A NEW helmsman took the reins yesterday at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, the Executive Vice Chairman/General Counsel of ExxonMobil (Africa), as Group Managing Director (GMD), asking him to give recovery of stolen oil money a priority, among other targets.
Buhari may also appoint Kachikwu, who beat three other candidates in the race for the job , as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to ensure synergy, a source said last night.
Those also considered and discreetly screened for the job, source told The Nation learnt, are former Petroleum Products Prices Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) Executive Secretary Stanley Reginald; Shell Petroleum Development Company Managing Director Mr. Osagie Okunbor and a NNPC Deputy General Manager, whose name was not disclosed.
At the final negotiation with Kachikwu, the President gave him six terms of reference to reshape the corporation. They are to:
1. Clean up the NNPC system of corrupt elements;
2. Recover all stolen crude oil funds;
3. Work with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Directorate of State Service (DSS) to trace and recover stolen oil cash;
4. Review the structure of the NNPC to compete globally;
5. Giving targets to all subsidiaries and put in place performance benchmarks; and
6. Fix all refineries, which must work at optimal level, “even if it means using expatriates in the interim”.
A source said: “The new GMD of NNPC was picked after a thorough search by the President. Actually, at the end of the search, the choice was narrowed down to four candidates.
“The President opted for Kachikwu who is the Vice President of Exxon Mobil, not only in Nigeria but in Africa. Buhari was impressed by his impeccable credentials as the most senior black African in any multi-national oil firm in the world with 30 years experience.
“Apart from being a First Class graduate, Kachikwu also obtained PhD in Law which enabled him to rise to company secretary in Exxon Mobil.”
But it was not easy for the President to convince Kachikwu to accept the job because he was afraid that he might be messed up like other Nigerians, a source said.
“In their negotiation, President Buhari repeatedly said: ‘I won’t interfere with your work; I will give you a free hand because I want to reform this oil sector once and for all.’ The GMD accepted the job following what he realized as “the infectious patriotism and genuine intention of the President,: the source said.
Kachikwu yesterday took the reins at a brief ceremony held at the NNPC Towers, Abuja .
The Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, in a statement, said the new helmsman expressed gratitude to his predecessor, Dr. Joseph T. Dawha, for holding the Corporation. He pledged to work assiduously in achieving the President’s growth aspiration for the oil and gas industry.
“ExxonMobil Upstream affiliates in Nigeria congratulate our Vice-Chairman and General Counsel, Dr. Emmanuel Kachikwu, on this opportunity to serve Nigeria as Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). We thank Dr. Kachikwu for his many contributions to ExxonMobil Nigeria, and wish him well in his new role.”
Inside the NNPC
The NNPC is the national oil company, through which the Federal Government regulates and participates in the country’s petroleum industry.
An Act to dissolve the former Nigerian National Oil Corporation and to establish the NNPC was created in 1977. The NNPC was established on April 1, 1977, as a merger of the Nigerian National Oil Corporation and the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel.
By law, the NNPC manages the joint venture between the Federal Government and some foreign multinational corporations including Shell, Agip, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Total. Through collaboration with these companies, the Federal Government conducts petroleum exploration and production.
For lack of supervision, the NNPC degenerated to a rent-collector for the government with less attention to transparency and accountability.
Between 2007 and 2009, auditors found that the corporation over-deducted funds in subsidy claims to the tune of N28.5 billion and has not been able to account for the money.
In 2008, Willbros Group Inc of United States (U.S.) admitted making ‘suspicious’ payments of over $6.3 million to officials of the corporation and its subsidiary – the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) for assistance in obtaining and retaining contracts at the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS).
In 2004, ABB Vetco Gray, a U.S. company and its UK subsidiary – ABB Vetco Gray UK Limited – admitted paying over $1 million in bribes to NAPIMS’ officials, in exchange for obtaining confidential bid information and favourable recommendations from government agencies.
After the publication of a report In November 2013 by Swiss, a non-governmental advocacy organisation – Erklärung von Bern – allegations of fraud surfaced, placing the NNPC under suspicion of siphoning $6.8 billion of crude oil revenues.
From 2013, the NNPC has been battling with the allegation of non-remittance of $20 billion into the Federation Account.
These allegations, among others are responsible for the continued calls for the sanitisation and repositioning of the corporation.