How Kyari Kicked A Fresh Breath Of Openness Into NNPC

By Adewole Kehinde

I had the opportunity of meeting the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mallam Kyari on Wednesday, 10th March, 2021 during the presentation of Accountability and Transparency award to the NNPC by Swift Reporters.

I saw a man with full courage and enthusiasm to make NNPC work 100%; no wonder the Minister of Petroleum, Pres Muhammadu Buhari gave him free hand, without interference in running the day to day activities of the Corporation.

Mallam Kyari comes to the job with a very rich oil and gas industry experience spanning over 27 years.

A 1987 graduate of Geology and Earth Science from the University of Maiduguri, the GMD served as a Well Site Geologist with the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) between 1987 and 1988 under the National Youth Service Corps.

Thereafter, he worked with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency between 1988 and 1991 before joining NNPC as a Seismic Data Processing Geophysicist in the Data Processing Department of Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL) in 1992.

He also made his mark as a Labour Union leader when he served as the NNPC Group Chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) from 1997 to 1999.

Each time you listen to Mele Kyari, you get the inkling of a man who wants to be different. A man determined to take the path less travelled. Like walking alone, being partially deaf to the mob.

The 19th GMD of NNPC obviously came to his new beat with state of mind. As an NNPC insider and industry person for over 30 years, he knew there was something miserably about the public image of NNPC. Public perception was horrible; A nest of corruption; a place of easy money; the epicenter of unpleasantness and sludge funds.

Previous leaderships of NNPC didn’t help matters. It is either they were caught garbled in the web of corruption or their sweltering story flourished after office. Whichever way, their stories stink! And so does that of the NNPC.

This year, NNPC will mark its 44th Anniversary having been established on April 1, 1977. And for over four decades, it has been perceived as wayward and profligate by the Nigerian public.

Mele Kyari is determined to change the narrative; to re-write the story; to make a new garment for the corporation. He came to the job armed with a Presidential briefing: Clean up the mess, make the books open; engender transparency.

Upon his appointment, Pres. Muhammadu Buhari who also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources has strengthened his hands with a clear brief: Don’t panic, don’t fret, and don’t succumb to influence-peddling.

Pres. Buhari as the Minister of Petroleum under the military administration of General Olusegun Obasanjo understands the dialectics of crude oil business.

He knows the curves. He understands the greasy tangles of what has become the nation’s gravy train.

The moment you are appointed head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, you become a sitting target for mercantile of all forms of corruption, bribery, favoritism, power peddling, and misappropriation.

I could remember when Pres. Buhari appointed Mele Kyari, he was clear in his instruction and message to him: “I won’t pressure you; I won’t send anybody to you; come back to me if you need help”.

Pres. Buhari himself has remained an enigma of sort. He remains the only politically-exposed Army General of his status who refused to amass wealth at the expense of the public.

As a former Minister of Petroleum, he rebuffed influence-peddling. He resisted corruption and unlawful money.

Almost two years into his job, Mele Kyari has not gone against the President’s mandate. To realize the mandate will mean walking alone, if possible. It would mean going against the tide.

For an institution where corruption and lack of transparency is the norm, it would take the anomalous to reset the norm, restore order and create a new value set that keeps the books open.

Anything really new is repulsive, because it is abnormal and unreasonable – Asger Jorn.” This fits the Kyari story.

To be normal at NNPC is to apply the old template of splice and slippery deals. To avoid this, Mele Kyari has to do the abnormal.

Kyari published the audited accounts of NNPC for 2018 and 2019. Now, that is abnormal in an environment where being normal is to do the opposite: Don’t audit, don’t publish. Keep our secret to ourselves. It is almost crazy, insane. But Kyari is not crazy; never insane.

Was he merely showing off? Why would he take the lid off what many people perceive as a furious pot of corruption? He explains why. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is owned by Nigerians, meaning that over 200 million Nigerians are the shareholders. This means he and his team at NNPC are employed by Nigerians to help manage the industry upon which the National Budget is benchmarked.

Therefore, the same shareholders have a right to know how their business is being managed; to establish whether the enterprise is running at a loss or profitably. Keeping the books open will place a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of the managers.

Kyari is not afraid of responsibility and accountability and the records are there to show it. In 2920, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation published the 2018 audited account. The result showed a loss of N803billion.

This got the management adopting smarter strategies to run lean and mean; to cut cost and turn the corner. It worked. By the time it released the 2019 audited financial statement, it had achieved 99.7% reduction in its loss status, cutting loss from N803bn in 2018 to N1.7bn in 2019.

This would never have been possible if Mele Kyari had not summoned the courage to go public with the 2018 financial statement.

The huge loss in 2018 made them to stop leakages, improve on forethought and introduce cost-saving measures.

Kyari says there is a rebranded NNPC with a fresh panorama and obligation to transparency and accountability in consonance with the global principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Kyari has kicked a fresh breath of openness into the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. He has refused to follow the crowd. He has decided to do things differently; to account to his employers, Nigerians.

Kyari’s insistence to depart from the path of past GMD’s of the Corporation who kept the books sealed has already set him apart from the crowd.

And it sure would take him to places none of his predecessors has ever seen or been before.

Kyari’s insistence to open the books to Nigerians is itself a constitutional fulfillment.

It takes courage to do this. I commend him and his entire Management Team.

Adewole Kehinde is the Publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached via 08166240846, 08123608662

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