By John Ainofenokhai
When less than 40 days after Diezani Alison-Madueke became Petroleum Minister President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Nigerian Content Bill into law, not a lot of persons saw the good tidings of her appointment in that singular act. It is not clear if she had a hand in the bill sponsored by another Niger Deltan in the last National Assembly, Senator Lee Maeba; but it was under her watch that a law to empower local contractors in the lucrative sector came into being. Today, under Jonathan’s careful management of the sector, more Nigerians are involved in sharing the proceeds of their country’s wealth. Also when it was first broached months ago that Diezani Alison-Madueke was to be made the President of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), not many, including this writer, believed that story because in a men’s club, it was unthinkable, even preposterous, that a woman will be given the opportunity to head the club. Like others, I concluded that the spin doctors in government were flying a kite to make Goodluck Jonathan look good as always.
However, and fortunately too, one woman, this time a Nigerian, for all that it is worth, including the exposure, now heads the club. And yet some still say that nothing is working in Nigeria, including that franchisee for the All Progressives Congress (APC), the beloved Nobel laureate and intellectual, who dabbles more into politics than academics, Professor Wole Soyinka. The achievements of the Jonathan administration in the petroleum industry under the watch of Alison-Madueke are quite remarkable and they have been documented for posterity. The administration, among others, initiated a critical gas flare-down campaign, which in 2 years, has seen gas flaring reduced by 20% to as approximately 16.7% of produced gas; it completed 100% of the transitional phase objectives recommended by UNEP including capacity building initiatives; identification of site for Integrated Soil Management Centre; designing clean-up plans and developing livelihood strategies for Ogoniland.
It developed a comprehensive secondary school curriculum on the effect of Hydrocarbon pollution, in collaboration with the University of Port-Harcourt; and put together the provision of critical support to the Joint Task Force that patrols the Niger-Delta’s onshore oil fields to apprehend pipeline vandals and crude oil thieves. In addition, it has significantly increased the level of indigenous asset ownership and enforcing utilisation of Nigerian owned assets such as marine vessels and rigs in supporting oil and gas industry operations; and maximized local value addition, by encouraging the manufacturing of equipment components and parts, in the country, in furtherance of the Nigerian Content Act of 2010. Diezani is a woman of many firsts. She was the first woman on the board of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); the first woman to be Petroleum Resources Minister, and she made history by becoming the first woman to lead a country delegation at the annual OPEC conference four years ago.
Interestingly, this Amazon in the oil sector studied architecture in England and the United States, returning home to join the SPDC. In 2002, she did an MBA at Cambridge University and in 2006, became the first female Executive Director of the company in Nigeria. Who dares say she hasn’t done much for country and self. Understandably, the bellyachers went to work, just as they did with the rebasing of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), acting as if there was nothing monumental about the fact that ours was the largest economy in Africa, inching its way to becoming one of the 20 developed economies in the world. But every attempt to diminish Allison-Madueke’s, and by extension, Jonathan’s achievements has fallen like a pack of cards, though some foreign powers who pretend to be friends are boycotting Nigeria’s oil, all in an orchestrated effort to push a calabash to the bottom of the river. Never to be suppressed without the consent of Heaven, the country with Jonathan and Alison-Madueke at the helm in the petroleum sector, is looking elsewhere and trudging on, and inch by inch, breaking new ground as occasioned by her election.
As if responding to those who do not see anything good in her election, she has been quoted to have told a group of Nigerians in Austria that the position will, amongst other benefits, afford Nigeria the opportunity to be at the driver’s seat when major global decisions on the black gold and its derivatives are taken. Her words: “When you are in the position, you are also able to relate across board in a very operational way with member countries and also non-member countries of OPEC as well who today are putting a lot of volumes of production in the market. “As seen today in the downward spiral in price of crude oil, Saudi Arabia is not the only big producer but it is the only OPEC member in the big oil producers and so there is a lot of balancing that needs to be done and, of course, in that position, you are at the forefront of doing that.
You are also at the forefront of ensuring energy security which is a major issue globally for us at this point in time.” She further said, “We will also be ensuring that our economies and not just OPEC member countries but of African countries that are now at the forefront of producing oil and gas are also given the frameworks to create enabling environment to allow us to become much more competitive in today’s global crude oil market. “That is a critical objective because the end-user markets are becoming fewer at this time and we must be competitive if we are going to step in there and grab a good percent of the market share of the end user market.
I think that it is a position that will, of course, wield quite a bit of advantages for us not just in terms of OPEC member countries but also in terms of the African continent.” There is no doubt that Alison-Madueke understands the entire dynamics of the global oil market and its politics. That is the advantage and strength she is leveraging on to apply herself to the rigours of the OPEC presidency. Having performed magic in her superintendence over the petroleum industry in Nigeria, watchers of the global oil market and the OPEC keep their fingers crossed to see what magic wand Alison-Madueke will wave to deal with contending issues which will seek to define and redefine the market.
John Ainofenokhai via Jonny4deals@yahoo.com