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Of Oppprtunists, Scavengers, Blackmailers and Vitriolic Attacks on Mele Kyari

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By Engr Kunle Sajimi

The drawback of achievements and accomplishments in public life is that it often sparks jealousy and unrestrained animosity towards the successful person.

In these circumstances, people frequently go to the extremes to physically hurt the target of their anger, as demonstrated by Cassius’ visceral hatred of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s classic.

As an alternative, they can file a false complaint with a higher authority and, as is the case in Nigeria, attempt to remove the person from office. One important point to note about the whole thing is that most often this hate stems from the loss of certain privileges enjoyed by the detractors as a result of the coming into office of the individual whose removal from office is being sought.

This has been the story of Malam Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL). In 2019, Kyari took over as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC after Dr. Maikanti Baru left. After the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 came into effect, the NNPC transformed into a commercial corporation two years later, and he was appointed Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of the organization.

Those who have closely followed Kyari’s progress since his appointment as head of the NNPC four years ago have observed that the organization has gradually changed from being what many in and outside of Nigeria have variously described as an organization whose operations were so secretive that they made the Neapolitan mafia appear like boy scouts, to an organization that is transparent and adheres to international best practices. There is evidence at hand to support this claim.

It is therefore unexpected that a few anonymous and well-paid hack writers have continued spreading lies in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the organization’s deep-rooted transparency under Kyari’s direction as well as the numerous commercial successes (I will address this in a moment) that the NNPCL has documented.

A few days ago, one of them—posing as Engineer Olabode Lawson and claiming to be a “retired senior oil executive”—accused Kyari of being the cause of nearly all of the issues that the Nigerian oil industry is currently facing. He blamed Kyari for the Naira’s sale at the parallel market for N1020 to the dollar, adding insult to his absurd accusation!

As a player in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, it is my responsibility to correct the record so that Nigerians are not misled. I do not intend to repeat his accusations against Kyari here or to lend credence to what is clearly patented falsehood sold by a hired hand. So I will concentrate on a single, significant accusation made against Kyari by Olabode, “a retired senior oil executive,” who, even two years after the NNPCL’s demise, continues to refer to it as such!

Olabode claims that since Kyari was appointed, Nigeria has had no operational refinery and its daily oil production has dropped from 2.4 million barrels to 1.4 million barrels. It is obvious that our “retired senior oil executive” has an endless supply of mischievous ideas. The matter of turnaround maintenance for our refineries is a policy decision made at the highest level of government, with the Minister of Petroleum Resources spearheading the process on behalf of the Federal Government, as every Nigerian who is familiar with the
workings of the country’s oil and gas sector knows.

It is obviously the height of foolishness to blame Kyari for a problem that the nation’s leaderships, going all the way back to the late General Sani Abacha’s administration, have been unable to solve.

If Olabode were to be honest with himself about the fall in our oil production quota, he would acknowledge that, starting about 2013, the problem of oil theft from Nigeria and the actions of cartels operating in the creeks have conspired to hinder efforts to meet our allotted oil production quota. In order to supplement the efforts of Nigerian security services, the governments of Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, in particular, employed a private security company since they were so focused on ending the threat.

Speaking during a panel session at the Practical Nigerian Content Forum (PNCF) late 2022 in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the Chief Investment Officer, NNPCL Upstream Investments Management Services (NUIMS), Mr. Bala Wunti, revealed that Nigeria was speedily recovering from months of under-production with oil production at 1.59 million barrels per day as at then. Wunti stated that cooperation between NNPC, it’s partners, the private security contractor and other industry stakeholders allowed achievement of the 1.59bpd production, revealing that sizeable portion of lost production volume has been restored.Contrary to Olabode’s claim, it is documented that Kyari did more than any other NNPC/NNPCL boss in recent memory to assist the government in overcoming the obstacle. It is commonly known that “The Crude Theft Monitoring Application” was created by the NNPCL under Kyari’s direction. The portal offers application choices for validating crude a sales paperwork and for reporting events with fast follow-up and answers.

In order to contain the threat, Kyari brought top government officials to the Niger Delta creeks prior to the application’s release. These officials included Chief Timipre Sylva, the previous Minister of Petroleum Resources, Gen. Lucky Irabor, the then Chief of Defence Staff of the Nigerian military, and Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC). This move proved to be successful, as shortly after Kyari declared that criminals had been illegally connecting the Forcados Terminal to the sea for four kilometres, allowing them to syphon off Nigeria’s oil for nine years.

These initiatives were successful, as evidenced by Fourth Quarter figures from the NNPCL, which showed that in addition to Nigeria’s oil production increasing to 1.6 million barrels from the previous level of 1.2 million, the nation had once again taken the lead as Africa’s largest producer, surpassing both Algeria (1.021 mb/d) and Angola (1.088 mb/d). Since these numbers and Kyari’s other accomplishments as NNPC (L) helmsman are publicly available, they may be readily verified. It is interesting to observe that the oil giant has actually done better under his leadership, despite the fact that many of his traducers accuse himof numerous transgressions. For many years, the NNPC, for example, was losing money. The corporation announced a profit for the first time in 2022, reporting N674.1 billion in 2021—a huge 134.8 percent rise over the N287 billion reported in 2020.

Resolving seemingly unwinnable conflicts with its economic partners, particularly the International Oil Companies (IOCs), is another significant accomplishment of Kyari’s management.

The Kyari-led NNPCL signed various production-sharing contracts (PSCs) and other agreements, such as Dispute Settlement Agreements and Escrow Agreements, in an effort to increase the nation’s crude production and attract investments in the Deepwater sector. These agreements would yield approximately 10 billion barrels of crude and over $500 billion in revenue.

Kyari has also skillfully handled the adoption of the Alternative Funding Approach (AFA), which has replaced the previous cash call payment system, to settle Nigeria’s Joint Cash Call arrears to the IOCs to the tune of $5 billion. With an eye towards beyond Nigeria’s borders, the NNPCL has inked Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with nations such as Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. These agreements are a part of the 5,600-kilometer Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline project, which also crosses seven other nations: Togo, Benin, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, and Senegal.

After the project is finished, Nigeria will supply Morocco and eventually Europe with roughly 3 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day (3bscf/d).

The NNPCL obtained a $1.4 billion external project finance agreement for Niger Delta hydrocarbon projects in the same year 2022.

In addition, the Kyari-led NNPCL purchased OVH Energy Marketing (OVHEM), the owner and operator of Oando downstream assets, as part of its resolve to keep up its dominant position in the upstream industry.

These successes of the NNPCL over the past two years undoubtedly do not point to a feeble and careless leadership at the top of the organisation. Rather, they highlight Kyari’s smart, purposeful, and nuanced leadership. He had been clear from the start that he intended to take the NNPC in a different path. He had revealed his TAPE motive in order to do this. Transparency, Accountability, and Performance Excellence — “TAPE” for short — has been the cornerstone of his leadership at the NNPC and has highlighted the accomplishments he has made in a short period of time.

 

Engr Kunle Sajimi writes in from Lagos

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