For the first time since it was established in 2004, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has found something positive to say about the operations of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Nigeria voluntarily signed up to the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2003 and inaugurated NEITI basically to promote prudent management of revenues from its abundant natural resources to reduce poverty and ensure sustainable development. The NEITI is the Nigerian national sub-set of the global EITI.
Waziri Adio, its Executive Secretary , on a visit to NNPC on Tuesday said it was a misconception to think that NEITI loved to attack the oil corporation and stressed that its engagements with NNPC is “based on the agencies mandate to promote corporate ethics, transparency and accountability in the governance of the country’s oil and gas industry.”
But quickly admitted that the last four years had been different for NNPC. He said the operations of the NNPC had continued to improve towards openness through the regular publication of its financial reports. He, however, noted that a lot of reforms were still needed for the NNPC to compare favourably with similar global organizations around the world.
But perhaps, of greater significance was Mr. Adio’s disclosure that NEITI decided to pay a courtesy visit to the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari because it believes the new helmsman “is a transparency champion and a long-known ally to NEITI.”
It was not the first time NEITI had expressed its admiration for Kyari who is widely seen in the oil and gas industry as a man of integrity and a transparency advocate. NEITI was one of the several stakeholders who hailed Kyari’s appointment as GMD of NNPC in July.
NEITI had in a press statement, described Kyari as “a well-known transparency champion and one who enthusiastically shares the principles which underlines the work of NEITI and the global EITI on good governance for the oil and gas industry.”
The statement also said his appointment had placed him in a vantage position to push the frontiers of openness and to work more closely with NEITI and the global NEITI. NEITI’s excitement about NNPC under Kyari was one widely shared in the industry, and Tuesday’s visit was a logical follow-up to ensure NNPC goes the full hog.
It was a visit to remind the NNPC that despite been upbeat about its recent operational performance and its new GMD, NEITI would be unsparing unless th Corporation continues to improve and meets global standards. Waziri emphasized this when he said NEITI was ready to partner NNPC on all its core mandate areas of promoting transparency, accountability and good governance of the country’s natural resources.
He advised the new GMD and his team to ensure the corporation’s audited financial reports were published regularly and expand on its achievements so far towards making NNPC operations more open and accountable. More importantly, he reminded Kyari of the need for the NNPC to take up its full responsibility in the implementation of the new EITI standards on Beneficial Ownership Disclosure, Commodity trading, Mainstreaming and application of the 2019 EITI global standard approved recently in Paris.
Adio also urged the corporation to create a Freedom of Information portal on its website to enable it to respond real-time to requests from citizens.
But as sensitive and critical as the reforms suggested, even NEITI seemed to be believe it is a faith-accompli by NNPC under Kyari. In a tweet during the week, Adio reiterated NEITI’s faith in the new management of the corporation. “We have extreme faith in NNPC, We have extreme faith in the new management. We are ready to work with NNPC 100 per cent, we are working together for the good of the country,” he tweeted.
To many stakeholders in the industry, the appointment of a man like Kyari to head the NNPC was a pleasant surprise and an indication that the government was willing to transform the operations of the oil corporation. The NNPC towers had long cut the image of an opaque, dingy glass house where corruption had become institutionalized. The KPMG, which investigated finances of the corporation in 2012 exposed massive financial malfeasance and monumental corruption.
Understandably, many had given up on the possibility of salvaging the corporation from the firm grip of financial iniquities and operational lethargy, such that public cynicism had always greeted every appointment or re-organization in the corporation.
But since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015, positive changes have become noticeable. Large-scale institutional reforms which rolled the NNPC into seven independent business units to make it a more efficient corporation. The business environment was also liberalized, and it became an enabler for the introduction of new business models that have drastically reduced the losses recorded by the NNPC in the past.
The reforms in the petroleum sector in the last four years has yielded over $30 billion foreign investments and commitments aimed at growing the sector. But the reforms have also yielded positive results in the area of personnel integrity. And nowhere is this demonstrated more than the emergence of a management staff as the GMD of the corporation. Kyari personifies the reforms the fruits of those reforms and his appointment is an endorsement of the current management of the NNPC as professionals who will work to further make operations in the oil and gas sector more transparent and accountable.
Before his elevation to GMD, Kyari had been the focal person for NNPC’s transparency initiatives and had earned the trust and confidence of his colleagues and other stakeholders. His rise to the top would serve as motivation for others and for him to seek to further excel.
It is a new day at the NNPC Towers, and its good news in a country where corruption had undermined progress and development. Ii is a proof that the country can also be salvaged and that the right people can become leaders. If Nigeria has Buhari and NNPC now has Kyari, it means the country has started the march towards a reborn nation.
Solomon wrote in from Abuja