DESPITE the early oil find at Oloibiri, Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa state in 1956, many indigenes did not perceive the need to invest in the petroleum industry, still the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. This has constrained them from tapping the benefits inherent in the industry for themselves and the region.
But the situation seems to be changing as Dr Eruani Azibapu, President of Azikel Group has ventured into business. Azikel Group is a conglomerate involved in dredging, petroleum refining, power generation, aviation, construction and engineering, with Azikel Dredging Nigeria Limited, Azikel Petroleum, Azikel Air Limited, Azikel Power and Azikel Construction as subsidiaries.Dr Eruani Azibapu, President of Azikel Group
Dr. Eruani is an industrialist, celebrated entrepreneur and a medical doctor by training from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State. In his quest to assume leadership in business and commence, he returned to class at the Lagos Business School (LBS) where he bagged the Own Management Program Certification. Thereafter at the London Business School, he obtained Certification in Senior Executive Programme, as well as Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania where he studied Advanced Business Management and Leadership.
Equipped with these and other trainings, Eruani set out into the world of business. From the humble beginning of selling sand from an umbrella, then to caravan, while the sand product was sourced from local divers; and much later, driven by commitment to succeed, not despising the days of little beginning from one dredging machine. Today, the Azikel Group, with support funding from the Exim Bank and other International Finance Institutions has fleets of ultra-modern equipment with which it has continued to drive the wheels of industry in the Niger Delta.
Expectedly, the Azikel Group has been able to stock pile and meet the demand for aggregate sand supply, and that underscores the several sand filling, reclamation and regeneration of land in the state and region. To say the least, Azikel Dredging Limited successfully sand filled, reclaimed and regenerated several lost lands to erosion, others below sea levels, such as the sand filling of the multi-purpose peace park for the Bayelsa State Government, provision of over 3million cubic meter of sand for construction of the East/West road, reclaimed and regenerated massive landmass for the take-off of the Federal University, Otuoke, reclamation work to regenerate lost ancestral land in Abalama and Bakana, Rivers state and several others for the International Oil Companies (IOCs).
With the huge success in dredging, Eruani was encouraged to establish Azikel Air, Azikel Power and Azikel Petroleum. These companies have recorded several successes. Take Azikel Air as an example. The subsidiary has also impacted many lives through employment generation and quality services. It actually began operation providing helicopter services for Multinational Oil Chief Executives and Expatriate workers onshore and offshore oil platforms and rigs that traverse the Niger Delta.
Azikel Power, a subsidiary of Azikel Group became a reality because Eruani seized the opportunity provided by privatisation to invest in the sector. As reserved bidder, he was not deterred after losing the bid to acquire the Gbarain power plant. His quest for a Greenfield licence was rewarded when the President Muhammadu Buhari/Yemi Osinbajo administration granted him a 500 MW on grid power licence in 2015.
However, Eruani’s commitment towards an industrial society went down the annals of history on the 17th of February 2018, as the cream de la cream in the oil and gas sector, government functionaries at the federal and state levels and notable Nigerians converged in Yenagoa, to witness the foundation laying of the 12,000 barrels per day refinery.
The elated Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State said he was proud that a Bayelsan, has chosen to re-industrialize the state and Niger Delta by investing at home as he signed the certificate of occupancy for the landmass designated for the Azikel Petroleum Refinery and the Azikel Power Project.
The Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Baru Maikanti noted that: ”of the initial refinery licenses granted by President Mohammadu Buhari, Azikel Refinery is in the fore-front on delivery of the refinery, having achieved task in the Phase I, II and III and a record performance of attaining 65 per cent completion.”
Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo who performed the foundation laying alluded that he doubted the seriousness of the project at the initial stage as none of the 18 private refineries licence granted in his tenure moved to site. He described President Buhari to be very lucky to have committed persons, particularly Dr Eruani among the beneficiaries of his licencing round who is irrevocably committed to building and operating the first private modular hydro-skimming refinery and urged other Nigerians who are licenced to emulate Eruani.
According to Eruani, the refinery is targeted at creating many multiplier effects, including 10, 000 multiple jobs, going to direct and indirect beneficiaries, and the industrial growth of Bayelsa, the cradle of oil and gas activities. The output of the Azikel Refinery and others would also enhance the production capacity of the nation’s existing refineries, resulting in self-sufficiency. Consequently, the future seems to be bright as he assured that: “We are running with the baton to the finishing line, and I am most confident that we will get there, we will be the first ever indigenous refinery to dispense refined petroleum product to Nigerians.”