Umar Isa Ajiya: Presidential ‘handshake’ for an outstanding professional

To describe Umar Isa Ajiya as one of the most outstanding, experienced and respected finance professionals in contemporary Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is to state the obvious. Ajiya has earned that reputation over the last 30 years working his way from the lowest rungs to the pinnacle of the accountancy professional ladder in two of Nigeria’s key oil and gas establishments – the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL).

In an apparent affirmation of Ajiya’s professional standing, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, made a rare exception of reappointing him as the Chief Financial Officer of NNPCL recently. The significance of the President’s action can be appreciated when situated within the context of the massive dissolution of boards and management of Federal Government departments, agencies and companies which he inherited on assumption of office in May last year.

The import of Ajiya’s reappointment was not lost on individuals and organizations that were familiar with his professional track record. For instance, a Coalition of Youth and Student Groups addressed a press conference in Abuja to applaud the President’s decision to reappoint Ajiya into the Board of NNPCL as the Chief Financial Officer.

The Coalition’s Convener, Amb. Habibu Liman Gatawa, said Ajiya’s re-appointment was a testament to President Tinubu’s commitment to appointing round pegs into round holes, thereby ensuring the realisation of the Renewed Hope agenda of his administration.

He said: “We, the Coalition of Youth and Students Groups, gather today to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Umar Ajiya Isa on his well-deserved re-appointment as the Chief Financial Officer of NNPC Ltd. We applaud President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for this astute decision, recognising Mr. Ajiya’s exceptional qualifications and dedication to service.

“Mr. Ajiya’s re-appointment stands as a testament to the President’s commitment to appointing individuals who impeccably fit the roles they undertake, thereby ensuring the realization of the Renewed Hope agenda. His proven track record as a thoroughbred professional, expert in his field, and a dedicated civil servant exemplifies the caliber of talent essential in driving our nation’s progress,” Gatawa stated.

Ajiya holds a B.Sc Accounting from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria in 1987 and MBA from the Lagos State University, Nigeria in 1998.

He started his working career in 1987 at Peugeot Automobile in Kaduna State, where he did the mandatory National Youth Service Corp (NYSC).  After that, he joined Elf Petroleum Nigeria Limited (now Total Nigeria) in 1988 before leaving in 1991 to work as part of the pioneer staff of NLNG. Whilst at NLNG, he held several managerial positions including that of Manager Treasury, Finance Manager of BGT and then Marketing & Business Development Manager of NLNG. Ajiya joined the service of NNPC as General Manager Commercial with the LNG Division under the Gas & Power Directorate of NNPC. He was responsible for the development of a business that led to the establishment of NNPC LNG Limited, a holding company for the NNPC’s interest in the LNG Marketing Joint Ventures. Furthermore, he was the pioneer Managing Director of West Africa LPG Limited, a trading Joint Venture between NNPC and Ocean Bed Limited, which now owns the LPG vessel built and delivered in 2016 by HMD Shipyard Korea.

Ajiya was appointed the Group General Manager, Corporate Planning & Strategy, (CP&S) of NNPC in March 2016. His key achievements as the Head of NNPC CP&S was the transformation and the development of new business models for NNPC Autonomous Business Units and the resuscitation of the NNPC Price Review Committee which ensures value protection through appropriate and competitive pricing of NNPC crudes, derivatives and products. Ajiya became the Managing Director of Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC in July 2017. In that position, he initiated and executed several reforms which transformed the company into a viable and profitable commercial entity. Notable among them were the PMS Ex-coastal price correction which saved PPMC about N72 billion per annum; products price optimization, Business Process Review, SAP implementation, sales automation, legacy debt reduction, commercial reorientation, effective stakeholders’ management strategy as well as unprecedented revenue and profit growth leading to a declaration of profit in 2018 for the first time in its history.

Following his remarkable success at the helm of PPMC, Ajiya was appointed the Group Executive Director (GED) Finance and Accounts; the Chief Financial Officer of NNPC in July 2019. Within the span of less than a year, Mr Ajiya, again, transformed the Finance and Accounts Directorate to an efficient financial and accounting service provider and a reliable financial advisor of the NNPC Group. Together with his able lieutenants, Ajiya secured financing for key NNPC strategic projects across the upstream, midstream and downstream. The projects were expected to support NNPC and government aspirations toward increased oil and gas production, gas utilization, power generation and revenue to the Federation. He championed the restructuring of the NNPC Group Balance Sheet towards the full commercialization of NNPC in the wake of the Nigerian Petroleum Industry Bill 2020 aimed at broader oil and gas industry reform including commercialization of NNPC.

In the course of his career, Ajiya attended several courses home and abroad including colleges and global business schools like Cambridge, Insead Business School of France, IESE Business School of Spain and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, amongst several others. He is also a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Management. Ajiya is happily married with children.