It is not strange that recent retirement and redeployment of senior management staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), have been generating controversies and diverse comments from members of the public.
There should be no curiosity because the state oil firm has always been the most criticised, vilified and abused public institution in Nigeria. And ironically, it is also the most desired workplace, notably by job and good opportunity seekers in Nigeria.
Even most National Youth Corps members would like to observe their national youth service scheme at the NNPC.
What is more, no one trusts the corporation for any transactions. Even not many chief executives of the federation have trusted the state-owned corporation that oversees the mainstay of the economy of the country: some of them would even like to be the Minister of Petroleum Resources. The NNPC has been the most investigated public agency by the federal legislature and the national auditors in the federation.
Besides, the NNPC established on April 1, 1977 is the most berated by Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), which meets every month to share revenue among the three tiers of government. Any month oil revenue appears too low for the 36 federating units and the 774 local governments, the NNPC has always been the only institution to blame.
The corporation is most times pilloried as a ‘thief of state.’ This is a cross the NNPC has had to carry all the time. In recent years the corporation’s image challenge has been worsened by prosecution of former ministers in charge of petroleum resources – all because they were involved in supervising the corporation.
Litigation over Malabu Oil Scandal, involving a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dan Etete is still on-going. The immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison Madueke is still facing inquisition over so many allegations of wrong doing in her capacity as Oil Minister.
It is clear, in this connection that combined affects of all the above negative factors most times beyond the control of the executive management of the corporation have continued to haunt the petroleum corporation. And so its image management continues to be as difficult as trying to force a stream to flow uphill.
That is why eruptions the other day that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) had done something wrong again with its staff restructuring and redeployment of managers should not come to anyone as a surprise. They are always in the eye of the storm.
This time, despite the fact that the NNPC management disclosed that it had undertaken a staff restructuring, with the retirement of 11 senior management staff and redeployment of 19 others, there were still criticisms.
In a statement in Abuja, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the corporation, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, stated that in all, 30 senior staff members were affected by both the statutory retirements and redeployment.
According to the NNPC, such replacements were always effected before the final exit of the concerned staff. He explained that the recent staff movement in NNPC was a normal replacement and backfill to bridge the gap occasioned by impending retirement of some management staff of the corporation, among others.
The NNPC spokesman noted that it was usual for NNPC to obtain necessary approvals on replacements of retiring staff ahead of schedule, saying this was the case with the recent exercise that took effect as at when the retiring staff departed at various times within the period.
According to him, the exercise was effected to ensure uninterrupted operations of NNPC in achieving its mandate, adding that extant corporate guidelines were strictly followed in the process.
He advised members of the public to disregard the insinuation that some staff of the NNPC were relieved of their duties, stating that the deployments were expected and aimed at sustaining the system.
Ughamadu gave the list of staff on statutory retirement between May 1 and July 31 this year to include: General Manager, Chad Basin, Aniya Francis Umaru, who is from the North-East of the country and retired on May 6, 2019; Adewale Solomon Ladenegan, Managing Director, KRPC, who hails from South-West and retired on May 13, 2019 and Musa Sulyman Gimba, who is the Group General Manager, NNPC Leadership Academy, who also is from North-East and retired on May 14, 2019, among others.
It is important that NNPC has pushed back on allegations of favouritism in the 11 statutorily retiring staff of the corporation at this time when our fault lines are being openly weaponised by our careless leaders and even reputation mangers.
As long as these fault lines are in hibernation mode, active citizens and indeed the civil society will continue to activate them, though not in the interest of this apparently fragile nation.
The reputation managers should not dismiss regular allegations of favouritism–particularly that it favoured a particular zone. They should continue to convince the sceptical citizens that the allegations are indeed baseless and unfounded, given that the replacement of each retiring office is from same zone. This is the only way confidence of the people in the always-embattled NNPC can be restored.
Doubtless, constant reference to lop-sidedness in some reports can be harmful. Therefore, it is good that the management has explained that the recent exercise was part of normal replacement process for those that were due for statutory retirement, which the managers normally get approvals for ahead of schedule.
Instead of raining abuses at reporters, it was also gratifying that the communications department explained that contrary to a report that the Managing Director of the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, Mr Yusuf Matashi, was removed, the MD was retiring and would not leave until his statutory retirement date of July 17, 2019.
In the same vein, it was also helpful to note that the reported retirement of these officers would open up gaps in the management of some important Strategic Business Units and Commercial Strategic Units of the Corporation.
In the main, that is how public relations should be used to douse tension. People who are aggrieved and are asking questions about public service delivery and even political questions on federal character, which is in our constitution, should not be insulted as some press officers in the MDAs often do. As we noted earlier, the NNPC, which is always in the eye of the storm should continue to engage the public with verifiable facts as it has done in this noisy retirement and deployment of staff and senior managers. It is helpful, in this regard to note that the exercise followed extant rules of public service. It is good to note that no rules were broken and such replacements were always effected before the exit of the concerned staff, as has been the practice in the NNPC.
We can identify with a policy that statutory retirements must be replaced in time for proper handshake before due dates. No doubt, getting the approval for the retirement and deployment saves time and promotes continuous efficiency in the corporation. It is also noteworthy that request for replacement of retirees usually have 3-4 months window and in this case, those retiring would quit in the next two weeks or month.
Meanwhile, it is dangerous to promote some sentiment that replacement of top slots in the NNPC under this circumstance should not fall outside the zone of persons being retired. Finally, if the NNPC has not breached any labour or civil service rule in the current retirement and deployment, there should be no room for misunderstanding of its corporate governance policy.