Within the week, President Muhammadu Buhari reconstituted the governing board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Doing what could be considered the needful, after the expiration of the tenure of the former board, he announced the board members as: Mohammed Lawal (North-West), Tajudeen Umar (North-East), Adamu Mahmood Attah (North-Central), Senator Magnus Abe (South-South), Dr. Stephen Dike (South-East), and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South-West). The board would also have the Minister of Petroleum Resources or Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva, the incumbent group managing director (GMD) of NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari, and a director-general in the Ministry of Finance, who are automatic members. This brings the total number of board members to nine, even though Section 1(2) of the NNPC Act provides for a six-member board.
In the new nine-member NNPC governing board, all the six geopolitical zones are represented. Each zone has one representative, to account for six members of the board. The other three members are there by virtue of the offices they occupy. Many things have been said about the appointment. Some have cried marginalisation, saying that a certain block in the country, where oil is not produced, dominates the NNPC setting, without really looking at the picture holistically and dispassionately. Well, it is tempting to say that the North has four members, minus the representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who is not known yet, one each from North East, North West and North Central, plus the GMD.
Those who want to shout ‘lopsided appointment’ will say that the South-East and South-West have one board member each, while the South-South has two on the board. However, the truth of the matter is that there are three zones in the North: North-East, North-West and North-Central, just as there are three zones in the South: South-East, South-West and South-South. People mischievously group the three zones in the North together to call it North, whereas they usually separate the three in South and present it as South-East, South-West and South-South, to justify marginalisation that does not really exist. If the South is grouped together in the NNPC board, it means that the South actually has four members, until we know the representatives of the CBN. By simple calculation, it means that the North has four and the South also has four members. The zone of the CBN representatives will then determine which block, North or South, has five.
In appointments in the country, those who want to score cheap political points usually say the North has more people in government, as they deliberately refuse to break the block down into three. When it comes to the South, they see it as Igbo, Yoruba and South South, and no longer as one block. In the NNPC, when the calculation is done that way, the North, as a block, would have larger number, compared to South-East, South-West and South treated as singles. Even when Mr. Ibe Kachikwu was the GMD and Minister of State for Petroleum, it was the same.
However, the pertinent question to ask is this: Is the NNPC really dominated by the North? Let us look at the figures. As at today, the total NNPC workforce is 7,622. Checks show that 4,455 staff of the corporation are southerners. The North, as a block, accounts for 3,167. Broken down into percentage, it means that, whereas the South accounts for 58.4 per cent of the workforce, the North takes 41.5 per cent. Breaking it down further, 2,459 workers are from South-South, 960 from South-East, 1,095 from North-Central and 1,036 workers are from South-West. North-West has 1,215 workers, while North-East has 857.
Since Mr. Mele Kolo Kyari assumed office on July 7, 2019, as the GMD of the NNPC, a conscious effort has been made to strike a balance, using merit, fairness and justice as his watchword. Kyari knows the NNPC well enough to correct whatever inherent wrong. He had been general manager, made possible by a promotion approved by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke. He was group general manager (GGM), crude oil marketing, when Kachikwu was the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. His is like a Daniel coming to judgment. And he is doing justice.
At the corporation, statistics show that, at the top cadre, from general manager to the GMD, including heads of the subsidiaries, out of 68 top managers, 12 are from the South-West, 12 from the South-South and 11 from the South-East. In this cadre, North West has 13, North-East 12 and eight from the North-Central. Interestingly, a southerner is occupying the position of GGM, crude oil marketing, which Kyari once held.
In the oil sector management, under Kyari, with NNPC and subsidiaries in view, three chief operating officers are from the South. Three are also from the North. The position of GGM, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), is from the North, while a southerner occupies the position of GGM, crude oil marketing, as earlier stated. A northerner is managing director of Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) and a southerner heads NNPC Retail Limited as managing director.
In NNPC today, people from the South are holding top positions and contributing their quota towards the successful management of the country’s petroleum sector. By names and designation, they include: Okoye Billy Okechukwu, managing director, NNPC Retail Ltd. (Anambra); Tombomieye Adokiye, GGM, Crude Oil Marketing Division (Rivers); Ladipo Oyeyemi Lawunmi, GGM, Human Resources GHR (Oyo State); Ewubare Ronald Onoriode, chief operating officer (COO), Ventures and Business Development (Delta State); and Ndupu Lawrencia Nwadiubuwa, COO, Downstream (Imo State). Others are: Ada Nneka, managing director, Nigeria Pipelines and Storage Company Limited (Abia State); Adetunji Adeyemi, COO, Upstream (Oyo State); Bariwe Ayebateke Ferdinand, managing director, Integrated Data Services Limited (Bayelsa State); and Eshiett Rose Nat, GGM, Finance, CHQ F&A (Akwa Ibom).
It is not surprising that Kyari has adopted the best practice in running the country’s oil conglomerate. He is detrabilised, well schooled and well exposed. Born on January 8, 1965, he had, apart from the NNPC, served as Nigerian representative at the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which he joined in 2018. He had his early education at the Government Community Secondary School, Biu, Borno State, and later graduated in Geology and Earth Science from the University of Maiduguri (BSc).
Kyari joined NNPC Processing Geophysicist with Integrated Data Services Limited in 1991 as field geologist in the Department of Geological Survey. In 1998, he was an exploration geophysicist with NAPIMS. In 2007, he became the head of the production sharing contracts management in Crude Oil Marketing Division and rose to the position of general manager, Crude Oil Stock Management, in 2014. A year later, he became GGM of the department, where he helped government to track the buyer and seller of crude oil.
As GMD of the NNPC since July 2019, he has ensured the following, among other achievements: Uninterrupted fuel supply, EGTL dispute settlement, NLNG T7 FID, DOA amendment, making NPDC the largest gas supplier to power, production of above 2.1 million barrels, except for the OPEC cut, led the oil and gas industry to respond to COVID-19 and automation of business processes, including sales processes.
Kyari has also caused the reduction of unit operating cost of production from $35/bbl to $25/bbl and targeting $10/bbl as well as commenced the refinery rehabilitation programme, to be ready by 2023. All these were done in barely one year.
With Kyari, there is no need to fear about bad oil management. NNPC management should, therefore, not be distracted but concentrate in turning around the corporation, for the benefit of all.
•Odioko wrote from Abuja