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Battle For The Soul Of NNPC

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Nigeria’s fattest cow, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is bleeding.
This time around, not as a result of bursting of its pipeline facilities by vandals or illegal bunkering activities, but due to clash of vested interest over its administrative and financial running procedures.
The life of this critical government parastatal is on the line and like a ravaged and utterly exposed woman, the corporation now lies helplessly in an intensive care unit, with the  hope of its survival hanging in the air.
The shadowy operations and internal squabbles in the corporation caught public attention when the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu burst the bubbles against the management of NNPC through a protest letter to Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari.
Kachikwu in the protest letter to his principal, ripped cans of worms open when he disclosed that the operations of NNPC, under the watch of Dr. Maikanti Baru as Group Managing Director (GMD), was shrouded in secrecy.
Kachikwu, a former GMD of NNPC in his now controversial memo picked holes in the modus operandi of the NNPC (GMD), Maikanti Baru.
The memo revealed that contract worth over $25bn were unilaterally awarded without recourse to due process, while appointments are made without consultation of key stakeholders especially with NNPC Board of Directors.
The memo sought among other things to promote application for fair and competitive standard and ethical practices in the corporation.
Kachikwu was said to have raised the memo out of apparent frustration after his several overture to discuss with his principal, President Buhari, were turned down by the president’s top cronies in Aso Rock, who are linked with the NNPC scam.
The development has since created a lingering disagreement between Kachikwu and Baru.
Buhari’s Chief of Staff, and NNPC Board member, Abba Kyari, was also fingered to have worked in connivance with the NNPC’s GMD to frustrate Kachikwu’s moves within the presidency.
The Minister of State for Petroleum was therefore left with no option than to rouse the seeming insensitivity of the President to his perceived persecution by the Aso Rock henchment through public alarm.
The NNPC GMD, Maikanti Baru however dismissed Kachikwu’s claims as false. In a swift response, Baru faulted Kachikwu especially on his accusations of irregularities in the award of contracts but was apparently silent on the issue of making appointments in the corporation without due consultations.
Baru explained that no money was involved in the contracts and that the NNPC Tenders Board has no business reporting to Kachikwu and the corporation’s Board.
Irked by Baru’s response, Kachikwu’s loyaltists have equally given a counter response insisting that Baru’s silence on the controversial appointment in the corporation was an indictment on his part.
They dismissed Baru’s response as “self serving” and urged the NNPC GMD not to hide behind illegality to justify wrong actions and called for proper investigation of the matter, “especially as it relates to policies on public procurement as enshrined in relevant laws and regulations governing procurement in Nigeria”.
On Baru’s submission that Kachikwu has no business in the internal administrative policies of NNPC, Kachikwu’s loyalists pointed out that constitutional provisions are clear on the president’s statutory rights to delegate power to his minister or any government functionary.
They insisted that Kachikwu as a former GMD of NNPC was not a novice in the corporation’s politics, as he was reputed to have instituted a culture of transparency at all levels under his watch, by publishing reports of operations in the corporation and briefing stakeholders periodically.
However, as the clash of interest rages on between Kachikwu and Baru’s camps, Nigerians are of the view that the controversies surrounding the operations of NNPC should not be swept under the carpet.
A Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner, Barrister Barivure Kpobe, described the NNPC scam as a tactical reflection of the rot in all critical sectors of the economy.
Commenting on the shocking revelations from the parties involved in the NNPC crisis, the Port Harcourt-based lawyer said proper investigations should be carried out to ascertain the true position of things in the corporation, while the law should take its full course.
A youth activist and public affairs analyst, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, called on all the parties involved to submit themselves to proper investigation and advised the presidency not to shelve anybody from appropriate investigation.
He decried a situation where some government officials will hibernate under the cover of the presidency to commit countless economic atrocities against the people.
“The government does not belong to any single individual or group of privileged persons. It is a thing of shame that some people abuse opportunities of being in power to swindle the people. The antics of some of the people involved in the NNPC scandal, shows that they are not remorseful even in the face of glaring revelations. The President should ensure that justice is done in this matter by ensuring that all those involved in the scandal face the wrath of the law,” he posited.
In his view, a university teacher, Dr. Steve Wodu, expressed disappointment over the shocking revelations of unethical practices in the NNPC.
Dr. Wodu, an environmental sociologist and senior lecturer in the University of Port Harcourt, said the president should be cautious against those running a parallel regime while disguising as his confidants but bent on imposing their self-serving motives on the people.
He said: “the NNPC’s scandal was a manifestation of the gold digging experiments of some self-appropriating public officials who hide under political cover-ups to milk the nation dry.”
Dr. Wodu, who described the NNPC as a major source of Nigeria’s economic prosperity, called for the review of the corporation’s act to serve its specific objectives and not to be a conduit pipe for self appropriation of tax payers money.
Popular radical lawyer and social crusader, Femi Falana in his own reaction to the NNPC scandal has called on the President to relieve himself of the ministerial position as head of the petroleum ministry, which is already subsumed in his presidential role.
In Falana’s postulation, the President’s role as Minister of Petroleum does not entirely detach him from the festering web of corruption in the NNPC.
He averred that giving up his position as Petroleum Minister will allow room for proper surveillance and Xray of activities in the Nigeria petroleum sector.
Pundits had earlier faulted the nomination of President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari as a member of the NNPC Board on the ground that Kyari’s appointment was a duplication of duty, as some part of the country especially the South East do not have a representative on the NNPC Board.
Former National Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Assocation, Olisah Agbakoba, has already instituted a suit against the Federal Government for deliberately slighting the South East in the appointment of Board members for the NNPC.
Agbakoba’s argument is that appointments into sensitive positions in Nigeria should be based on the imperatives of justice and not skewed to favour a particular section of the country.
Others view Kyari’s appointment as a common place practice of availing indepth cronies of government unfettered access to juicy positions, on a note of compromise and pacification.
The NNPC ordeal to them is just a tip of the iceberg on the sordid realities in different sectors of the economy, where opportunists count on political patronages and undue concessions to cash in on the economy.
For the Minister of State, Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, his ordeal in the NNPC appears to be a reverberative consequence on his earlier deviant posture on the unilateral increase in the pump price of PMS.
His then decision was offensive to the sensibilities of Nigerians but he was undettered and revelled in the impositional act.
It could be recalled that President Buhari’s long standing profile of altruism and zero tolerance for corruption were his greatest political capital, especially during the 2015 general election.
However, his seeming lacklustre attribute to tame the excesses of his acolytes appear to be turning the table against him and his government.
Nigerians believe that the NNPC saga is another test for the president to exonerate himself, by yielding to sober reasoning and save not only the NNPC but the Nigerian state from imminent collapse. Nigerians still await the illusive change that is the hallmark of Buhari’s administration of change mantra.

Taneh Beemene

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NSCDC’s Anti-Vandal Squad Uncovers Artisanal Refinery In Rivers Community

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The Anti-Vandal Squad of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Rivers State Command, has uncovered yet another local refinery situated at Adobi-Akwa settlement in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The State Commandant, Basil Igwebueze, disclosed this while speaking to journalists shortly after the tour of the Illegal site.
Represented by the Head, Anti-Vandal Squad, CSC Peters Ibiso, Igwebueze said the squad made the discovery following a tipp off, expressing regret that no arrest was made as the  boys fled the site upon sighting the squad.
The cammandant’s representative took the newsmen across a tick forest of about 6-7 kilometers from the main town.
The team sighted where the pipeline vandals tapped into the Well Head of yet to be ascertained multinational company, connected their galvanised pipes to several cooking pots, heat up the crude to produce Automotive Gas Oil (AGO).
In his words, “Upon receiving a tip-off, the Anti-Vandal operatives swung into action to uncover this illegal oil bunkering site. They were in this forest for two days having cordoned the area, unfortunately, the perpetrators upon sighting our men took to their heels, but investigation is still ongoing to effect the arrests of such defiant elements”.
The Anti-Vandal Unit Head further narrated the operation techniques of the operators of local illegal refineries from the point of extraction of crude through vandalism of oil pipelines to cooking in various ovens where the content is subjected to high temperature and transmitted through pipes to reservoirs for storage and onward trans- loading to buyers.
While insisting that the command would not relent in the fight against illegal dealings in petroleum products, he urged the public to have more trust in the NSCDC by providing actionable intelligence that would enhance possible arrest of economic saboteurs in the State.
“Our commitment to continuously work in tandem with the prosecutorial mandate of the corps in order to rid the State of economic saboteurs remains unchanged. We value our informants and most especially the intelligence driven tip-off received from time to time.
“It is also our duty to ensure that our source of information are not disclosed so as to protect our informants. It is therefore our delight that the public will continue to have confidence and trust in us as we together protect the nation’s critical national assets and infrastructure from dare devil vandals”, he stated.

By: Lady Godknows Ogbulu

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Oil Fund Withdrawals Suggest Extended Price Rally

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The world’s largest crude oil exchange-traded fund has bled over $2 billion in less than a year. And it i
s not due to investors finding greener pastures elsewhere with other ETFs; it is the siren call of soaring prices that is prompting this mass exodus.
The WisdomTree Brent Crude Oil exchange-traded commodity had assets under management of some $2.5 billion last summer, according to Bloomberg. Now, the publication reports, this is down to $396 million, with withdrawals accelerating over the past few days.
In that, withdrawals seem to be following price trends. Brent earlier this month topped $90 per barrel and, after a short pause earlier this week, is back above that threshold again following the latest Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip amid reports about a possible ceasefire.
While it is true that prices are currently driven higher mainly by geopolitical events, fundamentals are also at play. A growing number of forecasters are updating their predictions for benchmarks this year on expectations of resilient demand and increasingly tighter supply. And investors are following the trend.
Even those who have not sold their ETF holdings in order to invest more directly in the rally are benefitting. That same WisdomTree Brent Crude Oil ETC generated returns of over 13 percent during the first quarter of the year as opposed to an average 8.8% gain in the S&P 500.
The WisdomTree exchange-traded commodity became the world’s largest oil fund at the beginning of last year. The fund saw inflows of over $1 billion, which poured in as the deflation in oil prices that had begun in late 2022 extended into the new year. Now, the trend has reversed and it has reversed strongly.
The WisdomTree Brent Crude Oil ETC is not the only fund seeing outflows. The U.S. Oil Fund, which used to be the world’s biggest oil fund before the WisdomTree inflows last year and is now the world’s biggest oil fund once again, also saw a flurry of investor exits as benchmarks climbed higher.
According to Bloomberg, the fund’s assets under management currently stand at $1.3 billion, down from some $5 billion during the pandemic.
In further evidence that oil makes money, the Middle East is about to become the only region in the world with three trillion-dollar sovereign wealth funds. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is worth $993 billion, Bloomberg reported in March, while the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Kuwait Investment Authority are breathing down its neck.
Meanwhile, investment in transition-related stocks is on the decline, according to data reported by Reuters. The S&P Global Clean Energy Index is down by 10% since the start of the year. In comparison, the S&P 500 Energy Index, which comprises Big Oil names, has gained 16.3%.
The data shows that investors are growing wary of all the promises made by transition advocates as evidence mounts that these were not based on due diligence. Wind and solar stocks suffered a crash last year when this first became clear.
Now, we are witnessing a continued awakening among investors to the challenges and the realistic potential of transition technology and alternative energy sources.
“With conventional energy having its own bull run, I think the alternative funds will struggle for the foreseeable future, and we shall see what the election brings”,  the Managing Director of capital markets at Phoenix Capital Group Holdings told Reuters.
The comment summarizes the challenging situation for alternative energy investment and highlights the rebound of interest in oil and gas, much to the chagrin of decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic.
In both Europe and the U.S., things can get even worse for the transition after the respective elections—in June for European Parliament and in November for U.S. President. It will certainly be an interesting year in energy.
Slav writes for oilprice.

By: Irina Slav

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CNG Initiative: FG Targets 25,000 Jobs, $2.5bn Investment 

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The Programme Director and Chief Executive, Presidential Compressed Natural Gas Initiatives, Michael Oluwagbemi, has announced the Federal Government’s plan to target over 25,000 jobs and $2.5 billion worth of investment by 2027.
Oluwagbemi made this known during the Presidential CNG stakeholders’ engagement workshop held at BOVAS Auto-Gas Filling Stations, Ajibode Bus-Stop, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, at the weekend.
He stated that the initiative, which was part of palliative measures to ease the burden of the removal of fuel subsidy, would attract enormous investment and job creation as well as impact positively on the lives of Nigerians.
Meanwhile, he called on Nigerians to embrace the new initiatives by the Federal Government as part of palliatives to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy in the country.
“On October 1, 2023, when the President gave his speech, he announced that the Presidential CNG initiatives are going to be rolled out as part of palliatives on the removal of fuel subsidy.
“One of our major concerns is to make sure that the transition for the transportation sector is a cheaper, safer, and more reliable source of energy.
“In the coming weeks, we are going to be announcing the conversion incentives programme which will enable Nigerians currently using PMS and Diesel fuel vehicles to be able to convert their vehicles at designated places across the country at a discounted price based on certain pre-qualification under the palliative programme of the Federal Government”, he said.
On the value chain of the initiative, Oluwagbemi explained that the Federal Ministry of Finance is acquiring tricycles and buses that would be assembled and manufactured in Nigeria, with more than five automobile firms being activated.
“The value chain of the programme starts with every one of us. From the point of converting your vehicle, you have created the demand for natural gas.
“If your vehicle is converted by technicians and refuelled by autogas workshops across the country, then you are creating jobs for civil engineers and technicians. You’re creating jobs for the upstream in terms of upstream activities associated with oil and gas.
“And in line with the programme, the Federal Ministry of Finance is acquiring a number of tricycles and buses that will be assembled and manufactured in Nigeria. More than five of our automobile firms have been activated. So, you can see that in terms of job creation, the opportunities for Nigerians are enormous.
“The President has said we need to convert one million vehicles by 2027. We need 1,000 conversion shops and we need over 3,000 filing stations just like this. You can imagine the level of investment required for this.
“In order to sustain one million vehicle conversions by 2027, we need 25,000 technicians. So, the job creation potential is an opportunity for job creation in addition to our gross domestic product, $2.5 billion worth of investment to be mobilised in the next four years and of course more than $25 billion added to our GDP”, he said.
Oluwagbemi further called on Nigerians to embrace the new initiatives by the Federal Government as part of palliatives to cushion the effect of the removal of fuel subsidy in the country.
The representative of BOVAS Filling Station, a private investor in the Presidential CNG Initiatives, Temitope Samson, said, “We have worked with the regulators, we are also working with the Presidential Initiatives on CNG to make sure that standard safety is adhered to. We have also worked with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria to ensure that we have a standard accepted internationally.
“Our role is to ensure that there is availability of CNG across the nation, and to also ensure we have enough kits and tanks that are converted for people to use as many as possible, and to ensure safety and to train others so that anywhere they get to, they have very safe conversion”.
Recall that last year, President Bola Tinubu approved the Presidential Compressed Natural Gas initiative(PCNG-i)
This initiative aims to not only introduce more than 11,500 new CNG-enabled vehicles and provide 55,000 CNG conversion kits for existing vehicles that depend on Premium Motor Spirit but also promote local manufacturing, assembly, and job creation.

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