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Bala Wunti: The new head of Nigeria’s oil asset, NAIPMS

Expectations filled with optimism and pessimism is expected to trail the appointment of Bala Wunti following his appointment to the position of the Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NIPMS).

The body is the asset management subsidiary of state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and subsequently oversees the corporation’s joint upstream investments with the major oil-producing companies in Nigeria.

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NAPIMS represents a critical piece of Nigeria’s upstream management structure, and also the prosecutor of federal government agenda. The organisation is also responsible for delivering approvals at every point in the contract cycle and often blamed for bureaucratic delay in progressing exploration and field development programmes.

Bala Wunti has worked with five GMDs and has vast experience in working with the top hierarchy of NNPC, however the job before Bala Wunti will be quite enormous. Piecemeal tax hikes, and a growing lack of certainty around terms, have made companies wary.

“It’d be challenging for him,” Charles Akinbobola, an energy analyst at Sofidam Capital said. “His biggest task will be attracting investment towards Nigeria’s docile oil fields.”

Chevron is selling assets in Nigeria. Total’s stake in the profitable Bonga offshore field is also on the block, while ExxonMobil is looking to shed Nigerian fields as part of a global retrenchment strategy.

Also, Fiscal uncertainty has delayed a decision on a multi-billion expansion, known as Bonga Southwest, by Royal Dutch Shell and its partners.

“Investors are not charity organisations. When they are not sure of making their money, they will walk away, the new man in charge of NAPIMS will have to give directions,” Ademola Henry, Team Leader at Facility for Oil Sector Transformation (FOSTER) said.

With over 25 years’ experience, Bala Wunti is known in the oil industry as the initiator of ‘Operation White,’ a system put in place to promote transparency and accountability in the distribution of petroleum products across the country is indeed an accomplished oil and gas technocrat.

Wunti, a thoroughbred oil and gas industry professional is a graduate of Chemistry from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with an MBA in Marketing from the Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi and a Postgraduate Diploma in Management from the same school.

Wunti joined the NNPC in 1994 as a Production Programming Officer at the Eleme Petrochemichal Complex, Eleme.   Between 1998 and 2004, he was the Assistant Chief Market Research Officer, Marketing Department, Commercial Division, Eleme Petrochemical Limited, Port Harcourt. From 2004 to 2010, he was Head of Market Research, Brass LNG Limited, Lagos.

Between 2016 and 2017, he was General Manager/Technical Advisor Downstream to the GMD, NNPC and from 2017 to 2019, he became the Group General Manager, NNPC Corporate Planning and Strategy.

NAPIMS came under fire last year from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Gas which last May released a report alleging serial violations of the Procurement Act in the form of unapproved cost overruns and flouting rules on conflict of interest.

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