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OPINION

Repositioning the NNPC and Baru’s knack for openness

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By Kingsley Ukah 
It will take a great deal of sustained and concerted reforms to ensure that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) runs effectively and efficiently in line with global best practices; and for it to serve, without interruptions, the common good of Nigerians.

For decades, the oil corporation has consistently been in the bad books of Nigerians who see it as a behemoth that has been appropriated by successive administrations to service political interests and private ends.

However, the decision of the NNPC Group Managing Director (GMD), Dr. Mikanti Baru, to continually open up the corporation for public appraisal and promote transparent and accountable management is novel in the ecology of the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade. Baru is committed to seeking strategic partnership where necessary in a deliberate bid to erase the negative perception that the NNPC cannot achieve the desired results or apply standard best practices in operations.

There is no doubt that leadership is key to every organisation that seeks to succeed. Since coming on board, the GMD has committed himself to doing things that will give the corporation a positive outlook. But one must quickly admit that it is not always easy turning things around in a corporation where corruption has been entrenched and reforms frustrated for years. But what is going well for Baru is his willingness to take on challenges and search for solutions. Apparently, that is why he is succeeding.

That Baru has chosen not to grandstand over the recurring question on the actual volume of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol, being consumed in the country, says much about his ability to be above the fray.

He has not been imprudent in his disposition. He has not created any ballyhoo over the matter that has been understandably politicized.  There is a sense in which the management of the nation’s oil sector has become a political decision under the watch of successive federal government.

But credit must be given to the exceptional leadership and sincerity of purpose that Baru has brought to bear in the management of the NNPC presently. For instance, as part of its expanding strategic partnership, it is a welcome development that corporation has agreed to work with the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Finance to finally lay these decades of concern about the opacity in the public finance management of the subsector in which the corporation plays a very significant role to a rest.

It gladdened the heart when I heard the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Downstream, NNPC, Mr. Henry Obih, say that the decision of the corporation to abide by the directive of the National Executive Council (NEC) to work with the finance ministry and world bank to finally unravel this mystery.  That such efforts have been frustrated in the pas attests to the financial discipline that President Muhammadu Buhari has inculcated into governance. On this score, the leadership of Baru has demonstrated its support for the president’s philosophy of prudent financial management. He has shown by his disposition that he has nothing to hide.

In a widely reported Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition held recently in Abuja, the NNPC COO, said that: We (the NNPC) are presently in a joint project with the Federal Ministry of Finance. We are doing a study around consumption to determine the actual consumption by the people. He explained that “we have to put it on scale to see what we call the daily load or the evacuation, as against the actual consumption, that is, what people go to the pump every day to buy for their cars and generators at homes and for other uses.”

Obih said: “This is why the National Economic Council has mandated that we work with the Federal Ministry of Finance. We also had meetings with the World Bank about six weeks ago, and we are trying to progress in a global study that would help us get around the actual numbers of what we consume in Nigeria.”  This is forward-looking. While awaiting the outcome of the tripartite investigation, it is equally good that the NNPC has chosen to set some records straight against the backdrop of the ongoing campaign of calumny sponsored largely by the mafia in the sector.

Different consumption figures had been put out there in the social media to deceive the unsuspecting public. This tripartite intervention should, in the interim, put to rest the associated concerns while the investigation will, expectedly, assuage the frayed of Nigerians. Meantime, in terms of daily truck out from depots around the country and in terms of the records of the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) the NNPC trucked out 48 million litres daily in 2016 and 50 million litres in 2017.

The problem of rising volume of fuel is compounded by cross-border smuggling, because Nigeria remains the cheapest source of PMS in the West African sub-region. Unfortunately, Nigeria has a network of oil mafia that cuts across the entire chains of oil businesses in the country.  The mafia group is very big and powerful and has been operating for decades. It is also feeding fat on segments of the country’s pipeline network. It will take consistent and persistent efforts to defeat the oil cartel. At every point, it is fighting back and this has made the work of the Baru-led NNPC a little bit more difficult.

Obih, confirmed the challenges facing the corporation. Read him: “But again, one significant challenge is the fact that we have cross-border smuggling. Nigeria remains the cheapest source of PMS in the West African sub-region. All our neighbouring countries are selling at over 200 per cent high of the price that we pay at the pump. We have challenges in the pipelines that run through land, specifically, the System 2B, for instance; the one that runs around Lagos. It remains a big challenge, because there is a mafia that lives and feeds on those pipelines.

But it is not entirely bad news about the NNPC. Good things are happening under Baru as revealed by the COO, especially in the area of Joint Venture cash call payments. According to him, “What is heartening this year is that we can, at least, say that in a couple of the areas, we can see attempt to address them. For as long as I have been in this industry, we have been discussing cash calls as a never-ending issue. I think we were able to sit down together as an industry and government to try and tackle that issue and we should not underrate the importance of that.

“What is of significant today is that argument is off the table. For the first time, we finished a year without NNPC owing cash calls. That just essentially opens up the appetite. What that has done is that it opens up the appetite to have a conversation about investment. Nigeria is competing for capital with every other country in the world and sometimes we forget that and think that we are world unto ourselves, but the reality is that each of these companies operates in 20, 30, 80 countries and people are competing for capital. The whole JV process, we all need to put our hands on the plough to ensure it does not derail. We cannot take it for granted that we have a funding structure that works and assume it will continue to work.”

It is incumbent on Nigerians, especially stakeholders who have been yearning, over the years, for the NNPC to truly deliver on its mandate, to support the ongoing process to reposition the corporation. Baru can deliver with the right support and climate. However, the NNPC must now ensure that a strong technology-driven mechanism is put in place to ensure the real-time monitoring of the pattern of consumption in the country. This is what should engage attention and not petty issues that distract.

Ukah wrote in from Lagos
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NEWS

Kogi East Senate: The risk of PDP choosing Attai Aidoko, By Idris Omahi

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Jim Rohn, an American author and motivational speaker once said, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

This seems to be the dilemma of the people of Kogi East Senatorial District of Kogi State. From one political dispensation to another, they have been forced to settle for an ordinary representation in the National Assembly – the kind that has added very little or nothing to their quality of living.

Another season of decision making is fast approaching; a season where making the wrong choice of who will represent them this time around will consign them to yet another four years of perpetual retrogression. So, as the buildup to the general elections gathers momentum, the people of Kogi East Senatorial District are praying; those who know how to fast are resorting to that. But the prayer point is that God should bring a messiah (or messiahs) who will speak for them confidently at the National Assembly and the district will bounce back to reckoning.

The name, Senator Attai Aidoko, is not new to those who have followed the politics of Kogi State for close to two decades. If not for anything else, he will always be remembered for representing Kogi East at the National Assembly for 16 years (House of Representatives – eight years and in the Senate for another eight years) with nothing to show.

He had earlier  represented Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro Federal Constituency from 2003 to 2011. And the people have said the only dividends of democracy accruing from his representation are seeing his fine face when another election season is approaching, and of course, listening to political sweet nothings when their votes are solicited the next time.

They have said between 2011 and 2018 (going to 2019), they have searched and searched, and continued to search, but the senator cannot be tagged with any meaningful development in any part of Kogi East Senatorial District, not even with his influence as chairman, Senate Committee on SEGS.

One of his townsmen summed up their frustration recently. He was quoted as saying, “The only stream sustaining our community and the neighborhood and is about four kilometers away. Aidoko is far from our challenges because he only comes here in the night and disappear before dawn since he became a senator.  As you can see we have no potable water, no electricity and other basic infrastructures.”

Even the boys are not smiling at the moment. Igala youths recently spoke the minds of the entire youths of the district. According to them, the senator is a liability on the good people of Kogi East and he has no political relevance in both the region and at the national level. The youths are crying out, very loud at that, that as the longest-serving federal lawmaker from Kogi East, he has serially failed them “in terms of good legislation, provision of amenities through constituency projects and youth empowerment.”

They continued by saying, “We can’t continue to wallow in this politics of stagnation where some wicked few individuals will gather together to oppose everything that is good for our land.

“Our region has suffered so much neglect despite the fact that we have several opportunities to develop, but we have been suffering so much neglect because of the attitude of some of our leaders.”

The Kogi East people are going, albeit caps in hands to God, to the gods, and to whatever power they believe in, to yarn some miracle intervention of sorts, so that as the Peoples Democratic Party is choosing its candidates in Kogi East, they should settle with a quality candidate who will better their lots, who will be their voice when other brand-new senators take their hallowed seats in the hallowed chamber.

Anything less than a suitable candidate will attract rebellion from the voters, and the people, especially if the current occupant gets the ticket. You see, the people have been bitten more than twice. Who knows, they may be shy the next time they are bitten. Even as they do not trust the All Progressives Congress promise-and-fail kind of politics, chances are that they may rather feel comfortable with it by offering their protest votes to an APC candidate possibly coming from Dekina or the Idah axis of the zone. If for any reason the incumbent senator returns to contest on the platform of PDP, chances are Dekina/Basa will go for APC, Idah Federal Constituency will go for APC and Ankpa/Omala will go for APC. Though, this will bring a new chapter of failed promises, it could be the last resort just to teach the party delegates a lesson.

PDP in the Kogi East is in need of a new face who can energize their base. There is so much anxiety at the moment because the current occupant as a product is not strong enough to move market for the party in the face of the electorate. Just think of it, he has never won the primaries. He gets the ticket through the back door.

Another burning issue that may consume the PDP in Kogi East is the marginalization of the Idah axis of the zone. Kogi East Senatorial district has nine local government areas and three federal constituencies. They include the Idah axis: Idah, Ibaji, Igalamela/Odolu and Ofu; Dekina axis: Dekina, Bassa and the Ankpa axis which consists of the Ankpa, Olamaboro and Omala.

The choices before the political class and the electorate are between progress and retrogression, unity and disunity, equity and inequity; and of course a wide prospect of prosperity for millions and not just the elite few.

Between 1999 and 2003, Dr. Alex Kadiri, a Dekina citizen was elected into the senate. Senator Nicholas Ugbane also from Dekina succeeded Dr Alex Kadiri and served in the senate for eight consecutive years. The zoning formula favoured Dekina yet again in the race for Lugard House which led to the emergence of Captain Idris Wada as governor of Kogi State.

Similarly, Ankpa Federal Constituency has also been largely favoured since the return to democratic rule. Alhaji Ibrahim Idris governed for nine years. Senator Attai Aidoko, another native of Ankpa Federal Constituency has been in the National Assembly since 2003.

Barr. Dangana Ocheja was elected in 2011. His representation was truncated by Attai Aidoko Ali through the judiciary after just six months. The implication is that since 1999, Idah Federal Constituency (comprising Idah/Ofu/Igalamela-Odolu/Ibaji) despite its massive voter strength has not produced a senator. This clearly indicates that equity has been conspicuously overlooked in favour of marginalisation.

One may argue that several indigenes of Idah Federal Constituency were beneficiaries of high-profile political appointments. But we need to remember that an appointment is a prerogative of the chief executive and is not necessarily a true representation of the desire of the masses.

Back in 1999, President Obasanjo appointed Dr. Eyitayo Lambo and Bayo Ojo as Minister of Health and Attorney General and Minister of Justice respectively. Both were from Kabba town. The office of the deputy governor today is the outcome of a doctrine of necessity by the powers that be and not a product of consensual agreement by Igala political stakeholders. Deputy Governor Simon Achuba was forcefully shoved down the throats of the people and they were forced to swallow without complaints.

The clamour for a Kogi East senator of Idah extraction has never been this deafening. It is a major topic of discussion where two or more are gather. If the leaders of the PDP in Kogi State are serious about balancing this highly lopsided senatorial representation in 2019, and are also serious about retaining the massive votes of Idah, Igalamela-Odolu/Ofu/Ibaji citizens, then, they must act quickly and smartly to exterminate the political oppression, subjugation and marginalisation that has been handed down on these politically sensitive people for so long.

Idah Federal constituency has one of the largest voting population in Kogi State. Collection of PVC in the four local government areas has been impressive. If the leadership of the PDP is thinking about zoning the senate to another constituency besides Idah in 2019, they should have a rethink. Several able-bodied individuals with vast experience and impeccable records of hard work, honesty and credibility are very ready and willing to join the senatorial race in 2019.

The “systematic marginalisation” of Idah Federal Constituency must be brought to a halt. The recycling of “expired” familiar names with dismal performances in the senate must also stop. Fresh ideas, fresh approach and better results in 2019 are what the Kogi East people demand and Idah Federal Constituency has a large pool of intelligent, honest and hardworking persons that are ready, able and willing to do the job.

The people know this. The party knows this. Apparently, our distinguished senator himself is well aware. That explains the reason he has been going from pillar to post, seeking crude means to actualize his dream of going back to the senate to warm the seat on behalf of the Kogi East people. Perhaps that was the motive behind his alleged enlisting of more than a dozen propagandists to carry out a smear campaign so as to truncate the ambition of other leading aspirants in the race.

A whopping N20 million, according to reports was given to a party chieftain to facilitate this smear campaign. And part of their briefs was to make the party hierarchy see other leading aspirants as impostors and agents of the opposition and this involved writing several anonymous letters to some party stakeholders.

The leaders of the party are aware of Aidoko’s desperation, that is why they said no to an automatic ticket for our dear senator. They rather expect Senator Aidoko to test his popularity and make his achievements open doors for him if he has done well for his constituency. But the senator is not resting in his oars.

He is making every effort to return to the senate and elongate the suffering period of Kogi East people. This time, the people will resist him with their precious votes.

 

–      Omahi, a political analyst writes from Idah, Kogi State, Nigeria. 081222016330.

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OPINION

The future of Kogi East and Victor Adoji’s aspiration, By Omachi Achor

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Ever since Kogi State was created, our pending problems have always been our inability to provide or elect for ourselves a good and responsible government that will always react adequately to the problems of the state and also proffer lasting solutions to these problems as they develop.

This political lack, failure and inability have not only permitted the several underdevelopment we are faced with presently as a state, but have gone a long way to putting the state in perpetual poverty.

As pitiful as this situation becomes every day, Kogi East that has been one of the most privileged constituency in the state has suffered the most, basically because this constituency has often been represented by timid, shortsighted, selfish and “un-purposeful” politicians.

And it is so shameful to admit here that today, Kogi East is one of the most underdeveloped constituencies in the North Central, in spite of all its rich resources, political strength and even manpower.

Having looked at this it has become very necessary that we team up as a people and sought for a better representation this time around, through which we can redirect our constituency towards a more visible development and secure a better future for ourselves and our children.

But in order to achieve this, we must be willing to look beyond personal interests, relationships and even affiliations.

We must be willing to ignore veteran politics, politics of hate and fully resist the ideas of automatic ticket and godfatherism and embrace a more democratic individual who can harness all our resources and channel them towards a more productive end. We must try to instate an individual who sincerely understands what is really at stake and will pull all the necessary parliamentary strings to ensure that the Kogi East situation is salvaged.

We must at a time like this be willing to only rally round a more focused individual who is strong and passionate in will, in ideas, in foresight, in vision, in persistence, in concern and in all forms of political sensitivity.

The legislature is a reasoning and talking arm of government, therefore we must present someone who is vocally strong, critical and analytically precise; someone who understands the language of the hallowed chamber and is equally knowledgeable on the rich essence of the Nigerian federal character and the Nigerian legislative visions.

Our focus and support must be for someone who can influence the nation and also endear the constituency to the federal government in order to attract national investment, human development and all forms of basic amenities.

And without mincing words, VICTOR ALEWO ADOJI has been able to assemble all these political virtues, thoughts and vision, he has been able to shape his political aspirations towards these defined ideas.

And a vote for him is a vote for a more accountable representation; it is a vote for a more people-oriented legislature; it is a vote for a more productive government and a more secure future for our constituency.

It is not just the passionate efforts to rescue Kogi East that distinguishes this aspirant, but the legislative guts that categorises his thoughts, his industrious views, the persistent nature of his positive desires for Kogi East and his well-groomed commitment that will dictate every beat of his political aspiration are indeed very worthy of note.

Like I always say, it is not about party, it is not about incumbency or veteran politics, it is about will, resourcefulness, accountability, foresight, intent, sacrifice, wealth of knowledge, humanitarian ideas, societal concerns and sensitiveness to the basic needs of the present Kogi East.

VICTOR ALEWO ADOJI is obviously willing to serve and redeem our constituency. It is now left for us to embrace this new future and save Kogi East.

Our future is now in our hands, and we must secure it this time.

Omachi Isaac Achor writes from Lokoja, Kogi State

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OPINION

A call on FG to sack Funke Osibodu’s BEDC for gross incompetence, By Zik Gbemre

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Mrs. Funke Osibodu, Managing Director/CEO, BEDC

 

Zik Gbemre

We have countlessly reiterated the fact that the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), has proven over the years that they do not have the financial capacity and technical expertise to manage and distribute power within the States under their jurisdiction, especially within Warri and environs of Delta State. When a so-called power distribution company depends on its consumers to buy transformer and electric wiring apparatus before they will distribute power to them, then something is wrong.

In fact, it has been noted that since one Mrs. Funke Osibodu took over the affairs of BEDC in the four States under them, which includes Delta, Edo, etc., no single transformer has been given to any Community. Rather, it has been individuals, who have donated transformers to various Communities for the BEDC to distribute power to them. They also do not have concrete electric polls, feeder pillars, etc. in their offices to address power issues affecting their customers. It is being alleged that as at today, over Seventy Thousand (70,000) pre- paid meters that were supposed to be given to consumers, are locked up at one Nekpen- Nekpen complex in Benin, Edo State.

As a result of this, many, including us, are resisting and calling on the Federal Government and relevant authorities in the Federal Ministry of Power, to stop/deny the renewal of BEDC as a power distribution company. BEDC should be sacked and shown the way out as a power distribution company. And the Federal Government should take over the BEDC and run it with a Federal Interim Power Distribution Management Board, pending when a capable distribution company is directed to takeover after due assessment, due diligence and financial capacity of the new company must been satisfactorily carried out.

It is obvious that the BEDC came on board because they thought that they had the capacity and capability to distribute power. But now that it is apparently clear that they do not have such capacity and capability, the best option is for the Federal Government to take over the BEDC and run it for some time before they get another company that can deliver as expected. We all know that power is key to the development of any country, hence we cannot have mediocrity and inefficiency in the delivery of such a vital public service, by the BEDC. How can supposed power distribution company be waiting for its consumers to buy transformers for them to use for distribution of electricity?

All those consumers that are connected to 33kv lines in Warri and environs for instance, were the ones who bought transformers for BEDC to work with. Some big hotels and rich individuals/landlords in some layouts in Effurun-Warri, had to buy the transformers that were used by BEDC to hook them up to 33kv lines. The question is, how many people can afford to buy transformers to be installed for their own use, and at the same time, pay for the power supply to the BEDC who cannot provide the said transformers.

Is that what is obtainable in other civilized societies? Should this be encouraged as the norm? Obviously not! The Federal Government and relevant authorities need to investigate the activities of the BEDC and they will ascertain the above stated facts. As such, we urge that the BEDC should be sacked as requested. It is in the best interest of the Nigerian people living and doing businesses in the States under them.

 

Gbemre writes from Warri, Delta State

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