As he bows out, Baru leaves the corporation on a high note. His tenure was untainted by scandals and corruption, as had dogged some of his predecessors. He leaves behind a corporation that has boldly confronted challenges and achieved milestones that will shape its future for good.

In 2016 when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Dr. Maikanti Baru as the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the state-owned oil giant was reeling under the crushing burden of vast corruption. With a tarnished reputation for sleaze, the prognosis was at best abysmal.

From the onset, Baru’s job was indeed cut out for him: To cleanse the Augean stable and restore a modicum of sanity and transparency in the affairs of the oil giant. Discerning major players within the oil sector conversant with the unimpeachable credentials of Baru were satisfied that he was the right man for the job.

Immediately he took over from Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum resources who also then doubled as the group managing director of the corporation, he unveiled a 16-point agenda aimed at restructuring the oil giant. The agenda included the implementation of policy frameworks that would entrench accountability and the culture of professionalism, pursue diversification of businesses by refocusing on the implementation of renewable energy programmes and frontier exploration services and the creation of an all-inclusive internal advisory council on security, comprising representatives of the NNPC, the international oil companies, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association and National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers etc. His 16-point agenda was no fluke as he set out to work with single-minded dedication, clinical efficiency and an unwavering passion to turn things around.

One year after he took over, Baru reflected on some of the achievements of his leadership. Under his guidance, the corporation was able to lower its production/operation costs from $27 per barrel to $22pb. As a result of his astute management and robust engagements, the Corporation secured over $2 billion discounts from renegotiated upstream contracts with its joint venture partners as part of its cost-cutting efforts in the execution of projects. Baru also directed all the Corporation’s autonomous business units (ABUs) and Corporate Services Units (CSUs), to focus on efficiency in order to realise the key performance indicators in the 2017 budget.

As a result of Baru’s leadership, there were significant increases in crude oil reserves and production, with the national daily production at 1.83 million barrels of oil and condensate, or an average production hovering around 1.88 million barrels. The return of relative peace in the Niger Delta led to the resumption of production on the Forcados Oil Terminal (FOT) and the Qua Iboe Terminal (QIT) pipelines. This led to the growth of the average national production to 2.2 million barrels of oil and condensate per day.

As at June 2017, the daily production capacity of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) grew from 15,000 barrels to 210,000 barrels. NNPC, under his guidance, also completed repairs on the vandalised 20-inch Escravos-Lagos pipeline system in August 2016, thus increasing the Chevron-Escravos gas plant supply from zero to 259 million standard cubic feet per day. The Corporation under Baru’s leadership also repaired the 48-inch Farcados Oil Terminal (FOT) export gas pipeline in June 2017, which was used to restore gas supply to the Oredo Gas plant, Sapele Gas Plant, Ovader Gas Plant, Oben and Nac Gas Compressors and NPDC’s Utorogu non-associated gas (NAGs), alongside the Oredo EPF 2 gas plants. Baru was also determined to revolutionise the operations of the Corporation. And, in line with global trends in the workplace, he unveiled a bold and broad vision to transform the operations of the company into the paperless and digital mode. By mid-2018, he had set up two committees to oversee this process, including the Systems Applications and Products (SAP) Steering Committee and the Group Process Council (GPC).

Baru’s stellar performance at the helm of NNPC continued into 2018 with focus, determination and unrelenting pace. With the achievements of the Corporation under his guidance, Baru was confident that his vision of ensuring the transition of NNPC from an integrated oil and gas company to an energy company was feasible. His unwavering vision for the Corporation was to make the company globally competitive. He was clear about his determination to review the business models of NNPC to reflect the present operations reality anchored on improved profitability, transparency and accountability.

Under his stewardship, the Corporation sustained a production level from the nation’s asset to above the average of two million barrels per day in 2018. The state oil giant also maintained a commitment to the repayment of cash calls arrears, with about $1 billion settled. NNPC also kicked off the 614 kilometre Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline project, whose completion will deliver gas to the ongoing Abuja, Kaduna and Kano power plants, with the potential to generate an additional 3,600MW to the national grid.

Under his watch as group managing director of NNPC, the Corporation was known for its zero tolerance for corruption. Through his dogged determination and insistence on openness, probity, transparency and accountability, the NNPC recorded a $1.6 billion savings from the arbitration between its subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), and the Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Nigeria Limited. Given his non-tolerance of graft, Baru was determined to open up the operations of the company. He strengthened the anti-fraud mechanisms of the NNPC and its capacity for fraud detection, prevention and control.

To this end, Baru reconstituted the anti-corruption committee within the company to ensure that all the staff obey due process and inculcate transparency in their dealings.

A clear example of the anti-corruption committee at work was the case between the corporation and the International Petroleum Corporation (IPCO), whereby they demanded for $400 million. As a result of Baru’s insistence on due diligence and probity, they were able to settle out of court for $37.8 million dollars, thereby saving the nation hundreds of millions of dollars.

It is noteworthy to state that the corporation was among the first agencies of government to constitute the anti-corruption committee in 2000 following the establishment of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). Baru advised all the subsidiaries of the Corporation to follow in his footsteps and set up these committees made up of men and women of proven track records of integrity.

The Corporation under Baru’s leadership also provided a whistle blowing platform for members of staff to report any corrupt practice to the authorities for investigation. As a public servant, he was by all ramifications a servant leader with exceptional humility and the common touch. His transparency and openness, without doubt, were some of the critical factors that made his tenure as NNPC GMD eventful and highly successful.

As he bows out, Baru leaves the corporation on a high note. His tenure was untainted by scandals and corruption, as had dogged some of his predecessors. He leaves behind a corporation that has boldly confronted challenges and achieved milestones that will shape its future for good.

Baru must consider it a befitting parting gift that his successor, Mele Kyari, is a man widely believed would carry the vision even further.

James Ume writes from Abuja.