who has invested more in infrastructure development. So, what has the renowned oil barons and families been doing with their oil largesse for the past decades?

Given the importance of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited to the economy today, we sense sabotage, orchestrated by some powerful cabals. We can now see the plot to cripple Capital Oil and Gas, a genuine indigenous company that has single-handedly invested in infrastructure and rectified the truncated supply system in Nigeria. Clearly, that will send us back to the days of scarcity. Such unthinkable reality would result in increased pump price and more suffering by transporters. That would be business as usual for the few barons who have ravaged the oil business for decades without mercy for the common man.

It is time for Nigerians to know the truth and speak out against the current war being waged against Ifeanyi Ubah and the slow decimation of Capital Oil and Gas Industries Limited. This illustrious business should not be taken over by force and handed over to greedy corporations who will return Nigerian downstream sector to the dark ages of fuel scarcity.
We urge the President to take a closer look at the development.

*Mr. Udoh, a human rights activist, wrote from Asaba, Delta State.

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