We have long been an admirer of the Mele Kyari, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) helmsman. We recall that upon his appointment he would spearhead notable reforms in the oil and gas sector owing to his impeccable track record in the cause of his illustrious career in the oil and gas sector.
Consequently, we were not disappointed with his conduct in reforming the country’s oil and gas sector in ways too numerous to mention. But we know he was up against a mountain of challenges that have held the development of the oil and gas sector moribund for years.
The oil and gas sector in the country is like the game of Russian Roulette, where you must be brave to pull the trigger and when you do, it is either you get killed, or you stay alive. In his case, he pulled the trigger, and he stayed alive, but not completely. The recent happenings in the country concerning the importation of toxic fuel presents a very delicate situation for him and the management of the NNPC.
Heads would roll, no doubt, but whose head would that be? That of Mele Kyari, whose table the buck stops or the importers of the fuel? A lot has been peddled in the public space in recent times. It seems the powerful cartel behind the importation of the toxic fuel are having the upper hand and would stop at nothing till they extract their pound of flesh from Mele Kyari, whose regime has been somewhat bad business for fuel marketers through concerted efforts at ensuring that the oil and gas sector in the country is sanitized for optimal performance.
As expected, there have been accusations, and counter-accusations in this regard, with the bulk of the petroleum marketers forming an unholy alliance against the NNPC under Mele Kyari. This is indeed a not too pleasant experience from all indications, as it is evident that the plot is for Mele Kyari to take the fall.
This is payback time for the reformer that braved the odds to entrench a regime of transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector. The worrisome aspect of the ensuing melee is that the lions of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria would do everything possible to ensure that Mele Kyar gets the boot. And the various narrative in the public domain suggests so.
For whatever it is worth, the coming days and months would be the most trying for Mele Kyari, and we can’t but empathize with him. But we are not convinced that the Oil and Gas industry Lions would have the upper hand. They might succeed in misleading the unsuspecting members of the general public. However, they can’t fool the relevant authorities, not even with their vast financial war chest.
The removal of subsidy on petroleum subsidy also comes to mind. We recall some time in 2021 while speaking during a ministerial briefing Mele Kyari said NNPC could no longer bear the burden of underpriced sales of premium motor spirit (PMS), better known as petrol, adding that the market price need to be implemented. He said NNPC pays between N100-120 billion a month to keep the pump price at the current levels.
Hear him: “The price could have been anywhere between N211 and N234 to the litre. This means that consumers are not paying for the full value of the PMS that we are consuming, and therefore, someone is paying that cost. As we speak today, the difference is being carried in the books of NNPC, and I can confirm to you that NNPC may no longer be in a position to carry that burden.”
This position indeed infuriated those feeding fat from the subsidy regime, which consequently felt threatened by the stance of Mele Kyari in this regard. The truth remains that the subsidy regime is not sustainable, and efforts must be made in this regard. This is herculean, and it is on record that Mele Kyari was indeed brave to make this position known in the public space.
We could confidently say that this was one of his unforgivable sins. As such, the Lions of the Oil and Gas industry waited patiently for the time to extract their pound of flesh for daring to take the butter from their bread.
That he is being vilified is not a surprise to industry watchers because we saw it coming. After all, the Lions of the Oil and Gas sector believe no reform should ever take place in the industry as it must remain business as usual. And they have gone all out for the jugular, aiming to suffocate him till he is breathless.
In our candid opinion, this should not be payback time for an individual who has displayed uncommon bravery in service to the country. The implication of the Lions of the Oil and Gas sector having their way would set dangerous precedence, and nobody would want to stake his neck in service to the country.
We must also add that the press is most culpable in this regard as the ethics of objectivity has been thrown in the trash can in return for sensationalism that suits the purpose of vested interests. But it is incumbent on all Nigerians to rise in defence of a selfless patriot who has stood and fought for the nation’s good.
While we support the investigation ordered by Mr President into the importation of toxic fuel into the country, we are, however, against the vilifying of a good man for the negligence of a few elements, which would be unfair to all his efforts and sacrifices for the nation.
These are indeed interesting times for the reformer that pushed extensively for the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which will attract more business Investments in Nigeria on the heels that the Oil and Gas industry has been struggling with the fiscal environment in Nigeria, such as issues surrounding investors investing money and getting it back with returns they deserve and without fiscal stability and sanctity of contracts.
This is what the new PIA has done to bring all these in focus to ensure that the fiscal environment is very competitive with world-class practices that you can find instability and security, which is indeed a new dawn for investors as well as the NNPC that is transiting to a commercially oriented limited liability company. All thanks to the reformer, Mele Kyari. We firmly believe that this country owes him gratitude and not vilification.
PRINCE TOKUNBO AJAYI
GOOD GOVERNANCE NETWORK (GGN)