By Chukwudi Enekwechi, JP
Once again good news is coming out of Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari, with the country’s largest conglomerate, Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) declaring an after tax profit of N287 billion in its forty-four years history. Prior to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 NNPC was more into the business of settling people in power and their relations with its meagre or should I say humongous accruals. Both the past military and civilian regimes never saw it fit to read the riot act for the corporation’s helmsmen to focus on measures that would impact the citizens positively, rather it was used as a cash cow to line the pockets of those in power and their cronies.
As President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015 and assumed the position of minister of Petroleum, Nigerians knew instantly that the story of NNPC would change for the better. He did not disappoint as he quickly assembled a team of technocrats to run the affairs of the corporation with a marching order to go fix things in the corporation. Their mandate was clear and unambiguous – ‘’ensure that NNPC works and that the country’s natural resources work for the benefit of its people.’’ By 2018 the debt profile of NNPC stood at about N803 billion but in 2019 it was reduced to N1.7 billion. The resultant effect is that NNPC was relieved of its huge debt burden which clay-footed it from achieving its set target and realising the mission for which it was established ab-initio.
Thenceforth, the corporation continued to operate profitably until recently when President Muhammadu Buhari announced to the country that NNPC has become a profit-making venture with an after- tax profit of N287 billion, thereby breaking a historical jinx of 44 years. This is not only huge but unprecedented in the history of a corporation notorious for sleaze and inability to meet its basic obligations such as paying cash calls to the joint venture partners.
The reasons for the positive trajectory which the corporation has taken over the last five years are not far-fetched. Firstly, they were able to key into the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari who canvassed for the transparent and prudent running of the corporation. Similarly, the body language of the President which is known by all and sundry to be abhorrence of corruption, also helped to wean the corporation of the tendency to fritter the earnings of the behemoth through sleaze and opaque management.
Under President Muhammadu Buhari a lot is changing at the country’s major source of revenue, and they have truly started to serve the Nigerian people. Presently, NNPC is able to meet the arrears of its cash calls obligations to its joint venture partners, and has continued in that trajectory by paying its cash calls as at and when due. This prudent style of management no doubt presents NNPC as a responsible corporate organisation that follows global best practices, and meets its obligations to both its partners, government and people of Nigeria.
It can therefore be said that the era of profligacy at the oil behemoth is over and it is no longer business as usual. Again the credit goes to President Muhammadu Buhari who with a single-minded commitment nudged the corporation to live up to the expectations of Nigerians by ensuring that the country’s natural resources are used for their overall benefit.
Furthermore, with the recent signing of the Petroleum Industry Act by President Muhammadu Buhari and the likely unbundling of the NNPC as a strict business venture, the corporation will play more crucial roles in generating needed revenues that will help the federal, States and local governments meet their developmental obligations to the citizens.
Also prudent and transparent nature of its operations will imbue confidence in foreign investors to play more active roles in the country’s oil and gas sector, knowing that the days of opaque management are over. This new confidence will also come with the injection of more foreign capital into the Nigerian economy, and it will help in job creation and boosting of the citizens’ livelihood.
Therefore there is every reason to not only applaud the NNPC for this feat, but Nigerians owe it a duty to eulogise a President who despite wielding enormous powers over NNPC has allowed it to operate within established laws and global best practices, and rather focussed on giving them the direction and moral support to work in the interest of the generality of the people. Today the results are manifesting in many ways as things are changing in positive ways at the corporation.
Chukwudi Enekwechi, is a public affairs analyst