Staking All on the Political Soapbox


Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that as minister-designates are likely to be assigned to their area of core competence, all eyes are on Mr. Goddy Jeddy-Agba, who has acquired the necessary proficiency to successfully man the petroleum ministry

Hardly a day passes after the announcement of the nomination of Mr. Goddy Jeddy-Agba for a ministerial slot without scores of mention in the media. The reports started with a deluge of messy details, apparently sponsored by his opponents, of his career at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). They descended heavily on his engagement with the former Petroleum Minister, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke. It was a stark display of the power of the media to twist public opinion, in this case, with the clear intention of damaging his reputation and possibly forcing the hand of President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw his nomination.

The choice of Jeddy-Agba out of Cross River State, has impassioned, with vulgar statements from those who did not see it coming. After months of waiting and hoping, with many of them confident of being the state’s representative in the Federal Executive Council, the emergence of Jeddy-Agba was a big blow that shattered many dreams. A video went viral of a female associate of one of the ministerial hopefuls from Cross River State crying profusely because her principal could not make it.

Nearly the entire group of ministerial nominees were thoroughly bashed by the propaganda machinery of their opponents. Not one of them was spared. And the invectives were not coming from the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but from bitter losers within the fold of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Having failed to achieve their aim of getting ministerial nominees like Jeddy-Agba to be withdrawn, there is a good chance that these faceless worrywarts will continue their stock in trade, recycling stale falsehood against their targets, throughout the tenure of their service as ministers.

It is now certain that all the ministerial nominees successfully screened by the Senate will be sworn-in eventually, after receiving the FEC Document Box and completing the period of educational retreat during which they are expected to get a good grasp of Buhari and the APC’s vision for the ‘Next Level’ of governance.

In a matter of days, the giant mess of reportage had almost turned around for his good, except for a few stray hecklers whose numbers are thinning out. It may never be known, whether it was with or without his prompting, but equally influential and powerful voices were raised vehemently in favour of Jeddy-Agba.

“It is a fitting nomination and a big plus for Cross River considering Jeddy’s track record of service to Nigeria. And I have no doubt that he will bring his wealth of experience to bear on any ministry he is eventually assigned to,” said Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, who is also from the same Obudu local government as the minister-designate. Jeddy-Agba had put up a very strong showing for the PDP governorship ticket, which was eventually won by Ayade in 2015. His campaign was massive and spread across the entire state. His billboards were in your face in Calabar, the state capital and in major cities in the state. Following his loss of the ticket, he appeared to drop out of sight.

The Governor added, “The interest of Cross River comes first. Let us therefore, rise above party and ethnic affiliations to give one of our own, our son, the necessary support he needs to succeed as minister.”

It would appear that Jeddy-Agba’s longtime strategy of opening his doors to and giving financial support to persons across partisan lines worked for him at one of the most crucial times of his life. The sizeable goodwill he has constructed is also a tacit acknowledgment of expertise, even from persons who rarely see anything good in the Buhari administration, like Senator Dino Melaye, who said “This is the only nominee without any dent of corruption or EFCC chasing after him.”

Even Senator Mathew Urhoghide, the senator who moved the motion for impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari and was subsequently attacked at the Benin City Airport by angry APC youths, sang a different tune at the senate screening of Jeddy-Agba. ”Mr. President, this is one nomination that I am so pleased and happy with,” Urhoghide said.

The three senators from Cross River State, Rose Oko, Gershom Bassey and Sandy Onoh, who joined the pack of supporters for Jeddy-Agba confirmed he is a worthy ambassador of the state. They all spoke in support his ability to perform, considering his depth of knowledge in the upstream sector of the oil and gas, where he has spent over 21 years.

As the debate over Jeddy-Agba’s suitability for a ministerial position got hotter, it only afforded stronger and more believable voices to line up behind him. As a former Group General Manager (GGM), Crude Oil Marketing Division (OMD) of the NNPC, he administered the multi-billion dollar oil-for-fuel swap deals. This assignment, more than any other thing, has landed him in a curious place, where he is exposed to all sorts of wild, but yet unproven allegations. Cross River youths under the Northern Cross River Youth Coalition, NCRYC, debunked the linking of Jeddy-Agba to Alison- Madueke, describing it as “callous and baseless.”

National Publicity Secretary of NCRYC, Ebriku John Friday, said, “Jeddy-Agba is a man of discipline and integrity based on the security checks and scrutiny relevant security agencies have done on him before his name was sent as ministerial nominee to the Senate by President Muhammadu Buhari, who has been a man in the vanguard against corruption.”

Chief Obono Obla, head of one of the federal government anti-corruption agencies, who was in secondary school with Jeddy-Agba and knows his family volunteered his knowledge of the minister-designate. “He shot into limelight when he was appointed a Special Assistant to one time Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Air Vice Marshall Hamza Abduallahi during the military Presidency of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in the early 1990s. Agba is one of the few civil servants of Cross River origin in the Federal public service perceived as a high flyer, said Obla in a testimonial that validate Jeddy-Agba’s competence when he was gunning to be Governor of Cross River State. This has been proven by his recent appointment as one of the Executive Directors in the NNPC. He was honored recently with a National Award. He has the cognate and requisite administrative experience to ably pilot the affairs of the State. But he is perceived as standoffish and arrogant. He is also seen as too elitist. Agba’s father is the Paramount Ruler of Obudu Local Government Area.”

Many did not know that Jeddy-Agba continued to retain his relevance, deploying his immense wealth and connection to finance political parties and candidates of his choice. Those who were falling over themselves to be in the news and find a place on the soap box were completely oblivious of the colossal capacity of Jeddy-Agba

It was most embarrassing to see the segment of the media that recently spanked him with dangerous allegations genuflect before him in effusive praise. Times change. Quickly too!

At 60 years, it doesn’t look like Mr. Jeddy-Agba wants to hold anything back. This is one national mission that he is set to give his best shot. Should he be assigned to superintend the Petroleum Resources Ministry as many have suggested, it will be a fitting placement of ‘a round peg in a round hole’.

Potentially the Chairman of the NNPC Board, the incoming holder of the petroleum portfolio is expected to oversee certain Next Level reforms including the transformation of the joint venture partnership arrangement under the National Petroleum Investment Management Services NAPIMS of NNPC into Incorporated Joint Venture models. The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas NLNG is the example to be adopted and in the process the 15 – 20% NNPC shares in Shell, Total, Elf & Agip/Eni are to be offloaded to investors. About 53 blocks are to be offered in the much awaited marginal fields bid rounds. The new Minister is expected to superintend the ongoing divestitures of many onshore oil assets in favour of indigenous exploration and production companies, significantly and substantially to the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company (NPDC).

The pack of cheerful senators and excited journalists at the senate screening, some of who were encountering Jeddy-Agba for the first time, were taken in by his expository on the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.

“How would you encourage the local content in the oil and gas industry?” a senator asked. ”I prefer to call it Nigerian content because this is Nigeria….welders are brought in from Houston, Paris and so on. And we pay them as much as $10,000 per welder, when we could easily pay our welders here in Nigeria and cut the capital flight and all of that,” Jeddy-Agba said, with an unmistakable tinge of patriotism. He maintained that the way out of the enduring regime of subsidy was to ensure refineries in the country are working. ”In my opinion, if our refineries are working, it will encourage more local production and this will reduce refined importation and there will be no need for subsidy.”

Being a mono-product economy and having some working knowledge of that sector, from playing a supervisory role in the past, President Buhari knows the importance of selecting decision-makers on the basis of their expertise in a given area of responsibility, particularly with regard to scientific or technical knowledge. Though his educational qualification may point in a different direction, having obtained his first Degree in International Studies from Ahmadu Bello University, Samaru, Zaria in 1983. He also holds a Master’s Degree in International Law and Diplomacy from the University of Lagos, Akoka in 1989.

It is more than mere coincidence that the incoming Minister and the new Group Managing Director of Malam Mele Kolo Kyari both have a background in NNPC’s Crude Oil Marketing Department COMD the goose that lays the golden egg. Obviously the revenue generating capacity of the Oil & Gas sector is on the cards. Between the duo, the next level mandate is for optimal revenue yield to an economy with huge of annual debt service burden of N2.5 trillion and climbing.

Many of the 43 ministerial-designates are likely to be assigned to their areas of core competence. And Jeddy-Agba has acquired the necessary proficiency to successfully man the petroleum ministry. As he espoused his ideas before the federal lawmakers, Jeddy-Agba who is also a man of letters, having written a book, knows that some of the things he said may come back to haunt him. With him in the Petroleum Ministry, the nation will expect oil theft to be a thing of the past. It is anticipated that Jeddy-Agba will deploy the use of technology to tackle oil theft as well as ensuring accurate remittance to the federation account of crude oil sales.

Over $48 billion is required in investment to realise many set targets in the Oil and Gas sector. Final Investment Decisions FID is being expected for Shell’s $10 billion Bonga South West Aparo BSWA  project to produce 150,000 BPD. The PSC covering OML 118, which holds the bulk of BSWA, is due to expire in 2023.

Other critical projects that have also suffered delays in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry include: the 120,000bpd Shell and Eni’s Zabazaba/Etan project in the disputed Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 245, ExxonMobil’s 140,000bpd Bosi project, ExxonMobil’s 110,000bpd Uge project and Chevron’s 100,000bpd Nsiko deepwater project.

Jeddy-Agba advocated the establishment of a control room equipped with competent professionals and modern technology to end oil theft and pipeline vandalism.

 “We don’t need to import petroleum products. What we need to do is to strengthen the various agencies to checkmate the actual crude being loaded and write report.

“We do not have the technology to monitor the process of loading up to the point of export. For now, it is the International Oil Companies that determine the quantity of crude they export because we don’t have control over their operations.

“If I am in that ministry, I will push for the establishment of a control room from where we will monitor the process of crude loading up to the point of export.”

Suggesting how to end pipeline vandalism, he said that the most effective and efficient approach is to lay the type of pipes that would be difficult to destroy while drones should be deployed to monitor them and spraying of hot water on the vandals.

More importantly, Nigeria’s current total crude reserve is expected to be ramped up from a stagnating average of 2.3 million barrels per day to a new target beyond three million barrels per day.