A former Commissioner for Finance in Bayelsa State, Silva Opuala-Charles has indicated his desire to contest for the Bayelsa East Senatorial District. Segun James takes a look at his credentials
When he was appointed as Bayelsa State Commissioner of Finance and Budget in 2007 by Governor Timipre Sylva, Dr. Silva Opuala-Charles was faced with managing the economy of a state with abysmal internally generated revenue.
A state that is 100 percent depended on federal government allocations and derivation fund, both of which are tied to oil production and unstable prices of oil at the international market.
At the time, militancy in the Niger Delta was at its height and oil production from the oil fields of Bayelsa was at its lowest. While the economy of the country groaned under heavy strain, and most states in the country were unable to pay salary or embark on any developmental project; Bayelsa State, under the financial engineering of Silva Opuala-Charles, did not owe any worker in the state’s labour force. It was a no mean feat!
This was at a time when the state’s fortune has taken a turn for the worse. It had moved from being the second highest oil producing state in the country to number four behind Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Delta states!
The state fell from producing over 250,000 barrel of oil per day to less than 30,000. The state was in a dire straight. Everybody was restless and the militants were relentless in their attack on oil production facilities. It was a hard time for the country; it was the hardest time for Bayelsa State. Yet the state managed to survive. It could only have taken an extremely astute and gifted manager of men and resources to have achieved this feat. This was what Opuala achieved.
Under his watch as the state’s Commissioner for Finance; and later Commissioner for Budget, Planning and Economic Management, he ensured that through commitment and team work, Bayelsa State was brought out of the financial woods at that critical time.
In fact, this singular feat helped bring the state into the global arena as evidenced in several frameworks that enabled the state to partner with the European Union, the World Bank and UNICEF among others.
Today, Opuala-Charles has indicated his resolve to go to the Senate to serve as the senator representing the good people of Bayelsa East Senatorial District under the All Progressives Congress (APC). With this, he plans to take over from Senator Ben Murray-Bruce of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who will serve out his one term next year under the rotational arrangement of the district.
Under him as the Commissioner of Finance, he successfully initiated and concluded the Bayelsa State ₦50 Billion Bond Issuance. Besides, he developed the publication of Bayelsa Facts; a magazine that gave detailed information of the statistics in terms of development in the state. He started the publication of Pragmatism Magazine; another publication devoted to publishing issues related to economic management and helped achieve the rating of the state with Fitch Rating, an international rating body and system based in London.
Since leaving government, Opuala- Charles, a PhD holder, has been in private business and is today, the Chairman of Alphastar Group, which engages in Paint Manufacturing, Real Estate, Consultancy, Oil & Gas and Business Education Promotion.
Silva Opuala-Charles was born on the 13th of May, 1967 in Bassambiri in Nembe Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. He attended State School, Bassambiri, Nembe from 1975 – 1982 for his primary education, before proceeding to Nembe National Grammar School, Nembe from 1982 – 1986.
All through his period of studies in the secondary school, Opuala-Charles was an outstanding student who maintained the overall position in his class. This no doubt earned him the position of senior prefect of the school in his final year.
He gained admission into the prestigious University of Port Harcourt in 1990, where he majored in Economics. He went back to the same university later and graduated with a Masters of Science Degree in Monetary and Banking in 1999. He later capped it with a Doctor of Philosophy in 2005.
At the university, Opuala-Charles emerged the overall second best graduating in the graduating year while also carting many university, departmental and faculty prizes. He was the best graduating student in his faculty and department where he won many prestigious awards.
Opuala-Charles also attended Trium Global EMBA program of the London School of Economics and Political Science, London, The HEC Management School, Paris and New York University (Stern School of Business), New York.
Desirous of impacting knowledge that he had acquired from around the world and business in the next generation, Opuala-Charles is today a visiting scholar at the Claude Ake School Government (University of Port Harcourt) and a member of the University of Port Harcourt Business School Governing Council.
He started out as a banker soon after leaving the university. A broadly skilled individual, he has over twenty eight years of multi industry experience spanning eighteen years in the banking industry, over five years in the public sector as Commissioner of Finance/Budget and currently over five years as Chairman of Alphastar group which is into manufacturing/construction and consulting services.
As regional manager, Port-Harcourt, for the First Inland Bank, he was responsible for the administration and efficient operation of the region, including operations, lending, product sales, customer service, security and safety issues in line with the bank’s objectives.
He started his banking career as a teller with the United Bank for Africa Plc, from 1988 where he worked till 1993. From there he joined EMB Mortgage Finance and worked as marketing manager before joining Fidelity Bank as a senior officer – Credit and Marketing, in April 1999. He left the bank in November 1999 and moved to First Inland Bank as Assistant Manager and Head Oil & Gas at the Port-Harcourt Branch and was later promoted to a branch manager and opened the Warri office in 2001.Due to his impressive performance he was moved back to Port Harcourt in 2003 and he became the regional manager in charges of south-south business.
It was at the peak of his success in transforming the south-south moribund business of the bank that he was invited by the Bayelsa State government to help engineer the state’s finances and economy in 2007.
Today, Opuala-Charles, who is married with children, is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria (FCEN), Fellow of the Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats (FCCipl), Fellow, Institute of Public Management of Nigeria (FIPMN), Fellow, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria (FSM), Fellow, Chartered Institute of Administration (FCIA) and Fellow, Nigeria Institute of Management (FNIM).
He believes that those who have had the privilege and experience of working in both public and private sectors owe it a duty to mentor the next generation by impacting them with knowledge that would help shape the future.
Under his watch as the state’s Commissioner for Finance, and later Commissioner for Budget, Planning and Economic Management, he ensured that through commitment and team work, Bayelsa State was brought out of the financial woods