Oil workers in Nigeria have stoutly denounced the call made by Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to scrap the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and create a new government oil firm.
The oil workers, under the auspices of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) on Wednesday faulted Mr. El-Rufai, saying the governor should have rooted for the national oil company to be insulated from undue political interference currently distracting its mandate.
Mr. El Rufai, who was the guest speaker at the 7th Wole Soyinka Centre Media Lecture Series in Abuja, had made a strong proposal for the NNPC to be scrapped to save Nigeria risk of possible destruction.
The NNPC, the governor said, had become so entrenched in corruption that the only way out for Nigeria was to disband it immediately and create a new oil company.
“If you don’t kill the NNPC, it will kill Nigeria,” Mr. el-Rufai said, expressing the hope that President Buhari would heed his advice and implement it.
However, the Acting General Secretary of PENGASSAN, Lumumba Okugbawa, faulted the governor, describing the “kill the NNPC” proposal as an over-kill.
“Instead of killing the NNPC, what the governor should have called for should have been its reorganisation and its subsidiaries to function effectively with clearer mandate, empowerment and improved financial approval authority without undue political interference,” he said.
Although the PENGASSAN scribe agreed with Mr. El-Rufai that corruption was the bane of NNPC, hindering Nigeria’s growth and development in the oil and gas sector, he urged the government to deal with the menace and not ‘throw away the baby with the bath water’.”
Mr. Okugbawa said the NNPC created by an Act of Parliament in 1977, and made up of the holding office, subsidiaries and service units, has, over the years been subjected to undue political interference that is hindering its autonomy.
Despite the problem negatively affecting the effective running and competitiveness of the corporation for the past six years, the PENGASSAN scribe said that should not be a yardstick for the demand by the governor for it to be scrapped.
“If you look at the NNPC as it is today, it has been politicised with most of its decisions and operations being influenced with political motives, and at times, executive fiat,” he said. “The corporation is so much tied to the apron (strings) of the political office holders, but not the technocrats that are at the helm of corporation’s affairs.”
He identified some of the areas of interference affecting the corporation to include appointment and removal of members of the top management, like the Group Managing Director (GMD), Group Executive Directors (GEDs), and Managing Directors of NNPC subsidiaries, which is at the whims and caprices of the president. The other factor has to do with the corporation’s limited financial autonomy for its operations
The NNPC, the unionist pointed out, should be a company capable of competing favourably on a global scale like Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia, Petronas of Malaysia, Petrobras of Brazil and Statoil of Norway, etc. given the opportunities and market potentials.
“If we take a look at NNPC contemporaries in the world, such as Saudi Aramco, Petrobras, Petronas and Statoil, we will notice that their holding governments give those companies freedom to growth and expansion of the companies to the great benefits of the citizenry and their respective governments.
“Operations and administration of NNPC comes under several masters and conflicting instructions, some of which defy the national objectives and aspirations for setting up the National Oil Corporation and its subsidiaries.
“Appointment, removal and/or transfer of the heads and staff of the Corporation and its subsidiaries are often executed by fiat in the manner that undermines the extant national laws, and the NNPC Act,” the labour leader said.
He also cited frequent changes in top management positions as responsible for the policy somersaults that have created the unstable system that often breed compromise of corporate values and principles in the corporation.
Between 2009 and 2015, the NNPC has five GMDs, namely Mohammed Barkindo (2009-2010); Late Shehu Ladan (April-May 2010); Austen Oniwon (2010-2012); Andrew Yakubu (2012-2014) and Joseph Dawha (Aug 2014 till date).
The government, he said, must instil in NNPC the culture of corporate governance and career management, requiring a legislative review to enable technocrats, not politicians, heading the board.
Beside, Mr. Okugbawa emphasized the need for strict compliance with global best practices and competitiveness, responsibility, transparency and accountability of all accruing revenue and expenditure in NNPC, while the audit of its subsidiaries’ business and investment relationships, operations, financing, procurements are published regularly.