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Tinubu: Exposing The Sense In Mele Kyari’s Reappointment

Tinubu: Exposing the Sense in Mele Kyari’s Reappointment

Kabir Usman Kabo, PhD

In July 2019, when President Buhari appointed Mele Kyari to take over from Maikanti Baru as CEO of the defunct Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the erstwhile president was looking for the right hand to transition the national oil carrier into a public business conglomerate capable of harnessing Nigeria’s energy potential, plugging leaks, and charting a course for Nigeria’s economic recovery. The president had one thing in mind: to make oil work for Nigeria and Nigerians.

To achieve this, the NNPC needed to be protected by a robust legal framework that will support all activities that will transform it into Nigeria’s economic cash cow and finally set it on the path to achieving its potential of leading Nigeria towards a future of energy sufficiency while playing in the big leagues with other energy powerhouses in the world.

Mele Kyari quickly identified human capacity development, gas development, refinery rehabilitation, and other initiatives that’ll support the downstream sector and scale output in the upstream sector, especially explorations into inland basins, as his gateway to impact. Almost 5 years down the line, the Mele Kyari impact is resonating in every subsector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, and looking at the leaps and bounds that Nigeria has moved within this period, it is only natural that any president desirous of sustaining the tempo will reappoint Kyari.

If for anything, it takes someone with deep industry know-how to transition the old NNPC with all of its baggage and leaks into this assured national asset that is finally leaving a trail of excellence on the paths of its mandate. Yet, there’s still a lot to do, and as our people will say, only those present when the corps was interred will avoid exhuming the body from the head. The progress of NNPCL as it stands is akin to blacksmiths smouldering metal. A lot still needs to be done to fully transform it into that innovation. That’s why you need a Kyari to put the company on firmer footing before exiting the stage.

Kyari’s success did not happen by chance. Beginning with robust stakeholder engagement, the drive of which fired up the collective will of our legislature, to birth the much-lauded Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) in what is now a monumental turnaround moment for Nigeria’s oil and gas sector and the identification of other areas of need and deploying resources there accordingly, Kyari has taken careful steps to bring NNPCL where she is today. And with a clearly defined legal framework, Mele Kyari has pursued his grand plan for the oil and gas sector into his reprised role as the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of a repositioned, rejigged, and restructured national staple capable of delivering Nigeria’s dreams.

Explorations of inland basins in the Kolmani River II well in the Benue trough and the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in the upper Benue trough in the Gongola Basin of the Northeast signpost his achievements in the upstream sector. In this endeavour, Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa, Gombe, and Bauchi joined the league of potential oil-producing states, the proceeds of which will soon start counting towards the nation’s daily crude haul.

Using his industry experience, Mele Kyari played a pivotal role in the resolution of an over-two-year dispute between Shell and Belema Oil, which had caused security unrest and a production shut-in of over 30,000 barrels of crude per day. Needless to say, this translated into a significant economic loss. Perhaps Kyari’s most outstanding achievement in the upstream sector, besides the resolution of a long-standing impasse between conglomerates, is the recent unveiling of Nembe’s crude oil variants in London during the Argus European Crude Conference in collaboration with AITEO.

During the launch, NNPCL leadership as well as AITEO’s E & P highlighted the unique selling point of the Nembe Crude Oil grade with an API gravity to include low sulphur content and low carbon footprint due to flare gas elimination, making it a perfectly fitting specification required by major buyers in Europe. Innovations like this have become Kyari’s signature, lining all the spectrums of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.

The downstream sector has also seen a remarkable transformation with the introduction of Operation White to streamline petroleum product importation, supply, and distribution across the country. Despite the best efforts of cooperation saboteurs leading to artificial scarcity, NNPCL has navigated the stormy corporate waters to deliver products to Nigerians. To this end, NNPCL has embarked on revamping the pipeline network through a Build, Operate, and Transfer (BOT) model. This is in tandem with the Refineries Rehabilitation Project, which is expected to yield fruits as early as this December, with Port Harcourt being the first to come online as Kaduna brings up the rear in December 2024. With modular refineries rising up to meet Dangote Refinery, which is expected to start operations almost right away, Nigerians are in for an era of surplus local production and net exportation of refined products.

The NLNG Train 7 project investment decision is without doubt one of NNPCL’s most consequential investments geared at transforming Nigeria into a gas-driven economy. It was almost surreal when construction for the project that has been in the works for more than 10 years finally commenced in 2021. Tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs have manifested as a result of that investment, with an estimated $20 billion in annual revenue accruals to the country. Following hot on the heels of this was the Ajaokuta-Kaduna – Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project, which has reached over 70% completion, the funding of which was undertaken by NNPCL at 100%. Work is also progressing on the infrastructure designed to feed into the AKK pipeline.

All of these have combined to give NNPCL a positive financial outlook, making it attractive to investors. Accordingly, NNPCL under Kyari has secured a number of alternative funding instruments for the Nigerian Petroleum Company Limited (NPDC), the goal of which is to develop new assets. The Alternative Funding and Technical Services Package with CME-OMA Petroleum Development Company ($3.15 billion) as well as the Alternative Financial Package with Sterling Exploration and Energy Production Company Limited (SEEPCO) highlight this innovative solution towards pooling finances into the business of the NNPCL.

Perhaps Mele Kyari’s most celebrated achievement is the introduction of a real-time command and control centre responsible for the monitoring, location, and reporting of suspicious activities to various security agencies for intervention. This collaborative effort with national and retained security outfits is charting the path to Nigeria’s improved daily crude oil production to meet the OPEC threshold assigned to Nigeria. Alas, it is almost impossible to box Mele Kyari’s achievements since his appointment into one piece, but one thing is very clear: he’s the man for the job even today.

Indeed, Nigeria is the winner in President Tinubu’s decision to return Mele Kyari as the GCEO of the NNPCL. With a board made up of seasoned professionals and very passionate Nigerians, the goods coming out of the national company are bound to be sustained for now and in the near future. What more, with a president with oil industry experience, the NNPCL is even more assured of a deepening impact on the economic future of the nation.

Dr. Kabir writes from Abuja.

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