By Eniola Olakunri
The news that President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed Ahmed Bobboi, Executive Secretary of Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board, for a new 4-year term has drawn wide acclaim and commendations from oil industry practitioners, the organised private sector and other pertinent stakeholders.
The presidential pat on the back, many believe, came on the heels of trailblazing activities the steersman and the tenacious (Management) Board and Staff had recorded in the last four years and the roll call of successes they have amassed to their credit. It is only fitting that he and the Board would be allowed to continue their valiant plans for the good of the organisation and its publics.
One of Bobboi’s trump cards is the fact that he understands the system and is better placed to appreciate what its challenges are. He is the first home grown Staff to be appointed Executive Secretary (ES) of this all important agency. The considerable time other appointees spend to familiarise themselves with the terrain and turf, did not apply to him as he hit the ground running.
Since October 2016 when Bobboi began his odyssey as the Fund’s Chief Executive, he has remained committed to the goals and objectives he set for himself; relying on his ample skills, eclectic experience and uncommon grit to get the job done; all with the approval and active support of the PEF (Management) Board.
The initial appointment had come as a welcome surprise to Staff of the Agency of Government; charged by law to maintain uniformity in the price of premium motor spirit (petrol), throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. The Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari definitely cast a round peg in a round hole with his engagement.
Bobboi had spent over two decades in the organisation prior to being named Executive Secretary. Those who had worked with him at various points in their careers, attested to his professionalism and fairness on the job. He is completely detribalised and bears no animus against anyone. Those who are focused and hardworking knew they had nothing to fear.
Bobboi’s First Steps
One of the key steps taken by the new helmsman and the diligent Management Board was to institute a policy whereby all Staff must work in the field (Zonal/Depots offices) and various departments, before they can qualify for Managerial positions. Bobboi himself has been lucky to have been afforded that opportunity, but a good number of employees have not been that fortuitous. The experience of having worked in various capacities in diverse departments at the head office and on the field, did adequately prepare him for the onerous tasks ahead.
Another key area he and the team wasted no time in addressing is the development of fit-for-purpose manpower to handle the ever changing dynamics of the downstream subsector. They are well aware of the fact that the industry will require some important skill-sets going forward, and as pragmatic visionaries, they immediately embarked on strategic Staff training and development exercises, locally and internationally.
Information Technology in the immediate and future of PEF
PEF(M)B has a history of utilizing Information Technology as a driving force in shaping effective work processes. Bobboi was one of those Managers that welcomed with open arms, the ‘Project Aquila’; an electronic mechanism introduced by one of his predecessors, to monitor movements of petrol from depots to depots, with the automation of the operational processes, in addition to serving as a tool for gathering data for business intelligence.
But he and the Board have always known that as useful as Aquila is in facilitating prompt payments, curbing human error and fraudulent claims, there are still opportunities for improvement for an even more robust system for effective service delivery.
They went to work.
In taking the gains of Aquila further, The Board embarked on a more extensive Information Technology drive that will ensure real time monitoring and data processing of petrol movement(s) in Nigeria to the last mile, that is, the filling stations.
Currently, the unflagging team, (in collaboration with the National Information Technology Development Agency), are spearheading the deployment of the ‘Downstream Automated Fuel Management Information System’ (DAFMIS), primed to bolstering all operational processes within the organisation; a move deemed quite innovative and that which will be beneficial for all stakeholders in the industry.
One unique feature of DAFMIS is its distinct Fuel Monitoring System (FMS).
This provides for an electronic eye (sensor network) which spawns near real time information on ships, tank farms, depots, pipelines, trucks and filling stations. This is an ingenious idea which guarantees that the movement of products are tracked everywhere and on the go.
Also, more than 550 trucks are currently being retrofitted for the scheme. It does not end there. Fuel in the storage tanks of filling stations can also be monitored remotely, country wide. In effect, any station hoarding fuel for whatever reason would be caught out and sanctioned.
DAFMIS is structured to cut waste, improve efficiency and plug loopholes in the petrol distribution chain. Other features of this inventive solution include:
Business Improvement: poised to upgrade the work processes between departments as well as on-field operations for overall efficiency of the Board.
Business Applications: designed to manage Marketers’ registration claims and reconciliations, much more accurately.
Document Management System: billed for digitising and archiving documents in every department of the organisation. It also makes for an enhanced offsite back-up mechanism which guarantees document security.
Data Centre upgrade: geared towards maintaining a top notch, state of the art network architecture which ensures seamless interaction within the organisation. The era of poor connectivity between Zonal Offices, Depots and the head office will be a thing of the past.
Operations Command and Control (OCC). This can be likened to the operations of the control tower at airports, the world over. It ensures that field operations are monitored 24 hours, round the clock, year in, year out. In effect, untoward incidents can be dealt with in real time. OCC promotes enhanced visibility of operations within the system and its processes are comparable to those of Aramco, the highly regarded Saudi Arabian oil company.
It should be stressed that DAFMIS runs through every gamut of the organisation, and is in line with global best practices and management systems.
The socio-economic benefits of DAFMIS are multifarious. One of these comprise the provision of real time data, germane to making critical and on-time decisions in the downstream sub-sector of the petroleum industry. It is coupled to curb wastes and to also act as a check against nefarious activities within the system. It provides a veritable board for the nation’s economic planners and lends itself to the maintenance of energy security.
Other benefits include traffic advisory and road maintenance, job generation, provision of downstream data on the go, promotion of local content and generally making for a huge transformation of the downstream activities within the oil industry.
An eye for Corporate Social Responsibility
Despite the relentless focus on the pursuits of the ideal in running the all-important government entity, the PEF(M)B still ensures that the organisation engages in activities that offer succor to the disadvantaged. Recently, the Management augmented The Federal Government’s efforts in the provision of support to the vulnerable in the society during the lockdown necessitated by the ongoing corona virus pandemic. The same gesture had been extended to support rehabilitation and development of infrastructure in the North-East, assist Boko Haram victims and other less privileged people, under Presidential directives on the North-East initiative.
The programmes the Management Board have spearheaded in the organisation in the last four years are so far reaching, that all stakeholders (the public, government, staff and the oil industry) will keep reaping the benefits for a very long time.
For a Board that is always forward thinking, it’s not really surprising that it has already set its sights onto bringing the uncharted areas of the country -especially the riverine and mountainous zones- under the ‘Equalisation Process’. This means the people in these tough terrains would be able to pay the same price for petrol as everyone else! (Hitherto, marketers usually add varying premiums for ferrying the product to these peculiar places). This is bound to spur more economic activities and make life much easier for people living in these areas.
Plans are also afoot in bringing Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG or cooking gas) under the Equalisation Scheme. Now that an appreciable segment of the nation’s rail network is up and running, the team is now making arrangements to utilise this veritable means of transportation to move LPG and petrol from depots to different parts of the country. This will no doubt rid commuters of the perennial clogged traffic dilemma (arising from the heavy presence of tankers and trailers) on the nation’s highways.
The Board is also an ardent supporter of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). The Petroleum Resources Minister, Chief Timipre Sylva is quite hopeful that the Bill, billed to create one uniform law for the existential framework of players within the industry, will be passed before year end.
The Management Board’s achievements in the last 48 months have not gone unnoticed by industry watchers. Apart from the stabilising petroleum supply in every part of Nigeria (no mean feat), and embarking on other cutting edge innovations in the organisation, the National Council of Hydrocarbons (a body charged with the maximisation of the potentials of Hydrocarbons for national development), has twice voted PEF(M)B as one of the best fund managers in the industry. The Council has also been unwavering in its conviction that the Equalisation entity should remain independent in order to make for continued and seamless performance of its functions.
With all the above achievements tucked under the Board’s belt in addition to its plans for the immediate future of PEF (especially as it relates to the common folk), the Buhari Administration needs to be commended for granting one of the meritable managers of men and materials, another 4-year stint as Executive Secretary.
Hearty Congratulations are therefore in order for Bobboi and the hardworking, heedful and hortative team.
In the words of Aristotle the Great Philosopher, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit”. This sums up the Quintessential Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board.
*Eniola Olakunri, Director, Oats Global Energy and a public commentator, writes from Abuja