Old Wine In A New Bottle:New NNPC Limited, A Repackaged Inefficiency?

The capital city of Abuja was agog with funfair in the early hours of today!

The Who-is-Who in Nigeria’s political and socio-economic milieu, especially the oil and gas industry, ensured they got a seat at the State House Conference Centre to witness President Muhammadu Buhari unveiling the new Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Limited). 

This has been adjudged a landmark event that officially changes the oil firm from a wholly state-run entity to a commercial oil company, limited by shares.

“We are transforming our petroleum industry to strengthen the growth today July, 19 2022. NNPC Limited will now operate as a commercial oil company with over 200 million shareholders with integrity and excellence,” President Buhari said at the event.

The question this new arrangement has thrown up is whether NNPC Limited would breathe fresh air into an organisation many believe has outlasted its usefulness. Nigerians desire an organised NNPC known for its productivity and efficiency, and not just a government parastatal swimming in seemingly intractable graft.

Critics, who have termed the unveiling as another cosmetic decoration of the same old corruption-infested and inefficient NNPC with just a logo change, want to know if the new company would be manned by the same set of people whose managerial recklessness made the old NNPC a milk cow where corruption reigned supreme, since the Petroleum Industry Act reportedly mandates the new NNPC to absorb the old staff?What does the new NNPC plan to do to shed its oversized staff, many of whom are redundant and only collect salary just because they are related to or know an influential Nigerian somewhere? What about fuel subsidy? Its operation has been implemented in opacity from time immemorial; will the new NNPC usher in a regime of transparency?Now that Nigerians have been made to believe that the new NNPC would now be strictly commercial, would the huge cost of its corporate Headquarters be tenable before shareholders? These and some other questions have been agitating the mind of many who have likened the repackaged NNPC Ltd to putting old wine in a new bottle.

While he was campaigning in 2015, President Buhari was very unequivocal about bringing back the government-owned refineries in Port-Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna back to full operational capacity, with a view to curbing the perennial fuel scarcity occasioned by numerous factors but majorly lack of local capacity.

Seven years down the line, the major step taken has only been passing the PIA into law, which is yet to translate to what he promised during the electioneering 95 percent of petroleum products are still imported while Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) costs keep rising as the four refineries remain in comatose.

The National President, TUC, Comrade Quadri Olaleye, cited corruption and efficiency as being responsible for the mess the nation was facing with 95 percent of petroleum products still imported.

“Even with Nigeria’s status of being one of the largest oil producing countries, the energy crises that have befallen us as a nation are well known and this is solely due to the incompetence and corruption of the government… Nigeria is the only OPEC member country that imports more than 90 to 95% of refined petroleum products for consumption.

“Nigeria has a total of five refineries in the country of which four are owned and managed by the government (NNPC), and one by NDPR. It might interest you to know that none of the government owned refineries is functioning, yet in the past 10 years alone, the government has wasted about $9.5billion for turnaround maintenance of the moribund refineries,” Olaleye said.

“For decades, the refineries have performed below optimal levels despite the huge resources earmarked for their rehabilitation. This has resulted in importation of petroleum products for domestic use for many years, with the nation recording loss of huge resources in the process,” a PremiumTimes report is quoted.

Meanwhile, today’s unveiling has brought with it a hike in petrol pump price from N165 per litre to N179 per litre, effective today, thereby heralding untold hardship on Nigerians who are still grappling with petrol scarcity.

This was even as the company equally increased the ex-depot price from N148.17 to N167 per litre. This came after weeks of petrol scarcity resurfaced across the country as fuel retailers were adopting different price bands to force unofficial deregulation attempts.

The NNPC Limited is expected to be managed as a private energy enterprise unlike the former corruption-ridden government organisation.

The official unveiling came weeks after the corporation transitioned into a company whose operations will be regulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA). The legal transition, based on the new Petroleum Industry Act, took effect July 1.

The NNPC completed its incorporation in September last year weeks after the PIA was signed into law by President Buhari.The NNPC Limited was then floated with an initial capital of N200 billion making history as the company with the highest share capital in the country.

The new entity is expected to become a commercially oriented and profit-driven national petroleum company independent of government, although government bodies remain its shareholders. It will be audited annually.

The Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, announced that the company had adopted a strategic initiative to achieve the mandate of energy security for the country by rolling out a comprehensive expansion plan to grow its fuel retail presence from 547 to over 1500 outlets within the next six months.

He assured stakeholders and the global energy community that the new company was endowed with the “best human resources one can find anywhere in the industry.

“NNPC Limited is positioned to lead Africa’s gradual transition to new energy by deepening natural gas production to create low carbon activities and positively change the story of energy poverty at home and around the world.”

Months ahead will show whether this is another futile branding attempt to polish another inefficient national asset just like the Nigeria Airways which is yet to fly a single passenger after the pageantry that attended its new ‘logo unveiling’

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