El-Yakub’s Inelegant Disquisition on Yemi Cardoso, Mele Kyari

El-Yakub’s Inelegant Disquisition on Yemi Cardoso, Mele Kyari

Tajudeen Suleiman

Bello El-Yakub, who referred to himself as a public affairs analyst based in Kaduna wrote an article where-in he attempted to dissect the performances of the Central Bank Governor (CBN), Mr. Yemi Cardoso and that of the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari.

In the article titled: “Compare and Contrast: Yemi Cardoso and Mele Kyari,” published in a few dailies on Friday, March 22, 2024, El-Yakub tried to sell the argument that Cardoso has justified his appointment as CBN governor within six months in office while the same could not be said for Kyari at the NNPC.

The writer claimed that under Kyari’s leadership, NNPC’s crude oil production has declined, and instead of focusing on his job, he is constantly seen on President Bola Tinubu’s foreign trips. El-Yakub also claimed to be concerned about alleged “repeated inaccurate statements regarding the state of refineries and now about the public sale of NNPC shares.”

He then called on President Bola Tinubu to sack Kyari after admitting in his article that the three most difficult jobs in Nigeria as at May 29, 2023 was that of the president, governor of CBN and that of the NNPCL GCEO.

But even a cursory investigation would have availed the writer with facts on which to base his comparisons if he intended a proper disquisition. But piece was not intended to be an objective, evidence-based analysis of the performances of both men. If it were, the writer would have taken more pains to get the facts for an informed opinion. 

While there’s no doubt that Mr Cardoso has hit the ground running at the CBN and delivered tangible results which can be seen in the clearing of foreign exchange backlog and the steady rise of the Naira, among others, it’s a display of ignorance to compare two entities that are not similar. It’s like comparing a lion and a cat.

To start with, the CBN is the organ of the federal government of Nigeria that is focussed on monetary and fiscal policy regulation. The NNPC on the other hand , has transitioned into a company whose operations will be regulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The NNPC completed its incorporation in September 2021 weeks after the Petroleum Industry Act was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari.

NNPCL is the biggest state-owned oil and gas company in Africa, and is expected to be competitive and commercially oriented company. It’s the custodian of Nigeria’s oil and gas assets. Mele Kyari, as the CEO of NNPCL, is the chief marketer of those assets and anywhere there’s an opportunity to market those assets, he has to be there.

It’s also a betrayal of El-Yakub’s lack of knowledge about government operation that he would think the CEO of NNPCL could impose himself on the presidential entourage to foreign countries. The president decides who travels with him on any foreign or domestic trip, and no government official will impose himself on the president’s trip.

El-Yakub may also be unaware that President Tinubu has deep knowledge of the Nigeria and global  oil and gas industries, having worked for many years at the Exxon-Mobil- an international oil firm. As the chief marketer of the country, anywhere the president sees opportunity for Nigeria’s oil and gas assets, he will definitely want to have the NNPCL GCEO by his side.

Thus, as the man in charge of selling and remitting funds for the country’s oil assets, international trips must be part of his schedule of duties. And there is no trip Kyari has embarked upon without tangible reason and results.

It is obvious from the write up that it is a continuation of the war against Kyari by faceless forces who had fruitlessly attempted in the past to shoot him down by any means, including media blackmail. The same forces had tried their best to stop the president from re-appointing him, but failed. But they’re obviously unwilling to give up.

Tinubu, more than anyone in the government, is familiar with Kyari’s achievements as the GCEO of the NNPCL.

Nigeria needs foreign direct investments inflows to shore up the economy and the value of the Naira. Kyari and the NNPCL have been at the forefront of this drive. Kyari has been able to seal several crucial deals for Nigeria.

He has turned the NNPCL from a corporation reporting N803 billion loss in 2018 to a company posting N674 billion in 2021. The company’s profitability margins have continued to increase, with the NNPCL now currently targeting a profit increase of N2trn when the 2022 Audited Financial Statements (AFS) are released.

The NNPCL is currently involved in the entire value-chain of the oil and gas business and controls over 30 per cent of the nation’s petroleum retail market.

Kyari also deserved credit for his ambitious gas development strategy focused on unlocking Nigeria’s gas potential and establishing itself as a global supplier of clean and affordable energy. This drive culminated in the signing of a $741 million contract between the NNPCL and Daewoo Engineering and Construction to rehabilitate the idled 110,000-barrel-per-day Kaduna Refinery.

The quick-fix maintenance contract was approved by the Federal Executive Council in 2021 as part of a $1.4 billion package to repair the Kaduna and Warri refineries. The urgency stemmed from NNPC’s commitment to strengthening Nigeria’s energy security.

El-Yakub’s claim of declining oil production under Kyari also fails the test of evidence and facts. Everyone familiar with the industry is well aware of the abnormal situation of oil theft and pipeline vandalism which have negatively impacted crude oil output and revenue.

But under Kyari, the NNPCL has confronted the menace headlong through government and private security measures which have yielded and are yielding results. For example, in 2022, oil production fell below one million barrels per day. But due to measures taken, production rose significantly to 1.7 million barrels per day. While we’re currently below the 2024 oil production benchmark of 1.74 million, production has continued to rise since January, and the NNPC has insisted it will reach the benchmark. 

I have struggled to understand what El-Yakub described as “repeated inaccurate statements” by Kyari about the state of Nigeria’s refineries. Last December, the NNPCL fulfilled its pledge to achieve the mechanical completion of rehabilitation work on Area 5 Plant of the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC).

Rehabilitation work has been ongoing at the Refinery for over two years and the NNPCL. had pledged to complete Phase One of the project (mechanical completion and flare start-up) of Old Port Harcourt Refinery (Area 5) by 31st December 2023.

Kyari went on a tour of the facilities in December and was quoted in the media as saying: “In our quest to ensure that this refinery is re-streamed to continue to deliver value to Nigerians, we made a promise that we will reach a mechanical completion of phase one of the rehabilitation project by the end of December and get the other plants running in 2024. Today, we have kept those commitments.”

The Kaduna Refinery rehabilitation project is targeted for completion in 2024. We’re still in the first quarter of the year. Kyari has also promised to end fuel importation by end of this year.

Kyari has kept his earlier promises on the refineries, and we have no reason to doubt him on ending fuel importation. We have to give him the benefit of the doubt. That is the least we owe him.

Sulaiman writes from Abuja.

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