…How He Earned His Place in Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Train

The retention of Mele Kolo Kyari as the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did not come to many as a surprise. In the last 33 years, Kyari has traversed the entire value chain of the Petroleum Industry, rising through the varous management cadres and subsidiaries of the company. President Tinubu’s decision to retain Kyari as NNPCL GMD is, therefore, another evidence of his preference for merit, competence and professionalism, above political and other considerations, in making his appointments.

Kyari’s reappointment was contained in a statement by Ajuri Ngalele, Presidential Media Aide, in which he unveiled the new management and board of the government company, effective December 1, 2023. The presidential spokesman said “President Tinubu anticipates the fullest measure of compliance with the performance-driven and results-oriented mandate of his Renewed Hope administration in the implementation of energy policy that will monetize all available oil and gas resources of today while paving the way for the total exploitation of new and cleaner energy sources of tomorrow by this distinguished team.”

Kyari will, no doubt, feel comfortably at home with the presidential expectation. In the four years preceding his reappointment NNPCL, under his leadership, has been implementing various initiatives aimed at boosting crude oil production, guarantee energy security, reduce carbon emission, and get the refineries back on stream, among others.

Kyari became the last GMD of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in July 2019 and transited to being the first GMD of the new, commercially-oriented national oil company called Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL). The transition followed the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 which transformed NNPC into NNPCL, a company that is now governed by the Companies & Allied Matters Act (CAMA) provisions. Kyari seized the opportunity of that transformation to grow NNPC Limited’s profitability significantly, from a loss position of N803bn in 2018 to N1.7bn in 2019, and the eventual declaration of a net profit in 2020.  By fiscal 2021, the corporation’s profit grew to N674bn. The NNPC Limited has become so profitable as a commercial entity that it is currently targeting a profit increase of N2trn when the 2022 Audited Financial Statements (AFS) are released. The company is now involved in the entire value-chain of the entire oil and gas business and controls over 30 per cent of the nation’s petroleum retail market.

In September 2023, NNPCL completed the acquisition of OVH Energy, adding to its assets the reception jetty (ASPM) with 240,000MT monthly capacity, eight LPG Plants, three Lubes Blending Plants, three Aviation Depots, and 12 warehouses. That deal has boosted the profitability of one of its subsidiaries, NNPC Retail, to N18.4bn in the first three months of 2023. The acquisition, under the leadership of Kyari, shows his vision to make NNPC a force in the global energy market.

Also, NNPCL has added Oando’s 380 fuel stations to its existing stations making it the largest fuel retailer and a leading energy company in Africa.

To address the major challenges of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism to the company’s business, Kyari recently led NNPCL to collaborate with the nation’s security services as well as third-party security contractors. The collaborations have been yielding results, mostly in the area of increased crude oil production. With oil theft and pipeline vandalism overwhelming Nigeria’s oil business in recent past, NNPC Limited had adopted the Saudi Aramco’s model of using video surveillance to monitor its pipelines carrying crude oil from wells to flow stations in the Niger Delta.

The company, in collaboration with security agencies, have also set up a control centre to provide surveillance of all the country’s oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta.  The surveillance system is known as the Central Coordination, Data Integration and Activation Control Room. Just like the Saudi Aramco, the NNPCL Data Control Centre uses video visibility to monitor the country’s Niger Delta pipeline networks, where more than 90 percent of the country’s crude is explored. So far, over 22 million litres of stolen crude have been recovered through intelligence provided by the Data Centre. Similarly, over 22 million litres of Diesel, 0.15 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, and 0.76 million litres of kerosene have also been recovered from criminals.

Beyond arresting crude oil thieves and shutting down illegal refineries, the NNPC Limited under the leadership of Kyari is expanding the frontiers for crude oil production. NNPC Limited is investing in several gas and power projects across the country, aimed at supporting the Federal Government’s power generation and industrialisation aspirations. The company, spearheaded by Kyari has entered into a turnkey Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) to construct the Gwagwalada Independent Power Plant project which was flagged-off in August 2023 by President Bola Tinubu. Described as a game-changer in Nigeria’s power sector, it is a 1,350MW Combined Cycle Power Plant with auxiliaries and Balance of Plant located on 547 hectares of land already acquired at Gwagwalada, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The project is expected to generate an income of between $700m and $800m annually within the first ten years of operations.

The company is working assiduously to revamp local refining of petroleum products and collaborating with indigenous refiners to ensure Nigeria becomes a net exporter of petroleum products. Specifically, Kyari has said that payment of subsidy was responsible for inactive refinery activities in Nigeria over the years saying that the removal of subsidy is already attracting a lot of private sector investments.

The GMD told the National Assembly leadership during a visit last year: “I can confirm to you that by the end of December latest, we will start the Port Harcourt refinery; early in the first quarter of 2024, we will start the Warri refinery and by the end of 2024, Kaduna refinery will come into operation.

“This is the commitment we are giving today and you can hold us accountable on this; in 2024, many of the initiatives including the rehabilitation of our refineries and also the efforts of small scale refiners, and the upcoming startup of the Dangote refinery, will make Nigeria a net exporter of petroleum products in 2024. We will no longer be talking about fuel importation by the end 2024, I am very optimistic that this will crystallise.”

According to projections released by Kyari, by the end of 2023, the expected government revenue from the company is N4.5trn. This means that NNPCL is returning value to shareholders in line with the Petroleum Industry Act.

Kyari who hails from Borno state, is the 19th GMD of the national oil company. A holder of a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree in Geology and Earth Science from the University of Maiduguri in 1987, Kyari did his National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) with the Directorate of Foods, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI) between 1987 and 1988.

He worked with the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency between 1988 and 1991, before joining the NNPC subsidiary, Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL), where he worked as a Seismic Data Processing Geophysicist in the Data Processing Department. From there Kyari moved to the National Petroleum Investments Management Services (NAPIMS), another subsidiary of NNPC, as Exploration Geophysicist Production Sharing Contract (PSC); and Abuja Operations Manager. He was posted to mainstream NNPC in 2006 as Supervisor PSC, Crude Oil Marketing Department (COMD) and, thereafter, climbed the managerial ladder to the position of NNPC Group General Manager, Crude Oil Marketing Division (COMD) in 2015 and doubled as Nigeria’s National Representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from May 13, 2018.

It was while serving in those dual capacities that former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Kyari as the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2019.