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Mele Kolo Kyari: Makeover Man Of NNPC

Mele-Kyari Caricature

August 15, (THEWILL) – Those in the oil and gas industry wistfully recall the glorious years of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation when Aret Adams was GMD from 1985 to 1990. For the half-decade he helmed the corporation, Adams insisted on professionalism at all levels, from the cleaners through the middle ranks up to the very top.

Such was his admirable ethical standard that he once overruled a military dictator who imposed one senior staff in a position the GMD thought he was unfit for. Adams resigned instead.

These days, stakeholders and others in the industry compare the two-year headship of NNPC by Mele Kolo Kyari to those great days when Adams presided. They talk of visionary leadership, achieving set goals and objectives and generally making over a corporation once crammed with officials with bribe-infested fingers to a more professionally-run government organisation.

A blindingly obvious clue on how things have changed for good at NNPC is the lack of queues at filling stations across the country. Fuel shortages in the past turned forlorn filling station attendants into instant moneybags. Though they might grumble privately the oodles of cash have disappeared like the serpentine queues that used to keep them standing all day, the free flow of petroleum products mean one thing: efficiency and professionalism at the top of an organization responsible for making sure Nigerians don’t have to suffer needlessly to fuel their cars, get their generator sets purring or cooking gas for domestic use.

“NNPC has emplaced a stable fuel supply system to guarantee zero fuel queues throughout the country in the last two years of Kyari,” an expert in the O&G industry wrote recently. “The corporation is in the process of strengthening the products distribution system by revamping the pipeline network through a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) model whose process is already at an advanced stage.”

A Geologist by training, Mele Kyari was appointed by President Muhammadu Buari on July 8 2019. Two years on, Nigerians are thumbing up for a corporation once regarded as a conduit pipe for draining the country’s crude resources. Not any more, thanks to the innovative ideas and visionary leadership under Kyari.

Continuing, the analyst also mentioned revamping of pipelines by NNPC singularly spearheaded by Kyari. “The vision of revamping the pipelines is in tandem with the Refineries Rehabilitation Project to ensure that products evacuation facilities are in top shape to support the operations of the refineries post-rehabilitation in 2023. Keen on boosting petroleum products supply and distribution in riverine areas of the Niger Delta, the Kyari-led NNPC signed an agreement with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Zed Energy for the construction of the 10.5 billion naira Brass Petroleum Products Terminal.

“The facility would serve as a strategic reserve for the country as it is expected to provide a depot for 50 million litres of petroleum products, two way product jetty, automated storage and automated bay for AGO, PMS, DPK and ATK. It would also close the infrastructure gap in the distribution of petroleum products and also help to stop illegal refining activities.”

In two years of Kyari’s stewardship, Port Harcourt refinery is getting a makeover long after it is due for rehabilitation. Last April, NNPC signed a $1.5bn Engineering, Procurement & Construction Contract Agreement with Tecnimot SpA to complete the refinery that has been moribund for years.

Some of his predecessors either couldn’t carry through their intention of making the first and oldest refinery in the country work again. Kyari did and, today, work is ongoing at the refinery.

Kyari was born on January 7 1965 in Maiduguri, Borno state. From accounts by those who know him from his formative years, there is talk of a focused chap right from primary through secondary school. By the time he got admission to read Geology and Earth Science at the University of Maiduguri, he easily distinguished himself, graduating in the top five of his class.

Any Geologist working in an oil company should be very much at home. But Kyari has gone one step further, adding marketing of both crude and refined products as well. Until his appointment as GMD, for instance, he was already a marketer as Group General Manager Crude Oil Marketing from 2015.

The first priority for any marketer, of consumables or anything for that, is to have something good to sell. For years, NNPC ranked as the number one place to do shady oil deals. Foreign and local businessmen with dubious provenance made cool cash at the expense of the corporation. There have been cases of former GMDs stashing dizzying sums away. For Kyari however, positioning the company as a top player in the global O&G industry is his priority. No wonder his emphasis on the image of the company he heads. “No company will invest where they cannot get the appropriate margin,” Kyari has said. “We’re very conscious of the fact that people have choices, companies will make choices to leave countries when they have to.”

Exactly a year ago at a meeting of Society of Petroleum Engineers, the GMD stated clearly his dream for NNPC. NNPC, he declared, must work in collaboration with both the private and public sectors. “There must be collaboration across different dimensions; government, industry, academia, and, particularly, with the communities where we carry out our operations. The social license to operate is critical to the industry’s long term survival. Also, a partnership among industry peers to chart new ways of resolving industry challenges and preparing for tomorrow cannot be overemphasized. I am delighted the SPE provides such veritable platform.”

For sustainability of NNPC, Kyari made it clear that industry players must learn to manage cost, improve efficiency and deliver required cash flow (margins) for reinvestment and expansion, insisting that without creating profit today, “we wouldn’t be in a position to take advantage of the opportunities that keeps us viable and ready for tomorrow.”

“We must bequeath to the next generation a world worthy to live in. Our operations must, therefore, be carried out in a safe manner without adversely impacting the environment. As you know, most discussions around energy substitution or green economy stem from looking at the industry as ‘dirty’ and ‘unconscionable’. It must be reiterated that our industry remains the bedrock of modern human existence. We must, therefore, work to create a positive view if we are to remain relevant in the long run.”

Among his board membership of some high-profile companies such as Duke Oil Services, UK, the 19th GMD of NNPC currently represents his country of birth at OPEC in Vienna, headquarters of oil producing countries.

Like his uncompromising predecessor Adams, Kyari’s innovative measures as GMD is sure to impact positively not only on the industry itself but the Nigerian economy. For one, he is not likely to be caught with bricks of cash stashed away somewhere at the end of his tenure. The makeover man of NNPC will certainly not condescend so low.