Kyari: Turning Around the Fortunes of NNPC

Any Nigerian following the turn of events at the corporation would readily admit that over-staffing is less of a challenge in managing today’s NNPC under the Elkanemi warrior

By Nasir A. Dambatta

His friends and associates call him ‘Elkanemi Warrior’ and he is indeed a warrior for good, introducing radical changes never witnessed in the history of NNPC in decades. Turning around the fortunes of the largest oil and gas company in Africa, with a history of being one of the most difficult institutions of public service to manage in Nigeria, is never an easy task. Anyone as daring as Kyari, in giving the NNPC a facelift, must first wage a relentless war on corruption, eliminate leakages; train and re-train its manpower to blend with global best practices in the industry.

Another challenge is identifying and obliterating the culture of keeping dormant people as staff, feeding fat on the resources of the corporation. Any Nigerian following the turn of events at the corporation would readily admit that over-staffing is less of a challenge in managing today’s NNPC under the Elkanemi warrior. And where a staff posted to a new department fails to measure up, he or she is moved to a more appropriate position because at heart of the ongoing radical change at the NNPC is avoiding putting the right persons in the wrong offices.

There are also powerful, entrenched forces in the ‘oil subsidy empire’, who have for long been considered untouchable but have now had their wings clipped, by this Elkanemi warrior of positive change.

What is inevitable in achieving the desired change at the NNPC, is the daunting task of positioning it in tune with the market trends globally, especially now that Gas is taking the business center-stage in the industry. Most importantly, the poor people in Nigeria’s rural communities badly need cooking gas to go past the era of firewood. A new look NNPC, under Kyari is all set to make this dream of the poor, rural folks a living reality in our age.

One thing that was hanging in the balance for decades was the exploration of oil in Northern Nigeria and an innovative NNPC Chief Executive Officer would definitely need to give the appropriate institutional push for this economy-strengthening option, so that the vast reserves of oil in the part of the world called North will aid financial boom on a bigger scale.

Back to the issue of having a comprehensive gas policy that will make the NNPC a truly effective and efficient corporation. The $2.8 billion AKK Gas Pipeline project, for instance, is unique in more ways than one. It is perhaps one of the only Federal Government projects since 2019, that was launched and 24 hours afterwards, implementation commenced. Being a window of job opportunities, it has great potentials for decongesting the job market, especially in the catchment areas of Kaduna, Kano and Kogi States. Significantly, it has the potential of servicing readily-available markets outside Nigeria’s shores. This is something achievable once a result-oriented CEO like Kyari is at the top echelon of this oil and gas business giant.

So far, the current Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC has done a lot of spectacular things that account for the changing face of the corporation.
It is unmistakable that Malam Mele Kyari has remained undaunted by the size of the challenges confronting him as CEO. Yet bestrides the oil and gas sector like a colossus. His guide has always been innovativeness, effectiveness, efficiency and upholding probity and accountability in the discharge of his duties. Prior to his emergence as the GMD, many a Nigerian was unaware for instance, that Nigeria has had a pending Gas business pact in far away Russia, which he successfully reactivated and broughton public knowledge.

This publicity-shy but surprisingly-determined Elkanemi warrior has two things going, for him: courage not to ever be distracted; blueprint for rejuvenating or repositioning the NNPC into a model institution of public service and to live up to its name as a revenue-spinning public enterprise. This, for instance, explains the recent $287billion dollar profit recorded for the first time in 44 years. This feat was recently celebrated by an excited President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigerians. This is a no mean feat because authentic statistics abound, to prove that the corporation has saved Nigeria millions of dollars in lingering litigation on the shoulders of the NNPC because the Kyari-led management won some of these court cases. The corporation survived corporate fraudsters outside the shores of this country who wanted to defraud the corporation with spurious claims of ‘business commission’.

In order to better appreciate who Mele Kyari is, you need to placed on him the scale of effectiveness in the service of his fatherland, which he does with a lot of passion and never claiming personal glory but dedicating same ro his tireless, efficient and loyal management team. And this is more so because when it comes to his official engagements, he is quite uncompromising in upholding standards. One can recall at least one example of this uncompromising attitude from the day of his inaugural public appearance as GMD. He declared that no member of his family, immediate or remote, shall be given a single contract at the NNPC. To the surprise of even his diehard critics, he has kept to this promise eversince.
This spirit of transparency is unrivalled, especially in a nation where the culture of favoritism is fast turning into a norm rather than the exception.

Significantly, Malam Kyari has blazed a trail in modern management, setting and upholding standards; remaining unperturbed by well-oiled negative media campaigns designed to distract his attention. I read somewhere, the insinuation of a multimillion naira media campaign budget against his well-organized and effective reforms. The media campaign was massive, using technical jargons – in a desperate bid to discredit the exciting report about NNPC’s latest, heartwarming news of profit in billions of naira. At any rate, this is an issue for another day.

Luckily, he has a management team that is attuned to the philosophy of giving NNPC their best shot in the journey towards repositioning the corporation to catch up with its contemporaries in other parts of the world. Most importantly, the man voluntary offered explanations on his policy thrust at every given opportunity, enough to clear any fog, except the type being hyped by media goons in recent weeks. He has remained forthcoming in granting audience to both local and international media, shedding more light on his radical policies as the helmsman, something that preempted his critics.
Some of us may not necessarily agree with Kyari’s fearless efforts to uphold standards in a nation grappling with so many CEO’s who may not be at home with transparent management spirit like his. The ‘Elkanemi warrior’ has the determination to maintain discipline, keeps to set out goals and vigorously pursues them, while refusing to be distracted. Leaders and managers who left their footprints on the sands of time did not stick to the familiar path, they created new paths and braved tough odds. Such is the Mele Kyari variant of leadership and management.

*Dambatta is a journalist, based in Kaduna State.*