Thursday, 30th November 2023

Buhari, OPEC, industry stakeholders mourn Barkindo’s sudden death

By Chukwuma Muanya (Deputy Editor), Kingsley Jeremiah, Terhemba Daka and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
07 July 2022   |   4:16 am
Deceased Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, aged 63, who was in the final weeks of his six-year tenure, was due to fly from Abuja to Yola, Adamawa State for Eid holiday today...

Mohammed Barkindo. PHOTO: REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva/File Photo

• Experts douse fears of resurgent COVID-19, call for regular health check
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Deceased Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, aged 63, who was in the final weeks of his six-year tenure, was due to fly from Abuja to Yola, Adamawa State for Eid holiday today, but his body was instead flown yesterday where he was laid to rest at the Yola cemetery.

The top oil diplomat had returned from the Vienna-based secretariat to Abuja in preparation for a post-OPEC career, and on Tuesday was hosted by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja, after participating at the ongoing Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference.

He was billed to join the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow in the Global Energy Centre after the conclusion of his term at OPEC on July 31.

At the reception on Tuesday, President Buhari had thanked the deceased for being a worthy ambassador of the country and asked the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to mobilise the oil and gas industry to organise a befitting welcome reception in his honour when he finally returns home.

In response, Barkindo attributed his success to the “tremendous guidance, charisma and international gravitas of President Buhari.”

According to family sources, he passed on suddenly at about 11:00p.m. Barkindo was a former Group Managing Director of NNPC. He was appointed OPEC Secretary-General in 2016 as the fourth Nigerian to hold that position and the 28th person in the role overall.

Before leading the NNPC, Barkindo served as the Deputy Managing Director of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas, a joint venture between NNPC and Shell, Total and Eni.

His term at OPEC spanned a series of production cuts intended to keep global oil markets in balance, culminating in the unprecedented reductions during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. His successor, Haitham Al-Ghais, of Kuwait, was already due to assume the position from the beginning of next month.

THE circumstances surrounding Barkindo’s death remained unclear. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he died in his sleep. His sudden death, in the light of rising cases of COVID-19, has, however, raised some questions: Whether it was COVID-19 induced heart failure or organ failure.

Medical practitioners say the situation has called for renewed public health awareness on the causes of sudden death. A Consultant Physician/Endocrinologist at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Dr. Mansur A. Ramalan, told The Guardian, yesterday, that the most likely event would have been a heart attack.

“You could see that he was apparently healthy. Secondly, he is on the overweight side, so, he could have other risks factors like sedentary lifestyle. We have to rule out COVID-19 because everyone that wants to see President Buhari is tested for COVID-19 before they are granted audience.”

Former President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) and Commissioner of Health, Kogi State, Dr. Omede Idris, said the sudden death of Barkindo within 24 hours of a beaming and exciting interaction with President Buhari creates a scenario of the vulnerability of human life, without room for medical intervention.

Idris said the situation calls for regular medical checkup, run-through investigations, healthy living habits, adherence to medical professional advice and medication as the case might be.

He said it might be difficult to allude to the cause of death, without post-mortem investigation and also being abreast of his medical background and health conditions.

“In reality, there could be many causes of sudden death. These range from systemic and metabolic disorders, acute organ failure, shock in various forms, including some ruptured aneurysms, and infectious conditions, amidst others. The ultimate diagnosis to ascertain the cause of death will require postmortem and histopathological findings as definite or probable cause of death,” Idris explained.

A Professor of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, Nile University of Nigeria (NUN) Abuja, a Harvard Fellow in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and a Fellow of the New York Academy of the Sciences, Boaz Adegboro, told The Guardian that the sudden death could be as a result of complications from COVID-19.

Adegboro said having COVID-19 or/and surviving the disease could lead to: respiratory failure, heart failure, acute kidney injury and renal failure, liver pathology, gastroenteritis, cytokine storm, disseminated intravascular coagulation and oxidation of plasma components.

Adegboro, who is also a Fellow of Academy of Medical Specialties, said clinical features in COVID-19 patients suggest that SARS-CoV-2 has a major impact on the heart. Patients have features, which suggest acute myocardial injury, including abnormal ECG changes.

Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, told The Guardian: “We have been reminding citizens that COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere just as the NPHCDA is encouraging the uptake of vaccination. Cases are rising worldwide and there is the start of an uptick here from available reports. That is enough to raise public awareness.”

President Academy of Medicine Specialties and Secretary-General International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS), Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, said: “The simple truth is that the COVID-19 is not gone. It would probably be with us for a very long time. There is no scientific basis for not using the mask especially in a crowded social gathering where you are not sure who is a carrier or who has been fully vaccinated or not.

“It is now very clear that no amount of vaccination can prevent you from having COVID-19 symptoms if exposed to it. The clear warning is to be protected using the mask especially when you are in company of a large number of people that you are not sure of their vaccination history.

“Finally, for people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, cardiac disease, long smokers with compromised lung function, exposure to COVID-19 even after vaccination can be fatal. It is recommended that those who show symptoms such as common cold, sore throat, or fever, must seek immediate attention and remedy before it spreads into the respiratory tract,” he said.

He advised Nigerians to get vaccinated to be protected against the immediate, late consequences of COVID-19, which may also culminate in sudden death.

The immediate Past President of the Guild of Medical Directors, Prof Olufemi Dokun-Babalola, said that most cases of sudden death in the country are often caused by cardiovascular, pneumatic or cerebrovascular problems.

In a chat with The Guardian, Dokun-Babalola explained that cardiovascular problems usually manifest as a result of blockage of the coronary arteries, which supply the muscles of the heart.

He added that when plaque builds within the vessels as a result of high cholesterol levels, a blood clot may then complete the blockage, leading to myocardial infarction commonly known as ‘heart attack.’

According to him, “the underlying causes include hypertension and diabetes. Prolonged inactivity as during a long flight can cause DVT. Sudden death like this needs to be subject to a coroner’s inquest. Society must learn from these episodes.”

Meanwhile, the President, Foundation For the Sick & Health Education (FFSHE), an ENT surgeon and public health professional at the University of Abuja, Prof. Titus Sunday Ibekwe, has urged Nigerians to ensure a holistic health check for themselves and family members at least once in a year.

PRESIDENT Buhari has described the late OPEC Secretary-General as a dedicated public servant, whose legacies will remain a reference point in the oil and gas industry, international development and the environment sector.

President Buhari, who expressed sadness over the sudden death of the outgoing OPEC Secretary-General in a tribute, said Barkindo was a “remarkable gentleman and enormous national asset, who from his youthful days worked meritoriously in the service of the nation in various national and international capacities, and never stopped being a beacon of light to the country he loved until his last breath.”

Also, NNPC, African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA) and stakeholders in the energy sector have described as shocking the passing of Barkindo.

NNPC Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, described Barkindo’s departure as a great loss to his immediate family, NNPC, Nigeria, OPEC and the global energy community.

Executive Secretary of ARDA, Anibor Kragha, who was also mourning Barkindo as they both served in the top management at NNPC at different times, described Barkindo as a global energy icon, whose magnificent legacy would never be forgotten.

Kragha noted that Barkindo would be remembered as a global energy icon, who worked assiduously to strengthen the worldwide energy markets at a critical time and successfully ensured stability of the global economy, even during the unprecedented turmoil of the COVID pandemic and other shocks.

Chief Executive Officer of Vurin Group, Victor Ude said the death remained a great loss but a lesson for the industry to do better. According to him, Barkindo’s legacies are worth emulating and an elixir to ensure that the country gets the energy issues right.

Chinedu Okoronkwo, President, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), said Barkindo distinguished himself as a global energy leader.