By Hugo Odiogor
When Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu was installed the 13th Odogwu of Onicha Ugbo, on August 28, 2013, little did he realise that becoming a War Commander in his community was going to take a wider significance of leading a battle to redeem the cash cow of national revenue generating institution that has become infested with a thousand demons.
The appointment of new Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation is one Eureka moment for President Muhammadu Buhari who seems to have scored a bulls eye bringing in an accomplished technocrat with enviable professional and academic track record to tread in a territory where even the angels dread to step on, but the tasks is not insurmountable given where he came as a technocrat.
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu becomes highly recommended by his own pedigree in the industry to the extent that he enjoys the confidence of President Muhammadu Buhari who is not new to the intrigues that swirl round the oil sector to stymie its growth and the aspirations of the founders of NNPC.
Industry watchers publicly have responded positively to the appointment which they acknowledged as putting the proverbial “round peg in a round hole” given Dr. Kachikwu’s background as the former Executive Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil (Africa Operations). They were quick to add that for over 30 years, Dr. Kachikwu has been saddled with advancing the business interest of IOCs, and today, has been called upon to defend his nation’s interest in the hydrocarbon industry where local and international collaborators have constantly and consistently connived to sabotage Nigeria as they deem fit.
The new NNPC helmsman has grown in the private sector where best business practices and corporate good governance are sine qua non.
President Buhari has made it clear that he will keep a close eye on the operations of NNPC against the background of heart wrenching revelations of mind boggling malfeasance in the management of the corporation.
With his determination to clean the Aegean stable, there is no doubt that putting NNPC in the hands of an upright manager would be a key step in ensuring that the Buhari administration got it right.
With the recent drop in global oil prices, now compounded by the return of Iranian crude (four million barrels/day capacity) to the international oil market, Nigeria desperately needs more oil sales revenue to support government budgets, protect foreign reserves and help stop the ongoing devaluation of the national currency.
President Muhammadu Buhari has made his sanitisation of the oil sector a cardinal plank of his presidency. There is a determination to reduce leakages from the NNPC oil sales system.
The recent Pricewater House Coopers auditing of the account of NNPC did not give the country something to cheer as “the accounting and reconciliation system for crude oil revenues used by Government agencies appear to be inaccurate and weak. We noted significant discrepancies in data from different sources.”
The PWC auditors stated that “the lack of independent audit and reconciliation led to over reliance on data produced from NNPC. This matter is further compounded by the lack of independence within NNPC as the business has conflicting interests of being a stand-alone self-funding entity and also the main source of revenue to the Federation account. “
These problems have been traced to poor corporate governance, resulting in losses of billions of dollars annually. They therefore form the essential part of the challenges that Dr. Kachikwu will confront as he tries halt selling of crude oil to politically-connected, ”carpetbaggers” that lack the capacity to perform.
Establish and adhere to strong internal policies for vetting and choosing buyers of oil, and for apportioning cargoes of oil among buyers.
Publicly account for earnings from sales of crude from NPDC and its oil trading subsidiaries, and cease unconstitutional withholding of federal revenue. Statutory requirement demands that “the Corporation shall keep proper accounts and proper records in relation thereto in a form which shall conform with the best commercial standards.”
Dr. Ibe Kachikwu was born on December 18, 1956 to late Justice Francis Kachikwu and Maria Kachikwu. He attended St. Peter’s Primary School Ogwashi-Uku before gaining admission into St. Pius Grammar School Onicha-Ugbo, which he left in 1968 with top level performance. His Edo College from 1973 to 1974 was equally with spectacular performance. He studid Law at the University of Nigeria 1978, where he made a first class result and the best graduating student At the 1979 set of Nigerian Law School; he emerged with another First Class and best graduate winning 7 of available 9 prizes.
At his LLM programme at Harvard University in 1980, it was another First Class performance. His Doctorate degree programme did not come with lesser performance.
Challenges before him
Dr. Kachikwu has an ardours task to restructure NNPC and by its nature, sanitise the country’s oil and gas sector. Watchers of developments in the oil industry are of the opinion that President Buhari is serious about holding the portfolio of the Petroleum Minister, while he needs technocrats like Dr. Kachikwu run the sector. In doing this, President Buhari will have a firm grip of the sector. This will send a strong message to the world that he is determined to managing our oil resources in a more prudent manner.
Without prejudice to the existing public communication tools at the disposal of the new NNPC helmsman, experience has shown that he needs work on public perception of the NNPC in order to effectively communicate his vision and the challenges of cleaning up the institution known for its endemic shortcomings
Being a publisher must have exposed him to the fact that there is nexus that connects the people in public service and the public whom they serve. To allow a gap in this direction will amount to surrendering the information space to disgruntled interest groups that would exploit it to his detriment. Effective and strategic management of public communication can advance the objective of an organisation such as the NNPC.
More importantly, he needs strategic planning and dissemination of information on the activities of the organization to build trust and confidence, create sustainable goodwill between the government and the people, keep the public informed of policy and actions of NNPC.
Put differently, Public Communication has become a critical part of policy making as its functions help public officers to gauge the thrust of policy, actions and reactions through a systematic approach.
Chief Ken Iwelumo argues that Kachikwu may have been appointed into the big job belatedly, but he comes fully prepared in facing the challenges of cleaning up the corporation in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari.
A former staff of NNPC Mr. Friday Dasuma told Vanguard that NNPC needs someone who is well grounded in law and oil sector operations “to deal with any restructuring and reorganization.” He said “millions of Nigerians, expect that NNPC should be insulated from political interference that it has been faced with over the years.”
He said Kachikwu to bring his wealth of experience in the oil and gas sector to bear in the corruption-ridden state-owned company.
According to Dasuma, the new NNPC boss must ensure accountability, due process and transparency in the corporation in line with the President’s anti-corruption posture.
Passion for empowerment
Dr. Kachikwu has been passionate about empowerment of youths and has never failed to use every opportunity at his disposal to promote the ideas that the indigenes of the town that have been favoured should be in a position to assist.
In an interview with Vanguard newspaper Dr. Kachikwu said: “each time I see young people who graduated from tertiary institution, waste away owing to unemployment my heart bleeds.”
His vision has been how to use his own advancement in life to impact positively on the lives of others.
Modest and humble by nature, Dr. Kachikwu is a man who would want to go about his job with less distraction and maintain his reputation as a technocrat.
Dr. Kachikwu may have come from a privileged background, but his rise in life was paved with gold. By all standards, he is comfortable, his reputation, family name are priceless assets he would want to protect at all cost. His late father, Justice Francis Kachikwu, built the reputation but Dr. Ibe Kachikwu would want to leave a legacy in his new office which he has described as a national assignment.