There was a shake-up in the nation’s oil sector on Tuesday as President Goodluck Jonathan removed the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Austen Oniwon, and three group executive directors.

Oniwon was asked to go on compulsory retirement.

A new GMD in the person of Mr. Andrew Yakubu has been named for the oil corporation.

The GEDs sent packing alongside Oniwon are Mr. Michael Arokodare, in charge of Finance and Accounts; Mr. Phillip Chukwu, Refineries & Petrochemicals; Mr. Billy Agha, Engineering & Technology.

The affected officials, according to a statement by the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, are expected to proceed on retirement immediately.

The President said the firm’s executive management team was re-composed to further strengthen the ongoing reforms and transformation of Nigeria’s petroleum sector, and in furtherance of efforts “to achieve greater transparency and accountability in government.”

Although Oniwon is said to be overdue for retirement, his removal was said to be an attempt by the Jonathan administration to douse the outcry that followed the recent probe into the nation’s fuel subsidy regime.

Some analysts, however, said that the changes were not far-reaching enough given the fact that the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, was not affected.

“The changes should have been holistic, there is no point leaving the person who presided over the rot in the industry there,” an oil industry top official, who asked not to be named, told one of our correspondents last night.

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There had been a groundswell of calls for the President to remove Diezani, especially in the light of findings by the House of Representatives probe panel on fuel subsidy that the nation had been robbed to the tune of N1.7tn.

The cry has been that there could be no such rot in the oil sector with the head allowed to keep her office.

Oniwon had been due for retirement since April last year but the President extended his tenure to 2012, mainly on the recommendation of Alison-Madueke.

Chukwu and Agha were also old hands who were already close to retirement before their removal.

Oniwon, who hails from Kogi State, was replaced by the former NNPC Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, who is from Kaduna State.

Analysts on Tuesday night said Yakubu’s appointment was to satisfy the federal character demand of the country: a northerner NNPC GMD under a petroleum minister from the Niger Delta.

Apart from Yakubu, other appointments approved by the President for the firm are Group Executive Director, Finance and Accounts, Mr. Bernard Otti; Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production, Mr. Abiye Membere; Group Executive Director,Corporate Services, Dr. Peter S. Nmadu; Group Executive Director,Refineries & Petrochemicals;Dr. Anthony Ogbuigwe; Group Executive Director, Commercial and Investments, Dr. Attahir B. Yussuf; and Group Executive Director, Gas & Power, Dr. David Ige.

Jonathan commended the outgoing directors for their service to the nation and urged the new management team to be fully committed to rapidly implementing the critical interventions needed to positively transform Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

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Jonathan also approved the appointment of Mr. Victor Briggs as the new Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company.

The new NNPC GMD graduated from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1979 with a degree in Chemical Engineering.

He joined the NNPC in 1980. Positions he has held in the corporation include Managing Director of the Warri Refining and Petrochemicals Company and Group Executive Director (Exploration and Production).

Yakubu is an indigene of Kaduna State and a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.

Commenting on the appointments, former Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mr. Chambers Oyibo, said it was high time another person took over from the former GMD given the fact that his retirement was due.

He said Yakubu was capable of leading the corporation because he had been in the system for a very long time.

“Yakubu had been in the upstream and downstream sectors. He understands the industry. If he is not competent, he would not be appointment as GMD of the NNPC,” he said.

The President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, Mr. Afe Mayowa, told one of our correspondents on the telephone that, “Yakubu is a man of integrity. He is a geologist and very competent.

“This appointment means that government is serious to check corruption. It is a welcome development.

“If you fix the NNPC, you fix Nigeria. Yakubu represents this. This is in line with the move to fix the NNPC.”

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Also commenting, the Chairman, International Energy Services, Dr. Oladiran Fawibe, said if Yakubu was made the new GMD, it was a good choice.

Fawibe added, “He had worked in various divisions of the NNPC. He is a good choice. He is well qualified.

“He can take over from the retiring GMD, who had also done his best. The new GMD will add another vista to the corporation. He has the knowledge.”

Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, said the sack of the NNPC management was long overdue.

“I want to believe that with the look of things, nobody indicted in the subsidy probe panel report, no matter how highly placed, will be spared in the ongoing sweeping reform. That is the only way President Goodluck Jonathan can convince Nigerians that he is committed to genuine reform,” Falana said on the phone Tuesday night.

The Save Nigeria Group described the action of the President as too token.

It noted that the sack of the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was an attempt to concentrate on mild areas of the report.

SNG Spokesperson, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the group noted that none of those indicted by the report had been prosecuted.

He said, ‘‘The President is majoring on minus. It is too token for him to make an impression by his action. What we want is a prosecution of all those indicted in the report.’’


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