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Nigerian Petroleum Corporation: Ibe Kachukwu plays Hard Ball

Ibe Kachukwu

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) used to be a home of sleaze.  The Corporation acquired a horrible reputation in our house of memory.  It has endured many years of unrelenting castigation more severe than any other institution in Nigeria. Corrupt politicians were out to imperil the country and do it harm through nefarious deals with staffers of NNPC. 

What went on in the oil firm was a total collapse of governance of the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan. Our dear Jonathan was busy enjoying sleeping privileges in Aso Rock while the engine room of our economy was burning. The ugly outcome of such a negligence was wide spread poverty and pervasive gloom.

One of the areas in which the Corporation shortchanged the nation was through the crude-oil-for refined product barter programme.  Under this barter arrangement, NNPC exchanges a huge chuck of 445,000 barrels per day for refined petroleum products.  Taleveras and Aiteo were the two firms accused of massively swindling the country. Matters were made worse when the firms submitted the highest bid of $2.85BILLION for the largest of Shell Nigeria’s oil blocks slated for sale, the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 29, which Shell is selling with its 97-kilometre Nembe Creek oil pipeline.

It could be recalled that The All Progressives Congress (APC) through its Spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, raised alarm over the unholy alliance of these firms with NNPC. “This bid by two upstart firms must attract the attention of the various National Assembly committees on downstream, upstream and the Senate Committee on finance. Nigerians will like to know how the highest bidders for the OML 29 are not big industry players but some deal making firms.”

“How is it possible that these two companies that were nowhere prior to now have metamorphosed, in just five years, to become companies that can buy assets of $2.85 billion? Is there a link between this sudden leap in fortunes and the possible underhand dealings in the swap programme, considering they are the two firms involved in the programme? Is it a coincidence that while Nigeria as a country continues to get less and less from the programme, those who service the programme are feeding fat on it?”

“Is there any link between the stupendous wealth of these firms and the ever-expanding huge revenue losses going on at the NNPC? How did it happen that Taleveras and Aiteo have, in less than 5 years, grown from obscurity into the oil sector hegemony by simply exchanging crude oil for equivalent refund of petroleum product? And is there a link between the activities of these firms and the alleged missing $20 billion oil funds?”

These are some of the dark issues bedeviling the corporation before the coming of hurricane Kachukwu. Despite a lame economy and widespread public disappointment in the sector, this man is a breath of fresh air. The appointment of this reputable lawyer is making Nigerians feel pretty good about the prospects of the petroleum industry, both immediate and long term. He has what it takes to adapt to the shifting terrain of the oil industry. Whatever long lasting reforms Kachukwu choose to bring to bear into the oil sector, there is good chance it will lift Nation closer to what Nigerians wish NNPC to be.

This former General Counsel for Exxon Mobil is absolutely brilliant and electrically authentic. His integrity is his most powerful asset. He has never lost it and never had to find it. His performance so far has been triumphant. Kachukwu is a man that prefers things that work more like organized sports, with the clean justice of objective referees and rules designed to elevate the best performers. He embraces the challenge of policy, craves high minded political debate and hungers to win.  I am pleased that he has presented himself as vessel for change.

Kachukwu has staked out a strong policy on how to revamp the Corporation. I just hope that stakeholders will come further along with him. He recently said that he wants an NNPC that Nigerian people will be absolutely proud of because the country owns the company. While affirming that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is capable of bringing in far reaching reform, he cautioned that the bill should not be imposed. “We need to get it approved. But there are enough laws to help us achieve our purpose. We can survive with what we have.” This man whose Hints Magazine, was an instant success in the 1990’s, stated that he is particularly focused on people, proficiency, process and performance. 

“We are beginning very dramatically to focus on the people involved; to clean up the system; to make sure we have the right people in the right place. We will get them to focus on the controls, transparency and business model and then we get into the processes – how do we approve contracts? How do we monitor contracts? How do we ensure that there is a pro-business focus in whatever we are doing and finally, we are going into the business dynamics,” he explained.

He graduated with a First Class in Law from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and the Nigerian Law School. He also had Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Law from the Harvard Law School.

Mr. Kachikwu worked as an Investment Attorney in the United States; General Counsel‎ with Texaco Upstream and Downstream in Nigeria; Executive Vice Chairman of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited; and General Counsel for ExxonMobil Nigeria affiliate Upstream and Downstream Companies.

I do not envy him. In fact, my heart goes out to him because this is a daunting and energy sapping job. Due to his love for his country, he left a good job. But it is a worthy cause he has embraced. Some people are unstoppable fonts of creativity, driven to follow their impulses. Ibe Kachukwu is one of them. He is not paralyzed by the task ahead. Kachukwu will not just talk the talk but he will walk the walk.

Orji is a journalist and media consultant; 08023624097, ikechukwuorji@yahoo.com

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