Will Baru’s Appointment as NNPC GMD Resolve the N’Delta Crisis?

  • Kachikwu now chairman as corporation gets new board 
  • Brent oil hits $50 on renewed militant attacks

Tobi Soniyi in Abuja and Ejiofor Alike in Abuja with agency report

After months of pressure mounted by northern interests led by Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru, a former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to be made the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the state-run oil firm, President Muhammadu Buhari finally succumbed monday when he removed Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu as the corporation’s executive head.

However, Baru’s appointment has raised questions as to whether he can lead negotiations to calm restive militants in the Niger Delta, who have renewed hostilities in the oil-rich region in a wave of attacks on oil industry installations.

Kachikwu, who for eight months had doubled as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources and will now serve as the Chairman of the NNPC board, had led a federal government team last month to negotiate a peace deal with the militants.

However, his removal at a most sensitive time, could raise concerns among stakeholders in the region that the administration has remained adamantly unresponsive to the accusations by the militants that some of the local oil firms exploiting the hydrocarbon resources in their backyards and polluting the environment belong to non-indigenes of the oil producing communities.

Their fears may be further heightened by the composition of the nine-man board announced by the presidency yesterday comprising six members of northern extraction and one person each to represent the South-west, South-east and South-south geopolitical zones.

A statement yesterday by the presidency said Buhari had approved the composition of the board of NNPC, as provided under Section 1(2) of the NNPC Act of 1997, as amended.

It said the new board is composed of the following: Chairman – Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum; Group Managing Director – Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru; Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Alhaji Mahmoud Isa Dutse; the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari; a former Group Managing Director of NNPC, Dr. Thomas M.A John; a former Executive Director of Mobil Oil Plc and foremost industrialist and boardroom guru, Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure; a former Chairman/CEO of the Nigeria-Sao Tome & Principe Joint Development Authority (JDA), Dr. Tajuddeen Umar; Mallam Mohammed Lawal; and Mallam Yusuf Lawal.

A statement by the president’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari urged the new board to ensure the successful delivery of the mandate of NNPC and serve the nation by upholding the public trust placed on it in “managing this critical national asset”.

Baru, from Bauchi State, was born in 1959 and had served as a director with NNPC subsidiary Carlson before being appointed the Group General Manager (GGM) of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS). He was appointed GED, E&P in August last year, but was removed during the restructuring of NNPC into new business units.

He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, and a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.

Since Kachikwu’s appointment as the Minister of State for Petroleum, following the agreement the latter had reached with Buhari when he appointed him GMD of the corporation last year, Baru had never hidden his desire to replace Kachikwu as the head of NNPC.

Industry sources had informed THISDAY early this year that Baru had made several overtures to the presidency seeking Kachikwu’s removal.

A few months ago, reports went viral on the social media on Kachikwu’s ouster and Baru as his replacement, but they turned out to be false.

In another development, Brent crude traded near $50 a barrel as Nigerian militants – the Niger Delta Avengers – carried out further attacks on oil production sites, threatening to deepen the country’s biggest output losses in decades.

According to Bloomberg, September futures rose as much as 0.8 per cent in London after advancing 1.3 per cent Friday. The Niger Delta Avengers said they attacked five crude-pumping facilities overnight Sunday, after two people were killed on June 29 when gunmen opened fire on a boat of Eni SpA workers in the Niger River delta.

“You end up with a rather bullish cocktail” when global supply losses are combined, Tamas Varga, an oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates Ltd. in London, said in a report. “Regular pipeline bombings, production shut-ins and force majeure” have curbed Nigeria’s output, he said.

Brent has recovered more than 80 per cent from a 12-year low in January amid supply disruptions and falling US output. Pledges from central banks halted a rout in global markets following the UK decision to leave the European Union, and both the International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC forecast that supply and demand are returning to balance.

Brent for September settlement gained as much as 40 cents to $50.75 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange and traded at $50.40 as of 2.49 p.m. local time monday.
The contract advanced 64 cents to $50.35 a barrel on Friday. The global benchmark crude traded at a 69-cent premium to West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

WTI for August delivery climbed as much as 36 cents, or 0.7 per cent, to $49.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices added 1.4 per cent to settle at $48.99 on Friday. Total volume traded monday — Independence Day in the US — was about 69 per cent below the 100-day average.

The targets of the Niger Delta Avengers included Chevron Corporation’s oil wells 7 and 8 and three trunk lines belonging to NNPC, according to tweets from an account that said it represents the militants.

Attacks this year had helped to cut Nigeria’s monthly oil output to about 1.4 million barrels a day in May, the lowest in almost three decades, according to the IEA.

Italy’s Eni said Saturday that two bodies were recovered two days after the June 29 assault. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, said Desmond Agu, the local commandant of the Civil Defence Force.

Shale drillers in the US have brought back the most oil rigs of any week this year amid expectations of a stabilising market. Rigs targeting crude rose by 11 to 341, Baker Hughes Inc. said on its website Friday, marking the fourth time in the past five weeks that producers have deployed more rigs. Explorers in the Permian Basin of West Texas, the nation’s busiest oil patch, led the increase.