The decision by Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) to relocate its export business to its Eldoret and Kisumu depots is killing local business.
The Nakuru depot, that deals mainly with export, is almost deserted. It will now serve the local market as KPC expands the Eldoret and Kisumu depots.
When it was established in 2006, the depot on the outskirts of Nakuru, opened up the eastern side of the town.
The facility, which allowed exporters from the Great Lakes region to load their trucks with petroleum products, gave birth to the Barnabas trading centre along the Nakuru-Nairobi highway and the now famous Pipeline estate.
Barnabas and Pipeline estates, 10km from Nakuru town, became the best residential areas for those who wanted to be away from the hustle and bustle of town life.
Land prices and house rents also shot up as soon as the depot was set up.
Within five years, the cost of a 50-by-100m parcel of land that sold for Sh20,000 in the 1990s went up to Sh500,000. The same land currently costs between Sh1 million and Sh1.5 million.
The growth was attributed to the depot as most of those targeted were drivers who frequented it for refills.
Some 20 years down the line, business at Barnabas trading centre and life in Pipeline estate is slowly grinding to a halt. The oil tankers that lined up along Mutaita Road waiting to refill at the depot are no more.
Today, the depot is deserted and so are the numerous 24-hour businesses that depended on it.
Although KPC says its decision made three months ago was a strategy to increase business, residents say it has not only hurt their businesses but also affected the economy of Nakuru County at large.
Two months after KPC implemented the decision, the trading centre that was bursting with life is now a ghost town. Not even the prostitutes who roamed the area at night are anywhere to be seen.
ALSO READ: Siphoning link in Kisumu pipeline leak
James Munene, a land owner and businessman who was among first settlers in Barnabas, is one of those affected by the KPC decision.
"It is only two months after the decision was made and already two petrol stations have closed down and a number of bars and nightclubs are on the verge of shutting down. There is no business here. The town that was once vibrant is now a ghost town," says Mr Munene.
Munene chairs a committee of local business people who have been pushing to have the oil export business at the depot reinstated.
He says they have met Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter in an effort to have the decision reversed but nothing is forthcoming yet.
"We have also consulted with senior KPC managers from Nairobi and explained how that decision is hurting our businesses," he said.
Jane Wangui, a restaurant owner in Pipeline estate, was forced to scale down operations and reduce her workforce from 10 to five.
"This is a serious matter... I am soon going to close down the business because there are no customers," she said.
A number of lodgings are also feeling the pinch.
"We have 18 rooms and often sold all of them before the depot was moved. But we hardly get clients these days. There is no business," said Peter Mukoma.
The oil export business had also given rise to small businesses such as car wash yards, hawking and vehicle repair workshops. These are all on the verge of closing down.
The KPC Corporate Communications Manager Jason Nyatino said the decision was made to boost regional markets by moving closer to the country's borders.
"This is the company's plan to reduce transport costs as we seek to boost our international markets," he said.