The  reported lamentation of the leaders of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), over the blatant lopsided appointments into top management positions of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), deserves attention from the Federal Government with a view to correcting it. The development makes one wonder if the organization has surreptitiously become Northern Nigeria Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

It is clear that since 1999, for instance, what used to be a pan Nigeria giant oil corporation that manages Nigeria’s “cash cow”, has been northernised by way of appointments into key positions in the organisation. The complaints and disaffection resulting from this have largely been ignored by the Federal government.

The latest appointments of 20 northerners into management positions in the NNPC while ignoring the south has raised the ante, leading to discontent as reported by ThisDay of May 17, 2020. For those looking for divisive forces threatening Nigeria, this is one of it.

And to add insult to injury, the Group Managing Director (GMD), Melee Kyari, reportedly justified the injustice saying it is based on merit! Did I hear merit? When did Nigeria begin to apply merit in appointments, political positions, school admissions, etc, etc? The federal character principle was enacted to kill merit in favour of the north. If merit were used in school admissions, how many northern candidates would gain admission?

Where is merit in federal unity schools admissions whereby candidates from the south scoring above 300 are denied admission in favour of northern candidates that scored 4 marks? How come that people who scored lowest in qualifying examinations for admission suddenly become high-flyers in NNPC and other federal appointments?

Certainly, Melee Kyaris’ statement is not only indefensible, it is vexatious and insulting. These people are singing “One Nigeria” on their lips but their hearts are far away from Nigeria. When you carry all the appointments and give them to one section of the country, what is your intention; you are dividing the country.

It won’t be an overstatement to say that those perpetrating this barefaced injustice don’t like Nigeria. They are like economic hit men fighting from a vantage position of power to wittingly or unwittingly dismember the country. They know that what they are doing is wrong. Why can’t the people perpetrating this injustice be fair and just by spreading the appointments across the country’s geopolitical zones as enshrined in the constitution under the federal character principle?

Since 1999, out of the eleven GMDs that have held sway at the NNPC, seven were from the north while only four are from the south. I don’t want to go into details, doing that will show how the South-East is totally marginalised.

The men who have been GMD of the NNPC since 1999 to date include Jackson Gaius Obaseki, Funsho Kupolokun, Abubakar Yar’Adua, Muhammad Barkindo and Shehu Ladan. The others are Austin Olusegun Oniwon, Andrew Yakubu, Joseph Dawha, Ibe Kachikwu, Maikanti Baru and the incumbent Melee Kyari. Of course, the list includes President Muhammadu Buhari who is the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

The latest top management appointments, which enraged PANDEF are Chief Finance Officer, Finance and Accounts, Umar Ajiya; Chief Operating Officer, Gas and Power, Yusuf Usman; Chief Operating Officer, Corporate Services, Farouk Garba Sa’id; Chief Operating Officer, Refining and Petrochemicals, Mustapha Yakubu; Corporate Secretary/Legal Adviser to the Corporation, Hadiza Coomassie; GGM, International Energy Relations, IER, Omar Ibrahim; GGM, Renewable Energy, Kallamu Abdullahi; GGM, Governance Risk and Compliance, Ibrahim Birma; and GGM, NAPIMS, Bala Wunti.

Others are MD, NNPC Shipping, Inuwa Waya; MD, Pipelines and Product Marketing, PPMC, Musa Lawan; MD, Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mansur Sambo; MD, Duke Oil/NNPC Trading Company, Lawal Sade; MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company, Malami Shehu; MD, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company, Muhammed Abah; MD, Nigeria Gas Marketing Company, Abdulkadir Ahmed; MD, Nigeria Gas and Power Investment Company Limited, Salihu Jamari; MD, NNPC Medical Services, Mohammed Zango; and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, Sarki Auwalu.

PANDEF stated that entire southern Nigeria was allotted only three top management positions in the NNPC.

“The oil-producing zones of South-south, South-east, and South-west are left with one Chief Operating Officer Position each, and a few senior and middle-level management positions in peripheral and incidental subsidiaries, departments and divisions of the corporation,” the Niger Delta group stated.

Furthermore, PANDEF detailed Nigeria’s crude oil production figures by state to press home its opposition to the NNPC management structure under President Muhammadu Buhari as follows: Akwa Ibom 504,000 bpd-31.4 per cent; Delta 346.000 bpd-21.56 per cent; Rivers 344,000 bpd-21.43 per cent; Bayelsa 290,000 bpd-18.07 per cent; Edo 33,000 bpd-2.06 per cent; Ondo 60,000 bpd-3.74 per cent; Imo 17,000 bpd-1.06 per cent and Abia 11,000 bpd-0.68 per cent. Oil production in the northern zones is zero percent.

In what appears to be an attempt to assuage frayed nerves, President Buhari the other day reconstituted the board of the NNPC to reflect the federal character. The new board members include Mallam Mohammed Lawal, representing the North West, Dr Tajudeen Umar from North East, Adamu Mahmood  Attah from North Central, Senator Magnus Abe from the South-South, Dr Stephen Dike from the South East, and Chief Pius Akinyelure from the South West.

According to the Niger Delta leaders, “Chapter 2, Section 14 (3) of the Nation’s Constitution, which Mr. President swore on oath to uphold and defend, provides that the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”

The group maintained that the NNPC management configuration could neither promote national unity nor national loyalty, saying it goes against the spirit and letter of the constitution.

There is no doubt that there are fundamental issues threatening the unity of the country, which could provide the springboard for a possible demise of Nigeria. There is no smoke without a fire. Something is fundamentally wrong with Nigeria that needs to be corrected one of which is nepotism through which sections of the country are marginalised. Rather than dismissing the clamouring with a wave of the hand, they should be given a closer look by the authorities. Nigeria should not be the proverbial cricket that used its legs to rip open its stomach.

Written by Luke Onyekakeyah, Guardian Newspapers.

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