Is Nigeria’s president on the right track to cleansing its oil and gas sector?

Over two decades, Nigeria’s oil sector has been plagued by corruption, crude oil theft and massive fraud as all efforts by the past administration to eradicate this menace yielded little or no result. However, Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has been in office for the past seven weeks, has decided to take measures towards improving Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

In a meeting with senior officials of Chevron last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said that his administration would implement far-reaching reforms to boost accountability and transparency in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. But how far is Buhari willing to go to cleanse Nigeria’s oil and gas sector?

Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to bar 113 vessels for lifting crude oil within the Nigeria territorial waters. This was made known by G.O. Komolafe the Group General Manager Crude Oil Marketing Division of Nigerian NNPC, in a memo sent to  all affected terminals. There are so many speculations regarding why the government banned the vessels. Some of which are in relation to “settling dues” such as port and maritime fees, while others say this may be part of the new government’s drive to target “vessels that have not paid dues or have been involved in incidents with the Navy.

According to Sahara reporters, the blacklisted vessels were documented in Chinese, French and Russian names to hide illicit lifting of crude by Nigerians. The 27 terminals affected include; Bonga,  Bonny, Bonny River Terminal , Brass, Ebok,  Escravos, Escravos LPG FSO, Escravos Gas Terminal, Forcados,  Pennington and Qua lboe.

Less than a month after President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, he dissolved the board of state oil and gas company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The dissolution of the board did not come as a surprise to most Nigerians because the NNPC has been accused of large-scale corruption over the years, with the latest being an alleged disappearance of $20 billion.

He also ordered all revenue generating agencies such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), amongst others, to pay all their revenue into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR). Based on the directive, agencies like NNPC would no longer be allowed to withdraw funds that should have been remitted to the CFR to meet its expenses before remitting whatever balance it deems fit.

Last week, President Buhari sacked Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi, the director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). According to reports, Akpolobemi has been in the news over various allegations of contracts racketeering, nepotism and mismanagement of NIMASA since his appointment. There are also allegations that he has a strong relationship with former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo also known as Tompolo.

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