Over 80 percent of Nigerians who responded to a BusinessDay poll have rejected the notion that President Bola Tinubu should appoint himself Minister of Petroleum just as his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari did.
Experts and some operators in the oil and gas sector who were also surveyed told BusinessDay that the industry would be better served with a Minister who can concentrate on the daily goings-on in the oil sector rather than burdening the president already swamped, with heading the ministry.
With a tenuous grasp on how modern economies function, President Buhari’s leadership of the oil sector was marked by a slow pace of decision making which needlessly delayed regulatory approvals and ended up frustrating operators.
The Buhari years saw business regulations and even critical appointments examined through the narrow lens of ethnicity and policies, and sometimes the counsel of the least informed or qualified but with better access to the president holding sway.
The net effect of Buhari’s poor leadership of the oil sector is the worst oil production decline in history as well as the quickest flight of investment capital.
Against this background, analysts are saying the president should concentrate on being president and leave the minister’s role to capable technocrats.
“I think someone who has practical knowledge of the sector should be the minister. I would rather the President isn’t,” said Ayodele Oni, energy lawyer and partner at Bloomfield law firm.
Nigeria’s oil sector faces existential threats at this time which calls for the undivided attention of a minister.
The gas sector is planned to be excised from the petroleum ministry and this requires serious administrative and policy work to help the country turn the focus to gas.
Crude oil theft must be tamed to hope for improved oil revenues to improve dollar supply and government earnings. The NNPC is embarking upon a transition into a commercial entity and serious guidance in implementing joint venture agreements and meeting its obligations.
“It’s a horrible idea at this time,” says Kelvin Emmanuel, an energy sector analyst and CEO of Dairy Hills Ltd.
Emmanuel said the primary areas of focus for the next petroleum minister are so enormous. This includes reviewing the Petroleum Industry Act provisions to improve gas fiscals, especially in deep offshore fields, preparing the NNPCL for an initial public offering to generate cash to fund oil projects, secure pipelines and implement Nigeria’s shift towards a gas-powered economy.
“These responsibilities are too technical for a sitting President to handle, it needs an industry person, who is not only technical but also understands administrative politics of dealing with stakeholders,” said Emmanuel.
President Tinubu had sent a list of 48 ministers for the consideration of the Senate out of which 45 have been screened and approved.
It would seem moot that he would appoint someone from the list to serve as Petroleum minister but Buhari selected 42 ministers and still couldn’t trust any of them to head the ministry.