On Sunday, September 19, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the incorporation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to consummate a new era birthed by the expeditious implementation of the nascent Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). The President gave the directive for the incorporation of the NNPC Limited in his capacity as Minister of Petroleum Resources.
The step taken by the President, according to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, was in consonance with Section 53(1) of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021, requiring the Minister of Petroleum Resources to cause 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.
Consequently, according to Adesina, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kolo Kyari, had been directed to take necessary steps to ensure that the incorporation of the NNPC Limited was consistent with the provisions of the PIA 2021.
The directive supra was also given pari-passu with the approval of the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, thus eliminating unnecessary gap in processes and/or procedures contemplated by the PIA. Section 59(2) of the PIA 2021 specifically vests the power to approve the appointment of the Board and Management of the NNPC Limited, with effect from the date of the incorporation of the Company, in the President. In effect, President Buhari had, as statutorily provided, discharged a critical leadership responsibility in the significant context of the new governance framework for the nation’s petroleum industry.
The President’s disposition and commitment to give legal and administrative effect to the PIA have received approbation from industry stakeholders and watchers from within and outside the shores of Nigeria.
His well-considered and balanced maiden Board of the NNPC Limited has influential politician, shrewd businessman and budding egghead, Senator Ifeanyi Godwin Araraume as chairman while Mele Kolo Kyari and Umar I. Ajiya are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) respectively. Other members of the Board, as approved by the President, 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).
Apart from Araraume, Margery Okadigbo and Constance Harry Marshal who are new entrants, the others metamorphosed from the old into the new Board of the NNPC Limited. It is noteworthy that there is adequate female gender representation in the new Board. Perhaps, the most significant of these appointments, in a season of partisan frenzy, is that of Araraume from Imo State, Southeast Nigeria, a zone that always complains of marginalization in the scheme of things, including appointments into vital positions and management of strategic national assets. His appointment therefore has the inherent potentialities of assuaging the never-ending feeling of marginalization by the zone. To boot, the zone also has as a member of the Board, to wit: Margery Okadigbo, wife of the late flamboyant and intellectual politician, Senator Chuba Okadigbo, PhD, from Anambra State. Araraume’s prime appointment is therefore a significant response to the feeling of marginalization by the Southeast zone. Besides, it satisfies the basic parameters of quality, soundness, suitability and, perhaps, political net worth, sagacity and knowledge that circumscribe consideration for the position of Board chairman.
Without a doubt, Araraume robustly fits into the above parameters, thus enabling the much-needed presidential validation. Besides, the appointments of Araraume and Okadigbo are fundamentally confirmatory of President Buhari’s predisposition, more than ever before, to reassure the Southeast zone that it is a significant and cherished part of the Nigerian federation.
For naysayers who are either ignorant or deliberately mischievous, the only thing they have decided to do, amid celebrations of Araraume’s appointment by many appreciative Igbo people, is to turn themselves into wet blankets or spoilsports by being purveyors of salacious narratives intended to diminish the magnitude of Araraume’s qualification for the chair of the Board and by extension President Buhari’s sense of judgment and appropriateness of the choice. This is sidestepping the real issues.
But Nigerians are not ignorant of the devices of naysayers in a situation like this, which is the reason many see the crux of the criticisms by some oppositional elements, either acting by themselves or as proxies or even as executors of briefs by their paymasters, that President Buhari appointed a supermarket manager as NNPC Board chairman as outlandishly pedestrian. A simple task of google searching Araraume’s profile on the internet will summon Wikipedia to the rescue. It is a loaded profile, which captures the academic, business and political trajectories of the 62-year-old “gladiator”.
On the academic front, he is a graduate of Business Administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia; he also holds a Masters of Science (M. Sc.) degree in International Relations from the University Benin; and, he is rounding off his PhD at the Nile University in Abuja. In the business arena, he is a restless business investor (Exclusive Stores and Supermarkets spread across a number of states in Nigeria, is just one of his numerous business investments); and, on the political terrain, he is a gladiator in the local and/or grassroots politics of Imo State, where he had supported and keeps supporting people into offices. He had won election into the Senate in 1999 to represent Imo North and was re-elected in 2003 for another term that ended in 2007 when he threw his hat in the ring for the governorship seat, which he was going to win but for the shenanigans of the then incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo who openly worked against him in a brazen anti-party manner by supporting PPA’s Ikedi Ohakim, who eventually won.
But while in the Senate, Araraume had served as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Power and Steel and Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism. He was also Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); Chairman of Public Hearing Committee for South-West zone on amendments to the 1999 Constitution. He was a member of the National Assembly Joint Constitution Review Committee (JCRC) and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts. He was Chairman of the Southern Senators’ Forum. He was a member of the Committee on Petroleum Upstream and Chairman of the subcommittee on petroleum downstream. Araraume applied himself with equanimity to all the assignments and tasks with which he was saddled.
Additionally, he was a member of the Board of Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) where he was chairman of the committee on operations of telecoms. He had resigned to from NCC to contest the Imo governorship election in 2019. His political trajectory has been dogged by many challenges that have not diminished his influence and essence. The famous American poet and essayist, Maya Angelou once observed that “nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Angelou’s insight into existential challenges that confront great men and women in the making succinctly captures Araraume political trajectory.
His place today in the politics of Nigeria is built on the foundation of his education, thriving businesses and formidable political networks. He thus brings to the table, together with other members of the Board, working in tandem with technocrats and experienced staff members of the new NNPC Limited, a sharply focused leadership, commitment and patriotism that ensure accountability, transparency, profitability and prudent governance of the petroleum industry in bolstering the economy in the overarching national interest.
▪︎Mr Ojeifo contributed this piece from Abuja via [email protected]