By Chris Paul Otaigbe
The appointment of Mele Kolo Kyari (MKK) as the 19th Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is no big news or surprise in the Oil and Gas community in Nigeria. Immediately after the election, when rumors of Maikanti Baru’s replacement started making the rounds, three names were on the grid of the rumor mill: Mele, Rabiu Suleiman and Bello Rabiu.
Mr. Baru, a career NNPC staff, had turned 60, which is the mandatory retirement age.
Kyari was, then, both the Group General Manager in charge of the influential Crude Oil Marketing Division of NNPC, as well as the country’s National Representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, (OPEC).
Suleiman is Group Executive Director at NNPC but currently on secondment to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as Senior Technical Adviser Refineries, Gas & Power Infrastructure. He chairs the Ministerial Steering Committee (Steer Co) of the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme (NGFCP).
Rabiu is Chief Operating Officer, Upstream at NNPC. He joined the corporation in 1991 with a degree in Statistics, and has moved up the ladder rapidly, by NNPC standards, from senior planning officer through Technical Assistant to the GMD to Group General Manager, Corporate Planning& Strategy, the last job before his current position. He earned a Master’s degree in Petroleum Engineering from London’s Imperial College in 1998.
Kyari is a geologist by training. Suleiman joined the NNPC with a degree in Chemical engineering.
Finally, of the three favored top Group Executive Directors, Kyari emerged the new GMD of the nation’s oil company.
An indigene of Borno State, MKK is a crude oil marketer with prerequisite certification and outfield pedigree in Petroleum Economics and crude oil and gas trading, who has in the last 27 years, traversed the entire value chain of the Petroleum Industry.
There would be a tendency by Nigerians to believe he is related to the most powerful staff of Government, because of his surname. Mele Kyari is no blood relation of President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.
He is of the Kanuri tribe while Abba Kyari is of the Shuwa (Arab) tribe. The new NNPC GMD was born on January 8, 1965, in Maiduguri, Borno state. He attended Government Community Secondary School, Biu between 1977 and 1982.
With a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Geology and Earth Science from the University of Maiduguri in 1987, he did his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with the defunct Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) between 1987 and 1988.
Mr. Kyari worked with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency between 1988 and 1991, before joining the NNPC subsidiary, Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL), where he worked as a Seismic Data Processing Geophysicist in the Data Processing Department.
Popularly referred to as ‘Grand Chairman’ by colleagues, friends and admirers alike, because he was once Group Chairman of NNPC PENGASSAN (Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria) Kyari has a history in unionism and activism which may come in handy in his relations with in-house staff unions.
Seven years after joining the NNPC in 1991via IDSL, he was deployed to National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) in 1998 and worked as an exploration geophysicist, Production Sharing Contract (PSC) where he remained until 2004, when he became Abuja Operations Manager of NAPIMS.
In 2006, he was named the Supervisor PSC, Crude Oil Marketing Department (COMD) of NNPC, from where he rose to the position of Head, and later Manager of Production Contracts Management of the COMD between 2007 and 2014.
MKK was appointed General Manager Oil Stock Management, COMD where he worked till 2015 before being appointed Group General Manager, COMD and later Nigeria’s National Representative at OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries).
Kyari was one of those who came up with the NNPC’s commodity trading initiative. The initiative was put together to usher in an era of transparency and accountability in NNPC operations.
This initiative helps government to know who is buying Nigeria’s crude, at what prices, and how much has been made from the sale overall.
He also led the team that proposed and managed the Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement of petroleum products from 2016 to the present day.
The DSDP replaces the controversial crude swap arrangement that was allegedly abused by former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke and her cronies during the Goodluck Jonathan era.
Kyari is also referred to as a ‘peacemaker’ because “he helped resolve disputes with International Oil Companies (IOCs) arising from the various interpretation issues with the PSCs. He was a member of the team that carried out a review of the 1993 PSC process.
“He was a member of the team that reconciled the alleged loss of $48 billion and established the actual status of transactions involving NNPC in 2014”. He led the team that determined the tenure of the Amenam/Kpono carry arrangement.
The Borno-indigene also revised and initiated the process for the redetermination of the applicable fiscal regime for the Addax PSC.
As an acting manager, he ensured the reversion of the tax incentives given to the Akpo PSC.
Since the news of his appointment broke, encomiums have continued to pour in for the appointment of the new oil Czar at NNPC. Leading the torrent of commendation is the man he has just took over from, Dr. Maikanti Baru, who described his appointment as well as that of the new Chief Operating Officers as “well-deserved.”
While wishing them success in their various positions, Baru expressed optimism that the new GMD and his team would deliver on their respective mandates in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the dreams of the Corporation’s founding fathers.
In their separate congratulatory messages, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), also applauded Kyari’s appointment as the 19th GMD by Mr. President.
In a letter addressed to the new GMD, OPEC Scribe, Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, said the appointment came as no surprise and as a testament to Kyari’s exemplary record and exceptional performance over the years in his illustrious career at the NNPC.
“You have earned the respect of your colleagues in OPEC’s Economic Commission Board (ECB) where you have conducted yourself with gravitas and greatly contributed to the discussions and decisions of this body,” Barkindo stated.
The Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio, in his congratulatory message, described Kyari as a well-known transparency champion who shared the principles which underline NEITI’s work and the global EITI on good governance of the oil and gas industry.
“As a member of the global EITI Working Group on commodity trading transparency, Kyari’s appointment has placed him in a vantage position to push the frontiers of openness and to work more closely with NEITI and the global EITI,” Adio concluded.
With Mallam Mele Kyari’s appointment it appears, for the first time, a GMD of NNPC would be so popular and loved by the industry as a peace maker and people’s man.
After all the encomiums and celebration of his appointment, MKK would have to roll up his sleeve to get down to the job of solving the challenges bedeviling the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria. And the new man seems determined to hit the ground running having identified areas of urgent attention in the nation’s oil industry.
Under his administration the era of petroleum importation may soon be over, as he has vowed to reverse the trend of petroleum products importation in the country by rehabilitating the existing refineries and encouraging private sector investment in the refineries sub-sector.
A press release by NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, disclosed that the new GMD made the pledge few days ago at a valedictory session for the former Group Managing Director, Dr. Maikanti Baru, where Mallam Kyari took over the reins of management as the 19th GMD of the corporation.
“We must end the trend of fuel importation as an oil producing country. We will deliver on the rehabilitation of the four refineries within the life of this administration and support the private sector to build refineries. We will support the Dangote refinery to come on stream on schedule. We will transform Nigeria into a net exporter of petroleum products by 2023”, Kyari stated in his address at the occasion.
He said the age-long Federal Government’s target of raising crude oil production and reserves to 3million barrels per day and 40billion barrels respectively was possible and that he would galvanize the corporation to achieve it by 2023.
On transparency and accountability, Kyari noted that the presence of the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, at the event was a pointer to how much NNPC had changed over the past three years from the old image of a corruption-laden organization, stressing that he would continue to entrench the culture of accountability in the affairs of the corporation.
“We are going to work with the EFCC to remove every element of discretion from our processes, because discretion is one of the greatest enablers of corruption”, he said.
Speaking further on his commitment to entrench transparency in the operations of the corporation, Kyari said every Nigerian is a stakeholder in the corporation, which implied that everyone’ right to information on how NNPC is managed, adding: “NNPC will not be opaque, we’ll be transparent to all so that at the end of the day everyone will be in a position to assess us and say what we have done right or wrong”.
The GMD who barred members of his family from accepting gifts on his behalf said he would continue the automation of the petroleum products sale process so that marketers can buy products online.
“We will do this job with integrity, we’ll never put personal interest above that of the nation or the corporation”, the new GMD vowed, adding that he was conscious of the fact that he would ultimately be accountable to God on every of his actions.