When President Muhammadu Buhari announced himself as petroleum minister from New York on Tuesday while attending the UN General Assembly, a gap was created in the minds of his critics on the justification of his decision, basically, on two grounds, ‘double remuneration’ and ‘competence’. While some people are bothered if the president will be earning the salary of a minister at the same time enjoying that of being the president, others were more concerned about his competence in handling the sector.
This discourse will concentrate more on Buhari’s competency to double as the president and petroleum minister, leaving out so many other said and unsaid criticism that trailed the news of his self appointment as the man to be in charge of the country’s crucial oil portfolio.
Judging from his commitment to his anti-corruption crusade, it is obvious Buhari’s decision is line with his mission, which is to tackle the rot in the oil sector, as he seeks to cut endemic graft and put the country’s crippled, crude-dependent finances on a firmer footing.
Is the president experienced enough to double as petroleum minister? Let’s take a retrospective look into the his portfolio, In March 1976, the Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner (position now called Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources.When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1977, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978.
During Buhari’s tenure as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources, the government invested in pipelines and petroleum storage infrastructures. The government built about 21 petroleum storage depots all over the country from Lagos to Maidugiuri and from Calabar to Gusau; the administration constructed a pipeline network that connected Bonny terminal and the Port Harcourt refinery to the depots.
Also, the administration signed the contract for the construction of a refinery in Kaduna and an oil pipeline that will connect the Escravos oil terminal to Warri Refinery and the prpoosed Kaduna refinery.
Buhari served also served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a body created by the government of General Sani Abacha and funded from the revenue generated by the increase in price of petroleum products, to pursue developmental projects around the country.
Buhari’s wealth of experience and passion for the oil and gas sector might be among the motivating factors why the president took personal interest in overseeing activities of the ministry.
With sound management of Nigeria’s oil, which accounts for about 90 percent of the county’s foreign exchange earnings coupled with the help of his to be viable junior minister, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Ibe Kachikwu, taking charge of day-to-day affairs in the sector this plan might turn to be the president winning strategy in ensuring ‘change’ is delivered to his people