Since his assumption of office as Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, has moved swiftly towards addressing needed changes at the corporation in line with the visions of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. The Federal Government had echoed the need for operational changes at the corporation and it’s unbundling to make it more of a business outfit responsible to its stakeholders, and not to serve the interest of a few political buffs.
This need stems from the fact that the corporation is at the heart of Nigeria’s economy, being the manager of the nation’s oil resources, which is the country’s most important income generator. This explains why almost everyone is concerned with whatever happens at the corporation.
Over the years, political interest had attained operations of the Corporation. This accounts for the reason PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), in its forensic audit of the corporation in February 2015, recommended that “the NNPC model of operation must be urgently reviewed and restructured, as the current model which has been in operation since the creation of the corporation cannot be sustained”.
Kachikwu seems to have this as his sole mandate with the gale of sacks, appointments and re-assignments that has attended the corporation since his appointment. The new GMD has moved swiftly to re-organize and re-position the corporation to serve the greater good of the nation in such a manner that has been welcome by the Nigerian public.
However, the mission ahead goes beyond the retirement of career officials of the corporation and replacing them with experts taken from the private sector. One of the outcries against the NNPC has been the legal authority it has to withhold a chunk of its earning and spend same without appropriation. This is a legal authority deriving from the enabling law that established the corporation in 1977.
Upon creation, the corporation was empowered to operate in accordance with its establishment law called the NNPC Act of 1977 which at Chapter 320 Part 1 subsection 7(4) states that:
“The Corporation shall maintain a fund which shall consist of:- (a) such moneys as may from time to time be provided by the Federal Government for the purposes of this Act by way of grants or loans or otherwise howsoever; and (b) Such moneys as may be received by the Corporation on the course of its operations or in relation to the exercise by the Corporation of any of its functions under this Act, and from such fund there shall be defrayed all expenses incurred by the Corporation”.
Legal experts argue that the law above works in contrast with the provisions of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution which states: “80. (1) All revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation. (2) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those moneys has been authorized by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act or an Act passed in pursuance of section 81 of this Constitution.”
Therefore, beyond the re-organization which aims to make the NNPC much more accountable to the nation, there is the urgent need to redress legal conflicts which tend to cause confusion among members of the public on what is constitutionally permissible for retention by the corporation for operational reasons, and what is due the federation purse.
Besides this, Kachikwu, being eminently schooled in the operations of the oil industry, and having acquired the necessary education to work his way through the hurdles, still needs to fashion out a blueprint to address the heartache Nigeria faces in understanding the phenomenon of oil theft, its operations and the cabal behind it.
Such understanding will however come to nothing if Kachikwu, with his knowledge of the industry, fails to make oil theft history. Those are the two basic hints upon which his administration will be adjudged in the years to come.
Nigerians seek the success of the Buhari administration. However, such success will be measured by how well his reform of the oil industry, spearheaded by the unbundling of the NNPC in line with the visions espoused in the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), has been able to translate into greater effectiveness of the oil sector with the total curbing of petroleum products scarcity, total stoppage of political affiliation of the corporation to the presidency and the effective take off of the business units of the corporation which would enable Nigerians to become shareholders.
We encourage Kachikwu to move steadily, if radically, being cautious of the immense task that lies ahead of him. Operators in the oil industry, and the Nigerian public, are looking beyond the sack, and replacement, of the top echelon of the corporation. He must not fail as the corporation represents a huge future for Nigeria despite the glut in global oil demand. Kachikwu must also work dispassionately to disprove that his appointment, despite being eminently qualified for same, was spurred to represent interest of some big time players in the sector. He must prove critics wrong.