JOHN ODHE, Yenagoa
Who says Bayelsans are not innovative and industrialization oriented? There is an assumption that Bayelsa is a hundred per cent civil servant state and that the only industry where her young men and ladies thrive is politics. This ugly narrative is fast changing through some Bayelsa born men of vision who have taken a hop into the Nigerian oil and gas industry with a view to industrializing the hitherto mono-economic status of the state.
This is why jubilation erupted on March 17, 2022 in Bayelsa when a son of the soil and Executive Vice Chairman of Eraskon Nigeria Limited, Mr. Maxwell Oko unveiled a 64,000 litres per day Lubricant Blending Plant under construction at Tunama community in Gbarain Clan, Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state. Eraskon Nigeria Limited is an arm of the Eraskop industrial and infrastructure conglomerate which includes Erasko Energy Limited and Eraskorp FPSL.
This vault into the oil and gas industry precedes a previous industrial action of another son of the soil and Chairman of Azikel Group, Azibapu Eruani, who is also building a modular refinery in the axis in the state.
During the grand breaking of the lubricant blending plant/product launch ceremony, Oko described his industrialisation vision as a new beginning, adding that he had been leveraging on his unique offerings and experience over the years without losing sight of the vision to be a leading player in the industrial and infrastructure space.
The idea of building a lubricants blending plant, he said, followed the determination to contribute to Nigeria’s industrial development, noting that Lubricants are the lifeline of every engine and that Nigeria consumes about 700 million litres yearly, accounting for about 20 per cent of Africa’s total lubricants demand.
“We started out by acquiring our land – 50 hectares in size. Our confidence was further boosted by our partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) who, from their investment in us, demonstrated a clear commitment to our vision. This project is a world-class 64,000 litres per day fully automated lubricants blending plant to be built on eight hectares out of the 50 hectares Industrial Park. On completion of construction, this facility will produce high quality engine oils, transmission fluids, hydraulic fluids specialized four-wheel-drive products, engine coolants and specialty products such as waxes.
“Furthermore, our technology has the capacity to produce other products outside of the lubricants space. In the second phase, we will be talking about industrial chemicals such as drilling and production chemicals as well as transformer and turbine Oil. Household products such as detergents and aerosols. Our automatic packaging system will not only serve us internally but will also serve and support the growth of other businesses in the region and across the country,” Oko explained.
On why the project was sited in Bayelsa State instead of in major industrial and commercial cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt, Oko said Eraskon is a company that understands the impact and the difference a project like this which is first of its kind in the South-South by an indigenous firm can make in the lives of the local communities, promoting development, creating employment and empowering Nigerians, stressing that the project is expected to provide 200 direct and 800 indirect job opportunities for Bayelsans.
“We are surrounded by such projects as the Shell Gas Processing Facility, the Azikel Refinery Project, the 550MW NIPP power plant by the Niger Delta Power Holding Company and the Transmission Station as well as the NCDMB Gas Park. An industrial hub is quietly emerging along the River Nun corridor in the Niger Delta, and we are very excited to be part of the new, bold and innovative story being written. This project will be an important factor in changing the narrative about the Niger Delta.
Looking at the journey so far, we have faced challenges as is expected for projects of this magnitude but we have been inspired by the support from our partners especially the NCDMB, our host community and the commitment of our Board of Directors, staff, consultants and contractors to realising this dream.
We have made significant progress despite the challenges,” he added.
The NCDMB Angle
The Executive Vice Chairman took his time to pour encomium on the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote and management of the Board for keying into the vision of Eraskon in line with the Act that established the NCDMB which is aimed at developing local content in the oil and gas industry. Oko expressed optimism that with the investment NCDMB had made in Eraskon, the lubricant blending plant would be commissioned and put to effective use in December, 2022.
“This is a dream come true. We know the road will be filled with its own challenges, but with faith in God and the support of our people, we believe that no mountain will be too high to climb, and no river too wide to swim. The sky is just a starting point for us, and we are excited at what the future portends for us,” he concluded. Oko is one among very innovative, unrelenting and focused Bayelsans burning with the zeal to create jobs for our teeming youths as against the “l am loyal” syndrome which had been synonymous with most of the youths.
Speaking at the ground breaking ceremony which took place at the Nigerian Content Tower in Yenagoa, the state capital, chairman of the occasion and former President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, saluted the inexorable spirit of Maxwell Oko and his team to contribute to the industrialization and development of Bayelsa, the Niger Delta and the country at large. He also commended Engr. Wabote for vigorously pursuing the objectives of the NCDMB, an agency he (Jonathan) signed into Law in 2010 while he was President.
Speaking in his capacity as NCDMB’s scribe and representative of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, Engr. Simbi Wabote said the Federal Government is determined to deepen local content and reduce importation of products that could be produced locally.
According to Wabote, Nigeria currently consumes about 250million liters of engine oil per annum and this consumption grows at more than 5 per cent every year due to the addition of new vehicles and machineries.
He however regretted that “The in-country blending capacity has remained constant at about 150 million liters, showing a shortage of about 100million liters. This shortfall is met by importation of finished lube oil products with the attendant loss of revenue and job opportunities. The NCDMB boss explained that the partnership with ERASKON is line with the agency’s mandate to develop local capacity in the oil and gas sector. He commended the vision of ERASKON management in setting up the lubricant plant.
Royal Father of the day and former Minister for Petroleum Resources and now Amanyanabo of Nembe, His Royal Majesty, King Edmond Daukoru thanked NCDMB for keeping to its mandate of building capacities in young Nigerians to occupy spaces in the oil and gas industry. Commending Maxwell Oko for being dogged and focused in his resolve to create jobs, the Monarch called on Bayelsans especially the youths to take after the likes of Azibapu Eruani, Chairman of Azikel