NNPC’s move to eliminate opacity
‘Operation White’ is a presidential-mandated collaborative initiative driven by NNPC with the active participation of regulatory and security agencies as well as other stakeholders in ensuring that all molecules of regulated petroleum products imported by NNPC are well accounted for and utilised in the country. There has been clamour for transparency in the petroleum resources sector.
The inauguration was followed by the kick-off programme in Aiteo Depot in Lagos where Mallam Kyari, represented by the Chief Financial Officer of the corporation, Mr. Umar Ajiya, charged the team to deliver on the onerous national assignment of controlling leakages of petroleum products, especially petrol, adding that they have no option but to succeed.
With the successful inauguration of the task team on the other day at the NNPC Towers by the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva supported by the NNPC’s group chief executive, there appeared a glimmer of hope that the days of opacity and ineptitude in the importation and distribution of petroleum products should be over in the country.
Undoubtedly, the nation expects the ‘Operation White Project’ to monitor and track every modicum of petroleum products imported into the country and follow it through to the pump. It should be a last-ditch effort for the state oil firm to support the Federal Government’s quest to guarantee energy security for the country. It will be a tragedy, therefore, if the NNPC fails in this damage control project, which seeks to improve the perception index of the NNPC, which is always in the eyes of the storm.
The initiative, which is to properly capture data, analyse it and use same to advise important stakeholders for decision-making and actions where necessary should be used this time to convince critics that the selection of ‘Operation White’ team was very thorough and people of great competence and high level of integrity were head-hunted for this national assignment.
Meanwhile, members of the technical team should handle the national assignment with a deepened sense of patriotism and excellence. They should handle this critical project with a view to enshrining visible transparency across the value chain in the industry that has long been known for unethical deals.
For decades, there has always been difficulty in telling factually what amount of petroleum products is consumed on a daily basis, what is imported and what amount is actually lost to sharp practices. This, largely, contributes to the scarcity of petrol suffered by Nigerians almost on a yearly basis, especially during the yuletide.
The initiative should not only aim at ensuring sustainable supply and distribution of petroleum products during the yuletide period but should also be a comprehensive three-phase strategy that will utilise the human resource and cutting-edge technology in entrenching transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the product supply and distribution chain.
Specifically, if the project succeeds, it will help the nation in determining the actual amount of fuel consumed by Nigerians and also detect and prevent sharp practices along the chain.
We believe that this assignment is a national imperative and a core thrust of the president’s mandate for leadership of the oil and gas industry where he has remained the minister since 2015.
To achieve this objective certainly requires diligence, commitment, courage and robust partnership amongst various downstream stakeholders. There is also a dire need to instill an improved culture of transparency, accountability, and efficiency in the industry, streamline our operations along with best practices by championing and implementing strategic reforms at every layer of the supply and distribution chain.
If the technical team is able to plug the leakages, and tighten all loose ends, the much-criticised 76 per cent recurrent expenditure in almost every annual budget proposals in recent times will significantly reduce as subsidy and debt service burdens have been part of the huge recurrent expenditure profile.
This is also a challenge to the current group management of the NNPC. It will be a difference-maker for the new management if it will be able to give Nigerians an account of what we import and what we are consuming and even if there are any discrepancies. The almost 1.4 million trillion naira being recorded as subsidy these days, is a sad commentary on our public affairs.
Since members of the ‘Operation White’ task team were drawn from the NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF), as well as the Department of State Security (DSS), the nation will be watching if they will fail us again.
In the main, as the nation waits for the revival of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill by the current session of the National Assembly, this transparency initiative by critical stakeholders should not be recorded as yet another failure that keeps recurring in the petroleum resources sector.