In every team sport there is always an unsung hero. In football, he is often the man in the midfield or defence who does the “dirty” job of keeping the opponents at bay, making his team’s goal area highly restrictive.
He is that team player, who ensures the seamless coordination of his team while operating “silently” behind the scenes.
Despite their work rate, commitment, and clear understanding of the team’s objectives, they are rarely celebrated. Yet without them the team would operate below par.
In the upstream sector of the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry, few individuals have had the impact that Adokiye Tombomieye has had. Those who know him say his dedication and commitment to the development and smooth operation of upstream petroleum business has remained unmatched for a long time in this country.
His name may not be easily recognizable or ring bell to the average Nigerian on the street but his work in the upstream sector for the period he worked before retiring impacted significantly on them.
In his over 30 years stint in the Nigerian oil and gas sector, all of which he spent at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) now Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Adokiye, a chemical engineer, demonstrated expertise in key areas of operations, engineering, project management and commercial business. This inevitably earned him not only the respect of his peers but equally the approval of successive managements of the NNPC which thrusted him into leadership positions.
By 2015 when he ventured into the Upstream business with his appointment as General Manager, Commercial, in the Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD) later becoming the Division’s Group General Manager, in 2019, he had proved his mettle as chemical engineer of repute.
Before then, he was at Eleme Petrochemical Company Limited (EPCL) where he played a key role in the establishment and supervision of the Polyethylene Plant which earned him promotion to Acting Deputy General Manager of Polyethylene/Butene-1 Plants.
His status as an accomplished process engineer was reinforced when he successfully used the Modified Reactor Agitator to improve plant operations. He would later rise to the position of Manager in the Gas and Power Directorate of the Brass LNG Limited.
By 2020, five years after he transitioned to the upstream segment of the petroleum sector, his impressive accomplishments and commitment to excellence had caught the attention of then Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, who appointed him Group Executive Director (GED), Upstream in NNPC. His designation was to change to Executive Vice-President, Upstream, in 2021 following the restructuring of the NNPC with the signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021. He held this position until his retirement from service last month.
In his capacity as Executive Vice-President, he superintended over the NNPC Upstream Business segment, which included the NNPC Exploration & Production Limited (NEPL), NNPC Energy Services Limited (NNPC Enserv), NNPC Engineering Company Limited (NETCO) and the NNPC Upstream Investment Management Services (NUIMS).
He was at various times the Chairman of the Boards of Gas Aggregator Company of Nigeria (GACN), NNPC New Energy Limited (NNEL), Port Harcourt Refinery and Petrochemical Company (PHRC), Nigerian National Petroleum Exchange (NipeX) Steering Committee.
He was also a member of other NNPC subsidiary boards including NIDAS Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of NNPC with the mandate of shipping clean petroleum products into Nigeria and West Africa.
Tombomieye’s function as Executive Vice President, Upstream, saw him play key roles in Upstream including the commercial discovery of hydrocarbons in the interior basin and the completion of several upstream projects of immense benefit to Nigeria.
Fondly called Adoks by admirers, Tombomieye is a genial and affable fellow. He is the “go to” guy when the ride gets rough and solution is needed to critical issues.
In this regard, he has worked quietly, using his vast knowledge of the Niger Delta creeks as an indigene of the area to help solve what many had thought insurmountable challenges and thus save the country not only hundreds of billions of dollars that would otherwise have been lost to conflict, but equally human lives.
In addition, he played a critical role in the fight against theft of Nigeria’s crude oil by criminal syndicates within and outside the Niger Delta. Unknown to many, in 2022, Tombomieye, working behind the scenes, drove the process that led to the discovery of the many sites where these criminal syndicates had breached oil pipelines and were siphoning the nation’s crude.
These discoveries proved pivotal to Nigeria’s oil production process as it helped ramp the country’s production and propel Nigeria to meet its oil production quota for the first time in a very long while in the last quarter of 2022.
As it is the case in matters like this, he and members of his team were not in the limelight for this effort but he was quite gratified to have saved Nigeria some millions of dollars lost daily through this criminal enterprise.
According to a colleague, who did not want his name in print, the magnitude and extensity of Tombomieye’s service to Nigeria may not be fully known because by nature he is not given to blowing his own trumpet.
“Adoks is a humanist who used his personal charm and unbridled humility to penetrate seemingly difficult areas and achieve massive outcome in his official assignments at various periods and levels.
“As an indigene of the Niger Delta, he was the unseen hand and unheard voice in the pacification of the bad boys in the creeks leading to the resolution of a plethora of host communities’ issues among oil producing communities and oil and entities,” the colleague said.
Indeed, Tombomieye is an embodiment of humility. Throughout his career at NNPC, he came to be known as a boss with a difference. He was not the archetypal leader who would seek to ram his ideas and opinions down the throats of his subordinates.
On the contrary, he encouraged the flowering and crystalization of ideas as he believed that having different perspectives on an issue had helped in the projection of robust policies.
Aside encouraging subordinates to ventilate ideas and suggestions, he was also seriously concerned about their wellbeing.
A junior cadre staff, who worked under him at the COMD paid a glowing tribute to his leadership skills and ingenuity.
“Oga Adoks was a special kind of human being. He was a boss with a difference. You were never ill at ease in his presence. He had this uncanny ability of sometimes sizing you up and then concluding there was something wrong with you even when you told him there wasn’t.
“He would press you until you opened up, and if your challenge had to with money, he would assist you without even thinking about it,” he said.
Tombomieye’s retirement from service after more than three decades of meritorious service to the nation which earned him the prestigious national award of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), has been received with mixed feelings.
While some feel he should take a well-deserved rest after three uninterrupted decades of solid performance in critical areas of the Nigerian oil sector, many more feel that Nigeria needs a man of his quality, experience and pedigree at this critical period of enormous challenges not only in the oil sector but the national economy as well.
As the argy-bargy continues, the man at the centre of it all and the cynosure of all eyes, has, however, refused to be drawn into the debate.
It is clear though that while enjoying momentary respite from the “pressure cooker” that working at the highest level of the Nigerian oil industry typifies, Adoks, a workaholic, may soon itch for yet another task because of his fecundity.
Engr Oyesile, a Production Engineer writes in from Lagos.