Amid Challenges, Kachikwu Looks Ahead

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In spite of the distractions that dogged his office in the last few weeks, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has moved on to something more productive as he is already projecting into the coming year, writes Olawale Olaleye

With the recent politicisation of a sincere attempt to enforce sanity, rule of law and efficiency in one of the critical parastatals under him, it was almost unbelievable for an average observer to see that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, had moved on so quickly from what had constituted needless distraction to his resolve to deliver change.

Although a preponderance of opinions would rather that the inspiration was the disposition of his principal, President Muhammadu Buhari, who refused to give credence to the babel of voices that almost demonised the man for doing his job and would rather encourage him to ignore the distraction and go on with his work, he too has proven to belong to a class of his own.

Even in the heat of the distractions, it was enthralling to note that Kachikwu still held his ground in terms of focus on his work and refusing to make credible, the extraneous debates that typified that period or the attempt to pit him against anyone, either as colleague or directly working under him. He maintained the professionalism in him and with the silent treatment extended to the sycophants, he controlled the slant of debate, considerably.

However, with this phase seemingly behind him, Kachikwu, in a recent podcast gave a distinct projection into the New Year with a mindset that addressed whatever was left of the policy thrust of the concluding year and a veritable launch pad into 2018, evidently mindful of the importance of the coming year, as a precursor to the elections of 2019.

First, he started by reviewing some of the ideas that guided and shaped the outgoing year, alluding specifically to how the ‘7 big wins’ policy that was inaugurated by the President Buhari had helped to define the year under review.

He served the salvo with the zero fuel availability, a policy he was proud to announce as having helped to clear the Nigerian roads of fuel queues. There is no debating the fact that fuel scarcity had almost become a part of Nigeria’s administrative signature, with each succeeding government.
Indeed, the Buhari government had its own fair share of this menace too before Kachikwu eventually nipped it in the bud. Although he did not mention in specific what magic the government did to tame this social menace, he was however proud to note that the Buhari government conceived an idea that was deemed workable and it yielded result eventually.

He went on to address what he described as the confidence-building with the multinationals, who suddenly became pleased with a functional system despite its many inadequacies. This, of course, led him to their effort in delivering efficiency at NNPC and the other six parastatals under the petroleum ministry through openness, accountability and transparency.

One of the biggest deliverables, according to him, was the special focus on Niger Delta, which he noted had become calm and stable through conscious initiatives designed to address some of the growing concerns in that part of the country. He specifically alluded to the efforts by the president and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in supporting his efforts to realising the dream of a stable and productive Niger Delta through deepening engagements and which is still ongoing.

He also spoke about a certain project, which he claimed was very dear to him and that is the project 100, an idea set out to engage as many companies that are involved in activities that are helping to push up the economic prosperity of the country. These companies, he claimed are carefully identified and marked out for assistance in collective interest.

And to close the year under review, he spoke about the reward disposition, which he termed “The Industry Reward”. This, he claimed, would mean gathering those industry players, who had contributed significantly to the progress of the sector and reward them for their efforts. This, he also reckoned would help to ensure efficiency, subsequently.

That phase excitedly closed and owing to a performance he would rate as simply excellent, he began his projection into the New Year. First, he plans to start 2018 with the refineries. In the New Year, he plans to get all the refineries working and stop fuel importation, possibly, such that would allow for a savings of about 30 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange. He however commended the immutable efforts of Alhaji Dangote in this regard.

He spoke of the need to address the gas flare commercialisation by exiting it and at the same time, taking gas to the hinterland. These two moves, he maintained, had become imperative in the light of the progress that is envisaged in that critical sector in the New Year.

Again, in the New Year, Kachikwu is determined to focus on what he called “infrastructure rebirth”. This is spurred by his concern about the growing infrastructure deficit in that sector, focusing on such things as the dilapidated pipelines and the deplorable depots.
And of course, to make all of these sit well and for a long time is what he identified as the regulation of the industry through legislation. He was convinced that the National Assembly is a willing partner here, especially given its disposition to the PIGB.

Then, he spoke about crude tracking through their various IT platforms. According to him, this would help to put in place, an abiding accountability policy, such that addresses the question of not knowing how much of the crude was being lifted, thereby eliminating crude theft. This initiative would further go a long way in helping to increase the country’s revenue base as much as the driving policy. In addition, he believed it would engender cost reduction in the running of that industry and governance in general.

He also plans to focus on the marginal field trams this New Year by improving and expanding them. This, he said, would help drive also, revenue and efficiency at delivering results.

Importantly, he held the view that the sector would consider strongly, the need for parastatal restructuring, also to ensure efficiency in the running of the industry and ultimately, there would be focus on transparency, which he has consistently tried to make the hallmark of his headship of that sector.

Thus, if driven to the letter, Kachikwu is optimistic that the coming year holds better promises in terms of policy conception, strategy and administration. He was particularly grateful that the president has always been supportive of the ideas that could move the oil sector forward and had no doubt that the same culture would continue in the New Year.

While it may be safe to conclude that the distraction that recently strewn his path might have subsided considerably or gone with the wind, Kachikwu has shown to be a truly hardcore professional, who carries himself with a weight of decency, integrity and efficiency in the handling of his assignment, particularly with eyes on the ball.

His review of the outgoing year and the analysis of the year to come are more than sufficient to tell of a man, who is adept and diligent at his work. Again, as he has always done, he has set yet another pace for others to catch up with as the government in general contends with stewardship.