Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, has provided details of how he was nominated and elected into his current position, including the roles the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, played to ensure he emerged as what may be described a consensus candidate in the OPEC election.

Barkindo became the 28th Secretary General of OPEC and fourth Nigerian to occupy the post in August 2016 after his election in June at the 169th Meeting of the Conference in Vienna. Other OPEC Secretary Generals of Nigerian descent were M. O Feyide, Rilwan Lukman, and Edmund Dakouru.

Speaking during his recent visit to Nigeria and Kachikwu in Abuja, Barkindo stated that he was drafted into the race at the last minute by Kachikwu, who equally ensured he became a consensus candidate of the race.

He noted that having got the nomination and approval of President Muhammadu Buhari, Kachikwu was hands-on in his campaign for his candidacy, diplomatically consulting other sovereign member countries with nominations to cede their national ambitions for the group’s and that he (Barkindo) was the candidate to help OPEC restore its almost waning credibility in the global market.

“This is an ample opportunity for me to share with my friends and colleagues my impression on the honourable minister. I must confess that in all my years in this industry and the towers, I had never met Emmanuel Kachikwu.

“Ours is very big industry, he was in ExxonMobil pursuing his ventures, we were battling here in the towers with the day-to-day challenges of the industry, but as fate would have it, this gentleman whom I had never met, I had never seen, decided in his own wisdom to ask his staff to look for somebody called Mohammed Barkindo, who had passed through this towers,” said Barkindo in his account of how the process started.

“Then I got a phone call in faraway Fairfax in Virginia where I was pursuing my scholarship that the honourable minister of petroleum was looking for me and wanted to speak with me, and I was wondering why he wanted to speak with me because I hadn’t met this man.

“I got to know through the governor that he decided in his own wisdom after going through various vetting, to nominate me for this job and present to his boss, President Muhammad Buhari.”

“I met him for the first time when I came here to be formally nominated for this job, and from day one he took over as the chief campaign manager. I was the last and seventh candidate, there were already six candidates and so my chances were almost zero because some of the candidates on the ballot had been there for over two to three years since my predecessor’s tenure expired.

“He kept on telling me that we must make it and I should not entertain any doubt. He went through, did all he could do and forced the hands of these countries to drop their candidate for his candidate and that also showed the level of respect that his colleagues in OPEC have for him.

“These were representatives of their governments but he looked them in the face to tell them that he had a better candidate and if we were talking about group interest, we should forget about national interest and focus on the group, and he pledged that his candidate will not let them down. History was made in June in Vienna and since then we had become friends, brothers and colleagues working together for this industry,” added Barkindo.

Meanwhile, Kachikwu has indicated that the Federal Government would have to fully deregulate the downstream petroleum sector of the country soon because implementation of the 2016 price modulation policy it introduced was done at a high cost.

Speaking at the just-concluded annual Nigeria Oil and Gas (NOG) Conference and Exhibition where he delivered ministerial remarks, Kachikwu disclosed that prevailing changes in the macroeconomic conditions of the country has made it difficult to continue on that policy.
He said the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which takes up the responsibility of ‘supplier of last resort’ was already feeling the pinch and that the government would have find a way to resolve the downstream challenges.

“Petroleum products supply and distribution to the nation is fairly stabilised since the giant leap of May 2016 market liberalisation. However, with the prevailing change in the macroeconomic conditions, this is being achieved at higher cost, especially to NNPC as the supplier of the last resort. We continue to channel more energy towards resolving our downstream issues, once and for all,” said Kachikwu in his remarks.

He explained that the Nigerian downstream infrastructure has been solely financed by government because of the social and economic impact, high investment requirements and long gestation period, but that this has to change for improved investments in downstream infrastructure.

“It is in the light of this that comprehensive reforms are ongoing to fast track the development of private sector led downstream infrastructure and fully deregulate the market for effective competition and efficient service delivery,” said the minister, who acknowledged it was a shame and fraudulent for Nigeria to continue to import refined petroleum products.

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