Task ahead of Buhari as oil minister

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A former general who ruled Nigeria 30 years ago, Buhari has extensive knowledge of the oil sector, having been head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under military ruler Sani Abacha in the 1990s and oil minister in the 1970s under Olusegun Obasanjo. There is no doubt that the task ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari in the oil and gas sector would be enormous.
But this is year 2015. A complete different climate from when he operated in 1970 and 1990, for one both appointments were under a military regime where the rule was by a fiat, and now that he has saddled himself with the additional responsibility of overseeing the oil ministry, it is important to wish him well.
Nigeria’s oil sector that contributes over 80 per cent of the country’s revenue is plagued by high level corruption. Not only is oil money stolen through accounting gymnastics and oversight gaps, but oil itself goes missing at unmetered oilfield well heads, pipeline taps and export terminals.
Pipeline protection and coastal inspection contracts have been given to ex-militants of the oil-producing delta who kidnapped foreign oil workers and blew up key infrastructure until a 2009 amnesty. Buhari plans to let the 60 billion naira-a-year amnesty program end in December as scheduled to save money and it is unclear what he will fund in its place.
According to the new Minister of State for Petroleum Resources who also doubles as the GMD of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the present administration will respect civil service processes and systems inherent in the Ministry Of Petroleum Resources, but will challenge the processes to ensure they are effective.
He said, “We will let the MDs of various parastatals work with us to understand what the agenda of this administration is. But fairly quickly, we will be able to sit down and see if they have the capacity to deliver those results. I want to put that on the table. I am not saying I am going to change people, but we would absolutely require them to show an ability to deliver the sort of change mantra that we are looking for.”
“The second thing is that we have dwindling resources and yet the whole nation depends on this ministry to provide the resources. So, we must be able to begin to put on the cap on how do we cut cost? How do we improve on earnings, how do we meet federation account requirements? How do we put controls that are essential to prevent leakages? How do we develop new income streams? How do we develop investments?”
On the perennial fuel scarcity, Kachikwu  explained that Buhari has mandated him to make sure that all refineries operates optimally so as to cut the country’s dependence on imported fuel which has been the bane of the country.
Continuing, he said, “I like to respect processes and systems. There are reasons why the civil service processes are in place. I will challenge those processes to change and be fast and not to crawl, but I will not go outside the system. I don’t do that. I also respect hierarchy.
He also stated that the Federal Government will focus on tackling environmental issues so that oil producing communities do not feel left behind and their environment destroyed.
The newly appointed minster of State in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu yesterday unveiled President Muhammadu Buhari’s policy direction for the nation’s oil and gas sector.

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