The ill-health of President Muhammadu Buhari has placed critical oil industry decisions that were hitherto of the exclusive reserve of a substantive oil minister on Dr. Ibe Kachikwu.
This development is unsettling some members of a Northern cabal who are known as the “president’s men.” President Buhari, who through a letter to the National Assembly in 2015 declared his decision to “oversee” the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, had before his latest trip to the United Kingdom for medical follow-up, according to New Telegraph investigation, asked the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to “go ahead with some critical decisions, including, but not limited to overseeing the forthcoming oil bloc allocations if necessary.”
A source at the Presidency told this newspaper that the announcement of Kachikwu as a substantive minister, which is likely on the President’s return, would largely depend on the way he discharges responsibility now that the president is away. A cabal in the Presidency, members of whom are majorly of Northern extraction, he stated, is opposed to these developments.
“They murmured when the President allowed Dr. Kachikwu to take over as the substantive Chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) because the post is for a substantive minister. Now they are greatly unsettled that the status of a full minister has fallen on his laps, particularly due to the ill-health of the President who is abroad on an indefinite medical trip,” he said.
Besides, Kachikwu had been entangled in silent battle against some core oil and gas industry stakeholders who still believed that despite his long years of work at Exxonmobil Corporation, his background as a lawyer still disqualifies him as a core oil and gas industry person. He said: “Go to top notch hotels in Lagos and Abuja, you are likely to run into these men who are geologists and petroleum engineers of various statuses.
The other time, at Four Point by Sheraton, they freely refered to him as a disco dancer.
“All these still come down to the fact that they still do not see him as one of them. But as fate will have it, he will make more core and critical decisions now that the ill-health of Mr. President is getting too long and the industry has to be kept running.”
Meanwhile, the minister has secured the backing of the United States to “go ahead” with his reforms. A delegation of the United States Departments of State and Energy made this known after a meeting with Kachikwu in Washington DC. The meeting had in attendance Ambassador Mary Bruce Warlick, Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs at the Department of State who led the U.S. discussions during the meeting, which was grouped into two sessions – the reform session and investment session respectively.
“The Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs stated that Nigeria remains a critical priority for the US in Africa and bilateral relations, which are increasingly rooted in the shared values of both nations are delivering results,” a statement by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources read. She further commended Nigeria on the significant steps taken in the oil and gas industry reforms, especially in the area of shared insights gained by the U.S. team from reviewing the National Oil policy, The National Gas policy, The Fiscal policy and the draft of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill and Petroleum Industry Fiscal Bill developed by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Kachikwu, while responding to the comments and feedback given by the Acting Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy, said the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Buhari, had clearly set out the choices that have to be made as a nation over the next four years and have also taken significant steps in achieving this through the continuous implementation of the 7BigWins – the Nigerian Petroleum roadmap; which focuses on stabilizing the business environment, enshrining openness and transparency, developing and entrenching new policies and regulations.
“He also hinted on the launch of a pet project – “Project 100”, which is aimed at maximizing and unleashing talents by identifying 100 Nigerians who have access to finding and are willing to make a change in the industry and collaborating with them to find solutions to the industry’s problems with a view to set Nigeria on the path of glory,” the statement, issued by Director, Press, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Idang Alibi, stated.
The minister further reiterated the positive impact that the ongoing engagement in the Niger Delta and oil-producing states, led by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, is yielding results as evidenced by the near zero militant incidence and normalcy in production activity being restored in the region.