Gbenga Komolafe: In Pursuit of NUPRC’s Mandate

Uchenna Okoro

Reforming public institutions in Nigeria is always a difficult task. Often times, it comes with resistance from either employees within the organisation or from sponsored smear campaigns, in form of commentary or written articles. The aim is just one – to derail the good efforts of drivers of such reform agenda.

That clearly is what can be used to describe a recent misleading, false and damaging commentary targeted at the Chief Executive Officer of the Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe.

It is worthy to note that the NUPRC was created by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. The beautiful legislation brought to a close, a 20-year effort to reform Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. The legislation has created environment a more conducive for growth of the sector and addressed legitimate grievances of communities most impacted by extractive industries.

Also, the PIA overhauled the regulation and governance of the oil and gas industry and provided for two regulatory agencies—the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, (NMDPRA)— responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of petroleum operations in their respective sectors, and have the power to acquire, hold, and dispose of property, as well as sue and be sued in their own name.

Specifically, Section 4 of the Act created the NUPRC and gave it power to acquire, hold and dispose off property, sue and be sued in its own name. It is responsible for the technical and commercial regulation of upstream petroleum operations. Clearly, the NUPRC’s functions are limited to upstream regulations. The objectives of the NUPRC among others include to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations governing upstream petroleum operations in the country; promote and enabling environment for upstream petroleum operations; ensure strict implementation of environmental policies, laws and regulations for upstream petroleum operations, and a whole lot of technical objectives that borders on crude oil regulations.

The mandate of the NMDPRA and NUPRC are clearly outlined in the PIA. 

That is why it is not only misleading, but also callous for someone to allege that there have been in-fighting among the two agencies on implementation of functions which according to the uniformed analyst, had led to industry operators registering with the two of them instead of just one, to process permits. This is not true. Operators whose business are related to the upstream sector clearly know they have to obtain operational permit from the NUPRC, while those that operate in the midstream and downstream sector, go to the sister regulatory agency for such permit. Their objectives of the NUPRC and the NMDPRA are clearly outlined in the PIA and there are no conflicts about them.

Also, the issue of competence of the NUPRC boss was touched on by the commentator. It is on record that since his appointment last year, Komolafe has been taking gradual, but steady steps towards reforming the commission in line with his promise when he assumed office.

The 58-year-old engineer from Ondo state, has shown that he is a round peg in a round hole as he continues to take critical decisions to ensure that NUPRC’s mandates are achieved.

A Fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers, Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria and member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Komolafe’s expertise as a seasoned engineer and lawyer have no doubt been instrumental in giving the regulatory body the needed impetus to achieve its mandate.

He was Group General Manager, Special Duties at the NNPC, Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division and Executive Director (Commercial) Pipelines and Petroleum Marketing Company (PPMC). In addition, he was General Manager, Operations, Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), General Manager, Operations of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), among several others. Aside being an engineer, Komolafe has degrees in law, industrial and labour relations and is a recipient of various awards.

He is an expert in institutional process study and designs to curb revenue leakages and attainment of optimum national productivity.

As Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division, he facilitated optimum revenue for the Nigerian federation and performed transparently as acknowledged by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) in its report within the period he served in office. In the same vein, as Executive Director, (Commercial) between 2012 – Mar 2014, he initiated strategic sales and retail plans and coordinated implementation of achievement of set revenue targets from downstream supply and distribution of refined petroleum products for nationwide consumption.

At the PEF, he initiated operations policies for effective petroleum products supply and bridging to the inner parts of the country and price equalisation management nationwide and pioneered successful implementation of electronic tracking of petroleum products distribution nationwide.

This, it was learnt, resulted in transparent bridging of petroleum products and price equalisation management that saved government hundreds of billions of naira through institutional process expertise.

He also successfully coordinated seamless supply of petroleum products nationwide with multiplier sectorial effect in the Nigerian economy as General Manager, Operations in the PPPRA.

With these, it is clear that dead or alive, no Nigerian in the industry has moved to all the agencies and parastals across the value chain like Komolafe. He had regulatory backgrounds that no one in the defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) would offer contrary to claim by the said commentator. While there is nothing wrong with someone recommending another person that he or she feels is competent for a plum job, it is totally not true that Komolafe got his position at the NUPRC through nomination by the leadership of the National Assembly.

Additionally, the NUPRC under Komlafe’s leadership did not rent any office accommodation on assumption of duty, but maintained the one inherited on assumption till now. In fact, the contract for new office to Julius Berger had been awarded by the defunct DPR before he assumed office. So, Komolafe is not connected with any office accommodation as alleged but focused on achieving enhanced oil and gas production for optimum federation revenue.

That was why the NUPRC last week finally closed out the 2020 marginal oilfields bid round two years after the process commenced. With the issuance of the Petroleum Prospecting Licences (PPL), the winners of the awarded oilfields can now move to site for preliminary prospecting activities. In the process of getting to conclude the bid rounds, the NUPRC stated that about N200 billion was raked in from the 57 oilfields to the coffers of the federal government, plus an additional $7 million in signature bonuses and others. In addition, the NUPRC announced the unveiling of the Template and Procedure Guide for the Host Communities’ Development Trust (HCDT) for commencement     of implementation of the provisions of Section 235 of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021. The unveiling of the template on host communities fund administration was a major development for oil-producing areas of the Niger Delta who are expected to benefit from the three per cent operating expenses of oil companies in the area.

Also, it must be stressed that being a technical and highly professional and sensitive industry, working with consultants with best practices standards elevates the competences and productivity of the staff and the Commission. It is a global practice and we see multinationals engage consultants as well.

In the area of welfare, today, the NUPRC is not owing staff anything. 

Indeed, we are aware that some detractors are not comfortable with Komolafe’s soaring profile and the latest pull him down efforts targeted at impugning the huge success and milestones achieved on record time with the licences award ceremony that was transparently done. While this attempts are just to distract and frustrate him, promoters of such must understand that he is focused on achieving the mandates of the NUPRC. 

Komolafe believes that optimising the value of the Nigerian oil resources can only be achieved when the Commission does its work diligently and in line with the rule of law that guarantees increased competition, opportunities and value creation. As someone who is a stickler to due process, he remains committed to ensuring that Nigeria gets all the desired benefits and value from its oil and gas sector.

Okoro, a public affairs analyst wrote in from Abuja

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