Mixed reactions trail speculations on Buhari’s oil ministry portfolio

Energy• Stakeholders list refineries as priority 

NIGERIANS may have apparently exhibited their undiluted interest in the efficient and effective management of the hydrocarbon resources, as mixed reactions trailed the speculations about the prospect of President Muhammadu Buhari doubling as the Minister of Petroleum Resources in view of the agitations for sanity in the oil and gas sector.

Indeed, the speculations, which were dominating the debates in the petroleum sector in recent times, have elicited different reactions from concerned stakeholders who actually believed the country should optimally benefit from the oil resources under this administration.

President Buhari and the former President Olusegun Obasanjo had earlier occupied same position during their respective tenures in office, but this was greeted by several reactions by stakeholders including the transparency watchdog, Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), among others.

But some stakeholders, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, believed that President Buhari could actually take up the duty going by his integrity, transparency and zero tolerance for corruption which he exhibited as military head of state about 30 years ago.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Integrated Oil and Gas Limited, Emmanuel Iheanacho, said it was too early for such speculation, urging Nigerians to give the new president a benefit of doubt and allow him to concentrate on the way forward.

“I think it is premature for people to start speculating. What is good is for people to allow him to make his decisions, and after that they can start to comment, but not for us to start circumventing him, we will just create difficulties, which could have been avoided.

“I don’t really like to join that speculation. I think that he has a very good reputation coming in, and it is good that a lot of people trust him, and that is something that earns him the post.

You know that we had a lot of problems on the mismanagement of the petroleum industry in the past, so i think that is why Buhari is giving it priority and that is why he might want to take personal charge of the industry to ensure that things are done correctly, so i don’t see anything wrong in that, if he can really do things that makes sense.

What i think we should do is to all rally round him and support him to ensure that the industry is sanitised and work the way it is supposed to operate.

He however urged the administration to focus on strict transparency in the sector. “We don’t believe that we are getting adequate value for our money, so we really need to get adequate value from the resources that are exploited from our territory.

The export of crude oil has to be done in a transparent way, allocation of concessions for people to lift crude and import fuel must be done in such a way that we will all see that the state is not been short-changed.

All aspects of the industry should be well taken care of through necessary measures to clamp down on corruption and ensure greater accountability and transparency.

It will impact positively on the economy and the well being of Nigerians. I will wish Mr. President well going forward,” he said. The President, Consumer Rights Advancement Organisation,(CRADO), Deolu Ogunbanjo, said: “There will be so much benefit. He got what i called the cognate experience.

He has been in that capacity before, he was in charge of Petroleuem Trust Fund (PTF), and he was also a former head of state, so he knows all the workings, the strengths and the leakages.

For me, i think he is the right person to manage that position. No other person can do it better. “He has the record of no nonsense person, zero tolerance to corruption and that industry is entrenched in corruption, so we need to get away all the nonsense that had happened there and Buhari is the right person to do that,” he said.

He however urged Mr President to concentrate on building more refineries and encourage private refineries through incentives and cleanse the alleged rots in NNPC.

Ogunbanjo said he should try and ensure that Nigeria has at least two refineries in a state, “So, i am looking at 72 refineries, so that there will be full competition, which would ultimately drive down the pump price of petroleum products,” Chairman of the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (NIEEE), Michael Akan, objected to the speculation, saying that it will be a distraction to the president.

He stated: “I don’t support any plan by the president to manage the petroleum ministry because, it will be a major distraction for him.

The president may have good intentions, but the oil cartel in the country will do everything possible to frustrate his efforts”.

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Pow Technologies Limited, Goody Oguzie, believed that the country’s oil and gas sector will witness the needed transformation, if the president decide to double as the minister.

According to him, the president has managed the responsibility of the oil ministry in the past and has a clear knowledge of the activities going on in the sector.

Oguzie said: “Taking over the oil ministry is a good idea and I am very much support it. I think this is what the president needs to do if he actually want to fight corruption in the industry.

He should handle things in the industry for a while and may now later hand it over to trusted hands. The president is very experienced when it comes to dealing with the country’s natural resources”.

It will be recalled that in March 1976, the Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner (position now called Minister) for Petroleum and Energy.

He succeeded Dr. Mofia Tonjo Akobo who earlier headed this ministry. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1976, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978.

Also, Buhari served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a body created by the government of General Sani Abacha, and funded from the revenue generated by the increase in price of petroleum products, to pursue developmental projects around the country. A 1998 report in New African praised the PTF under Buhari for its transparency, calling it a rare “success story”.

However, the same report also noted that critics had questioned the PTF’s allocation of 20 per cent of its resources to the military, which the critics feared would not be accountable for the revenue.

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  • emmanuel kalu

    not a good idea for him to double up on responsibility, there is so much work for him to do as president. however i would say that he install someone that he can trust, and give that person clear directive and timeframe for every thing. the president number one priority in the oil and gas, is to end the subsidies of fuel. deregulate the market and encourage refineries of any type to be built. then focus on developing and using our natural gas.

  • Izeobor

    I cannot understand the idiocy in thinking that Buhari is the only ANGEL in Nigeria, that without him corruption cannot be fought. Abacha used his basement as the Central Bank of Nigeria during his madness and OBJ was using this lame excuse to siphon the petrodollars for his Otta farm. Nigeria is better than this stupidity in this century. A country of over 160 million people cannot find capable hands to be entrusted with the ministry of petroleum resources is a shame! Let Buhari take up the functions of all ministries. Is this a unitary government? People of worth should speak up. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of past administrations. If this administration cannot thrust anybody, they should admit it and throw in the towel. Other countries are moving forward and Nigeria is moving backward! Sooner we will be cutting off thieves’ hands as a panacea to stopping stealing. Stone Age is past!

  • Mazi JO

    Can we have a second look at Prof. West? I think the President misunderstood him when he (West) handled the Petroleum Ministry. I think he learned his lessons at the time hence will make amends this time around.

  • Rose

    Asking the president to concentrate on any single point right now is just too much. I’ve heard people complaining about the fact that he hasn’t hit the ground running, but deliberating will be fine is the end result is the government making the right decisions.

  • John Bekepu Ikwen

    Let PMB choose between being a minister of petroleum resources and his present position. He has stayed long in this ministry from 1976 with OBJ, Abacha and want to come back again? Those who were with him then have long retired, his ideas about the oil and gas are now stale and no longer useful in the 21st century. There are seasoned professionals (men and women) in the oil and gas sector who are capable of bringing about the necessary sanity/ turn-around in the sector. Let him give them the benefit of a doubt by appointment for a trial period of one year in the current glut in the global oil prices. Based on performance and competence such an appointee can be retained or dropped.