Ararume: Buhari scores again with NNPC Board, By Godson Chukwuemeka




Ifeanyi Ararume, Chairman, NNPC Limited

A lot has been happening in the petroleum sector of late. Not long ago, the President broke what had looked like an eternal jinx by assenting to the Petroleum Industry bill (PIB) passed into law by the National Assembly. That piece of legislation had been travelling to and fro the presidency and the legislature since 1999. At a particular time there were reportedly more than ten different versions of the bill flying around the national assembly.

The past administrations under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-dominated legislature could not muster any consensus on that legislation that promises to put forward a progressive legal framework for properly governing the oil industry for the benefits of citizens, the oil-producing communities and the International Oil Companies ( IOCs). Neither was the PDP presidency forthright in forging the political will to push through a law that would radically transform the most important sector of the nation’s economy, by giving citizens more advantage in the exploration and exploitation of oil in the country.

But with President Buhari, it is’ never say never’, especially when the interests of the ordinary Nigerian is at issue. During the 2019 presidential election campaigns, President Buhari promised to cooperate with lawmakers in ensuring the swift passage of the PIB in his second term. And as a man whose words are always his bond, the presidency pulled all the stops, engaged experts, dialogued with diverse interests, lobbied vigorously and where necessary, assuaged frayed nerves to get the nation where she is today with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).

Interestingly, in accordance with the stipulations of the PIA 2021, President Buhari had directed that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited be incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act. Thus, in a statement issued by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President in his “capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources, directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.”

In his words, “this is in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, which requires the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited within six months of commencement of the Act in consultation with the Minister of Finance on the nominal shares of the Company.

“The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kolo Kyari, has, therefore, been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited is consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.

 “Also, by the power vested in him under Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021, President Buhari has approved the appointment of the Board and management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of incorporation of the company.

“Chairman of the Board is Senator Ifeanyi Ararume, while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, respectively. Other Board members are; Dr Tajudeen Umar (North East), Mrs Lami O. Ahmed (North Central), Mallam Mohammed Lawal (North West), Senator Margery Chuba Okadigbo (South East), Barrister Constance Harry Marshal (South South), and Chief Pius Akinyelure (South West).”

No doubt, this is a star-studded board comprising highly experienced Nigerian citizens with impeccable records of service to the fatherland. First and foremost, It is easily noticeable that the NNPC board satisfies the principles of equity and fairness with all the six geopolitical zones of the country adequately represented in line with the federal character provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Complying with the federal character principle in the appointment of the board is the right thing to do not only to satisfy the law but also to ensure that the views and inputs of the variegated peoples of this great country, especially the oil-producing communities, are picked in running the new NNPC Limited as envisaged in the new PIA. After all said about how crude oil is losing its value and may not be important in the future, it is still for now the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.

At the individual level, Ifeanyi Araraume, the chairman of the board, is a two-time senator of the Federal Republic with requisite legislative experience as well as industry astuteness having been a member of the Upstream Committee and chairman of Downstream Sub-Committee in the Senate. Thus, with legislative oversight experience of the petroleum industry for eight solid years, a first degree in business administration, a Master’s degree in International Relations and doctoral degree in view, Araraume is well equipped to lead the NNPC board. Moreover, he is also an accomplished private sector player with many years of cognate boardroom experience and runs chains of very successful 

businesses. As  a quintessential legislator and astute businessman, he has been imbued with the values of listening, asking the right questions and taking decisive actions when it is necessary, which are really what heading a strategic board as the NNPC requires.

Indeed, Araraume’s appointment as the chairman of NNPC Board is exciting for many who see Nigeria as a united and indissoluble union. For a long period the people of the Southeast region of the country have been loudly alleging that they have been marginalized not just by this government but equally by previous ones. In fact the marginalization cry had been taken a notch higher by creating the asinine impression that President Buhari hates the people of the region.

This is where the appointment of Araraume, an Igboman, is very strategic. It not only rubbishes the wrong idea of hate against Igbos being bandied about by mischief makers but also provides some kind of soothing balm to the unnecessary secessionist agitations taking place in the Southeast region.

No wonder,  Mr Osita Okechukwu, Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for putting together a broad-based board for the newly created Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited. Specifically, he praised the President for obliging Nd’Igbo the slot of chairman, as well as the appointment of wife of former Senate President, Chuba Okadigbo, and his first vice presidential candidate, Senator Margery Okadigbo, into the eight-member board. 

“For us the Buharists, who know that the President doesn’t nurse any animosity against Ndigbo; it is a vindication that he has not forgotten Ndigbo as being bandied by his traducers. Most importantly, one thanks Mr President immensely for these appointments in the hope that he will further work towards closing the chapter of Igbo marginalization by supporting the election of a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction in 2023,” Okechukwu said.

Apart from Araraume and Mrs Okadigbo, the other members of the board come with loads of experience and the needed integrity as well. For example, Dr Pius Akinyelure, a certified accountant and a petroleum industry veteran, for more than fifteen years has been a senior consultant to the NNPC. He was also former executive director at Mobil Nigeria and has been on the NNPC board since 2016, when he was first appointed by President Buhari. What is more, this board apart from being technically equipped and truly representative geo-politically, is gender unbiased. This NNPC Limited Board is indeed broad based and clearly comes across as  a product of hard thinking.

▪︎Mr Chukwuemeka, cybersecurity expert, sent this piece from Lagos.

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