By Dapo Akinrefon
THERE is no doubt the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, has emerged stronger despite the distractions that came knocking at his door some few months back.
Looking ahead, the minister has made projections which he intends to actualize in the coming year.
Analysts had opined that the face-off with the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru was intended to slow Kachikwu down, yet, the Minister has shown he remains a moving train that cannot be stopped.
Perhaps his sincere attempt to enforce sanity, rule of law and efficiency in the NNPC was misconstrued and thereafter politicised, he (Kachikwu) is resolved and would not be deterred to deliver on change as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Despite calls for his resignation, the president still holds him in high esteem and encouraged him to ignore the distraction and go on with his work.
Having left the episode behind him, Kachikwu, recently insists he has set his eyes on the goal and would not be bogged down by distractions.
But two years under his watch easily qualify as one of the most reform focused periods in the history of the country’s oil and gas industry.
Though his critics knock down this assertion, he has led with vision and an infectious passion to make a difference.
Also, the minister has introduced innovative initiatives and set in motion groundbreaking changes in the sector.
Reeling out the feats recorded in the outgoing year, the minister was quick to point out a major policy success that nipped the fuel queues, which littered Nigerian roads.
Aside from this, he highlighted how the confidence-building with the multinationals became successful, who became pleased with a functional system despite its many inadequacies.
This, of course, led him to their effort in delivering efficiency at NNPC and the other six parastatals under the petroleum ministry through openness, accountability, and transparency.
In 2016, the country lost billions of dollars at the height of militancy, but with the special focus on Niger Delta, the minister hinted that initiatives were designed to address some of the growing concerns in that part of the country.
Remarkably, peace and tranquility were restored to the region through this conscious design.
In his 20 point agenda tagged: ‘Oil Sector Militancy Challenges…Roadmap to Closure’, aimed at tackling militancy in the South South zone, Kachikwu in his monthly podcast disclosed that the Niger Delta crisis, coupled with the 45 percent drop in oil production, worsened the financial challenges of the Buhari administration.
He, however, resolved to clean-up the environment, Kachikwu said the Buhari-led government had ensured implementation of his seven-point agenda and other behind-the-scenes engagements of the relevant stakeholders.
He specifically lauded efforts by the president and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who supported his efforts to realizing the dream of a stable and productive Niger Delta through deepening engagements, a project which is still ongoing.
In his projection into 2018, Kachikwu, intends to focus on the refineries and plans to get all the refineries working and stop fuel importation, possibly, such that would allow for savings of about 30 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange.
Also, perhaps worried by figures published by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of how Nigeria flared a total of 1.698 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas between 2012 and 2016, he is determined to address the gas flare commercialization by exiting it. Kachikwu proposes taking gas to the hinterland.
These two moves, he maintained, had become imperative in the light of the progress that is envisaged in that critical sector in the coming year. Again, with 2018 around the corner, he is determined to focus on what he called “infrastructure rebirth”.
This is propelled by his concern about the growing infrastructure deficit in that sector, focusing on such things as the deteriorating pipelines and the lamentable depots.
And to solidify all of these he identified as the regulation of the industry through legislation. He was convinced that the National Assembly is a willing partner here, especially given its disposition to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB).
Kachikwu is optimistic that 2018 holds better prospects in terms of policy conception, strategy and administration.
He expressed gratitude to his boss, the President, who has always been supportive of the ideas that could move the oil sector forward and had no doubt that the same culture would continue in the coming year.
In spite of the booby traps set on his path, Kachikwu has shown to be a truly hardcore professional. He has moved on with a weight of decency, integrity, and efficiency in the handling of his assignment, particularly with his eyes on the ball.