Knocks have continued to trail yesterday’s retention of petroleum ministry portfolio by President Muhammadu Buhari, even after his first four years in the position yielded no visible dividend to the sector in terms of investment and growth.
Stakeholders who evaluated the announcement at his ministerial inauguration in Abuja, expressed concern that with the arrangement, the newly appointed Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva, may just be a lame duck that won’t be able to achieve set targets.
During his first term in office as President and Minister of Petroleum Resources, the sector did not witness much growth as the country failed to secure investors for its moribund refineries thereby raising the amount spent on petroleum product importation to about N1.2 trillion.
It was revealed that investors who were disenchanted by the inability of the Federal Government to institute reforms to guide the operations of the sector moved their investments to more friendly havens.
Commenting on the development, Publisher of Africa Oil and Gas, Mr. Toyin Akinosho, said he is not excited that the President is still the Minister of Petroleum Resources, adding that the naming of a Minister of State for Petroleum Resources remained a setback for the industry.
‘‘I may not be able to set an agenda for the Ministry because such agenda may be unachievable because the junior minister does not call the shot’
“For me, I will advise that the president should cease being the Minister of Petroleum Resources so that the appointee can be held liable for not meeting set targets. But the current structure of having a Minister of State, who cannot take certain decision is not the best for the industry and the country as a whole,’’ he warned.
He said the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources delegates powers through another official of his, going by the recent query issued the Chairman of the FIRS.
Speaking in the same vein, Partner, Bloomfield Law Practice, Mr. Ayodele Oni, said he does not support the President retaining the minister of petroleum portfolio as he does not have the requisite expertise as it was proven in the last four years that no matter how brilliant and determined to succeed as you are as a junior/ minister of state for petroleum may be, if he/ she doesn’t have the liberty to perform, he/she will fail outright or achieve very little success.
For his part, a petroleum economist, Prof Wunmi lledare, said it is the President’s choice and he has precedence to support the choice to retain the portfolio.
Unfortunately, he argued that, empirical evidence of the past four years would suggest it is not a pragmatic option for Nigeria in times like this to not have a full accessible Minister of Petroleum. He maintained that, surrogate minister with no constitutional power is not good for the sector that is the livewire of the nation.
Meanwhile in a welcome ceremony for Sylva at the NNPC Towers in Abuja, the new Minister who was accompanied by his wife, Alanyingi Sylva, stated that with the calibre of workforce in the Ministry, he was sure that the nation’s oil and gas sector would move to the next level.