Obasanjo: Reforming NNPC Could Take Nigeria Out of Recession


Says Nigeria needs critical mass of people to drive public sector initiative
Emma Okonji in Lagos and 
Chineme Okafor in Abuja

Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Thursday said reforming the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could help Nigeria out of its current economic recession instead of selling off some of its critical national assets.

Obasanjo, according to a statement from the NNPC in Abuja, called for an urgent reform of the business operation models of the corporation to make it create wealth for Nigerians and lift the country’s economy out of recession.

The statement indicated that Obasanjo made this call when the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, visited him at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State last Wednesday.

The statement was signed by the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the corporation, Mallam Garuba Deen Muhammad.

It quoted Obasanjo to have said: “What I do understand is reforms. I believe organisations like the NNPC should be reformed. I don’t understand this talk of selling of national assets. Selling of national assets is wrong. But reform is what I think should be done so that we can run the business of NNPC the way it should be run.”

He further stated: “If there is any organisation that can help us quickly get out of recession, it is NNPC. If you work hard, you can get around the situation. I want to encourage you and hope that the little difference we have started seeing will continue.”

According to it, Baru, in his remarks, commended the vision of Obasanjo in the oil and gas industry, and assured him that his management team was committed to transforming the NNPC to operate better with improved performance, growth and profitability.

Meanwhile, Obasanjo has stressed the need for Nigeria to train more people on governance and public sector reforms, which he said would in turn drive good governance in the country.

Obasanjo who spoke in Lagos yesterday as the Chairman, Advisory Board of African Initiative for Governance (AIG), said: “There are good and committed people in Nigeria who have the political will to fight against corruption and promote good governance, but they are very few and the country needs a critical mass of such committed people to effect positive changes and drive the Nigerian economy.”

The former president who commended the former Group Managing Director of Access Bank who is the current President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Mr. Aigboje-Aig Imokhuede, for his initiative to collaborate with Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, to train five Nigerians on governance and public sector reforms, through his pet project, AIG Foundation, said the initiative would further strengthen the political will among those in public sector.

He however emphasised that the five beneficiaries of the scholarship programme would definitely meet stiff opposition when they return to the country to put into practice the skills acquired during the training because of the political structure of the country coupled with the mindsets of those in public sector that are benefiting from corruption.

 He advised them not to succumb to any undue pressure, since the essence of the training is to effect positive change in the public sector.

 Obasanjo said Nigerians could still return to the path of good governance if only there are more committed people in the public sector that would drive the desired changes.
He therefore called on government to encourage and support the AIG Foundation initiative and also ensure that those trained are given the opportunity to work in the public sector in order to effect the change that Nigerians are clamouring for.

Obasanjo further explained that Nigeria does not need to re-write its constitution or policies to provide soft-landing and opportunity for those trained to exercise their duties. He said what the country needs is the political will and commitment of people to resist bad governance, corruption, and support good governance.

A Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, Ngaire Woods, said the school was founded since 2010 to impact good governance skills in people who would in turn effect good governance in the public sector of their respective countries.

  “If we impact the skills of good governance in people, we will not only improve good governance in several countries, but also improve on several numbers of lives globally,” Woods said.

 Giving details of the AIG Foundation initiative, Imokhuede said the school admits 120 students from 66 countries every year, and that only one Nigerian was admitted for the 2015/2016 academic year, hence the foundation is collaborating with the university to sponsor five Nigerian students on scholarship for the 2017/2018 academic session, and the cost of training is £60,000 per student for the one-year programme.

 “I trust the intellectual capacities of Nigerians to cope with the one year intensive programme, but my worry is that some Nigerians have come up to say they would not want to work in the public sector where their views will not count by those who are desperate at continuously sabotaging the good efforts of a few who want to make a positive difference and change,” Imokhuede said.

He called on Nigerians to rise up to the challenge of setting the country on the path of good governance, no matter the cost. He cited countries like Singapore and Rwanda that have succeeded in creating the enabling environment for good governance to strive in their countries, and insisted that Nigerians could do same in order to drive good governance in their country.