•Says openness in NNPC indication of anti-corruption fight’s success
Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave insights into how the reforms initiated by his administration in 2015 saved the oil and gas industry from total collapse.
He stated that the payments of huge cash call backlog owed the country’s Joint Venture (JV) partners took off a huge burden from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) while the current transparency drive in the oil corporation was also a product of the reforms.
The president, at the presentation of four books written by a former Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, explained that the sector, which accounts for a huge source of foreign exchange for Nigeria, was in dire straits when he took over.
The titles of the books are “Nigerian Petroleum Industry: 2015 to the future; Nigerian Law of Contract: Study Companion; Gas Development in Nigeria: Legal and Policy Framework as well as Nigerian Foreign Investment Law and Policy.”
The president, at the event, which was partly virtual lauded Kachikwu for laying the groundwork, which culminated in the ongoing reforms of the corporation and has now prepared the organisation for the challenges of the future.
He said: “When we were elected into office in 2015, the industry was in a very dire situation worsened by a backlog of Joint Venture (JV) cash call arrears.
“The industry was in need of reforms to attract more investments and attract the needed revenue to support the nation’s economic growth.
“As a new administration, we needed to act fast to address the declining prospects of the industry and aggressively drive economic recovery and improve the country.
“The current transparency and accountability drive in the NNPC is a good indication of the success of our administration’s effort in stemming corruption and sharp practices in the petroleum industry.”
According to the president, the current efforts at laying a solid legal framework for the industry, resulting in a revamped Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), will further develop the sector and attract the much needed investments.
He added that the imminent passage of the PIB will mark a milestone in the country’s reform of the oil and gas sector.
Buhari said: “Substantial settlement of backlog of cash call arrears has been achieved, which has enhanced the investment appetite of our joint venture partners and other prospective investors.
“We are making progress towards the passage of the necessary legislation to further support the growth of the industry, attract more investments, create jobs for millions of our youths and strengthen the Nigerian economy.
“We are committed to monetising our huge gas resources through the national gas expansion programme to support national economic diversification and job creation.”
He expressed confidence that one of the books, Nigerian Petroleum Industry, 2015 to the Future, will give an insight into the initial reform process and generate interest in both industry and academia.
In his remarks, former Defence Minister, Lt-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), praised the intellectual prowess of Kachikwu, saying that he has always distinguished himself in every task given.
“His antecedents and intellectual pedigree are well known from his time as executive vice-chairman at Exxon Mobil Nigeria to his time as minister. I am not surprised that as a true scholar, he took time off his tasking work to author books on law and policies on various issues for posterity,” he stated.
Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who also offered a goodwill message on the occasion, said the ministry had continued to build on those policies started by Kachikwu, and charted new frontiers in the petroleum sector.
Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr. Muhammed Barkindo, said as president of the OPEC conference in 2015, Kachikwu played a significant role in laying the groundwork, which eventually culminated in the signing of the historic Declaration of Cooperation (DoC) on December 10, 2016.
He said: “This monumental endeavour ensures that OPEC works in close collaboration and coordination with 10 non-OPEC producing countries to take collective action to ensure oil market stability.”
Earlier, Kachikwu had stated that while the Nigerian law of contracts targets students studying the law of contracts in schools, Nigerian Petroleum Industry, 2015 to the Future, is a culmination of his experiences during his service as a minister and also as GMD, NNPC from 2015 to 2019.