On Tuesday, April 11, 2017, I walked into my office and met an invitation card addressed to me. I opened the envelope (not brown, please but white) and lo and behold, it was the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru, himself asking me to attend a dinner organised for selected Abuja-based publishers, media executives and senior editors at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. The dinner date was Thursday and we were to arrive at 6.30 pm prompt.
Done for day, I made for the magnificent 5-star hotel which is 15 minutes drive from my Maitama office. I sauntered into the Osun/Lagos Hall venue at 6. 25 where I thought I would be an early bird. I was wrong. Ahead of my arrival was my good buddy and Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adeshina. He was chatting away with the ace broadcaster, Shola Atere, and the Group General Manager, Public Affairs of the NNPC, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu. I was impressed with Femi’s time-consciousness. Not long after that, another television personality, Mrs. Eugenia Abu, walked into the chat group.
Then I sighted the (fiery) publisher of the LEADERSHIP Newspapers, Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah. I had not seen him after I left the editorial board of his paper as an external member in early 2011 to join the Blueprint family. I walked up to him and he beamed a smile at me. So, Sam smiles?! As we pumped hands, he told me: “You have not changed one bit”. I returned the compliments. But I lied! He has changed by joining not only politics but also a party with CHANGE as its philosophy.
As I freed myself from him, I sighted Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, as he walked into the venue. He sighted me too and we gave each other a long-time-no-see hug and shimmied for a few seconds.
I was also delighted to see another close friend and Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Malam Yakubu Ibn Muhammed.
He has remained an unassuming gentleman despite his elevation to the zenith of his professional career.
As the night wound down, the chief host arrived. He pumped hands with virtually everyone and exchanged pleasantries with them. He wore an infectious smile that would make you like him at first sight, not minding his high profile position.
The occasion soon got underway. The GMD was invited to the podium to share his thoughts with his guests. Let me serve you with some of the highpoints of his 21-paragraph speech:
He started by acknowledging a tremendous rise in media curiosity about the activities and operations of the NNPC since he mounted the saddle about a year ago and commended them all for showing such level of concern towards how well the (great) Corporation is run.
Dr. Maikanti recounted some key milestones recorded which, in line with the NNPC motto, have affected the lives of Nigerians and other stakeholders in many positive ways.
As a matter of principle, he has ensured that the NNPC remains a FACTI-based Corporation (Focused, Accountable, Competitive and a Transparent organisation conducting its business with Integrity.)
He stated that consequently, its monthly operational and financial reports are always in the public sphere for all to see, noting that it is this new wave of openness and transparency that has earned the NNPC rave reviews among Nigerians and other stakeholders.
In December last year, the NNPC Website and Social Media platforms won the 2016 Phillips Consulting/WebJurists Awards for being the best among Federal Government Parastatals in the entire country. That revelation earned him a huge applause from his guests.
Through its vision of 12 Business Focus Areas (BUFA) which is tagged “Moving NNPC Forward…Together”, the corporation has kick-started the implementation of policies that will emplace the Corporation on the path of growth and profitability.
In the spirit of enshrining accountability, the NNPC has taken far-reaching measures towards recovering over 130m litres of missing PMS (worth N14bn), stored in the facilities of some depot owners whom it has throughput agreement with.
One of these operators has fully complied by returning the expropriated volumes, while it has recovered products worth over N3bn out of about N11bn from the second operator.
Aside from increasing the nation’s oil and gas reserves to 37bn and 192Tcf respectively, the organisation has also re-started exploratory activities in the Gongola Basin with the aim of further growing our oil and gas reserves, taking advantage of low oil prices which make inland exploration cost bearable.
On security challenges, he said the NNPC is setting up an all-advisory security council involving critical stakeholders which include security agencies, Niger Delta leaders, IOCS, etc, to complement the Federal Government’s efforts towards addressing host community agitations as well as ensuring lasting peace in the region.
Finally, he assured his guests that the door of the corporation would remain open to them and, indeed, to all Nigerians in the quest to ensure full value realisation of the nation’s hydrocarbon resources for the benefit of the citizenry and other stakeholders.
Done with his address, the master of ceremonies threw the floor open. Malam Yakubu Ibn Mohammed was the first to speak, followed by Mr. Sam Nda Isaiah. Both of them eulogised the qualities of our host. Then, it was my turn. On a lighter note, I shared my initial fears with the audience upon hearing that a Maikanti had been appointed to tend to the nation’s Cash Cow. Maikanti means shop owner in Hausa. Everyone knows that a shop owner will like to see endless queues in front of his/her business. If the new helmsman lived up to his name, then we should expect long queues to return to the filling stations all over the country.
However, to my greatest surprise, the filling stations I see around today have been recording normal queues. In some cases, no queues at all, as if there is no fuel. Like in the halcyon days, you could see fuel attendants beckoning at motorists for patronage. I hate fuel scarcity which is a forerunner to punishing queues. Any time a situation like that arises and I drive past the filling stations, my heart usually gathers speed. But my heart has been pumping normally since Maikanti came on board. I pray he continues to keep the abnormal queues away from his “kanti”.
Finally, I expressed the wish that someday soon, the pump price of PMS (huh, I nearly wrote PMB) would be reviewed downward.
After the jaw-jaw, we were challenged to the long-awaited buffet. I won’t tell you what I offered as a sacrifice to the god of throat so that you don’t salivate for nothing. Happy Friday!