Over the years, efforts to instill the principle of transparency and accountability in the operations of the nation’s oil and gas industry seemed to be a herculean task. This was made even more difficult due to perceived and, in some cases, real improprieties in the system. But that is about to be over with the Operation White doctrine- a presidential -mandated collaborative initiative driven by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with active participation of regulatory and security agencies as well as other stakeholders. It is a doctrine designed to ensure that all petroleum products imported by the corporation are well accounted for and utilised as intended.
To drive this process is an 89-man task team recently inaugurated by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva and supported by the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mele Kyari. It is part of the management team’s resolve to ensure that the nation receives optimum benefit from her hydrocarbon resource.
What this entails, according to analysts, is that the days of opacity and ineptitude in the importation and distribution of petroleum products in Nigeria appear to be over. The NNPC boss said so much when he averred that the Operation White would monitor and track every molecule of petroleum product imported into the country and follow it through to the pump. He also pointed out that the corporation was determined to actualise the quest of the federal government to guarantee energy security for the country.
Above all, it is the expectation of Nigerians that the initiative will properly capture data, analyse same and advise important stakeholders appropriately who need such information for decision making and actions. At the inauguration, the team was encouraged to strive to deliver on the assignment that will monitor and track the entire movement of petroleum products and enshrine visible transparency across the value chain.
On our part as a newspaper, we are enamoured that the NNPC is taking this bold step directed towards restoring sanity in the industry after decades of guesswork regarding the quantity of petroleum products produced, consumed on a daily basis, what is imported and what amount is actually lost to sharp practices. The absence of this vital information, in our opinion, largely, contributes to scarcity of petroleum products that inflicts severe pain on Nigerians almost on a yearly basis, especially during festive periods.
The initiative is not only aimed at ensuring sustainable supply and distribution of petroleum products during those periods, but is also a comprehensive three- phase strategy that will utilise human resource and cutting – edge technology in entrenching transparency, accountability and efficiency in the product supply and distribution chain. Specifically, it will help the nation determine the actual amount of fuel consumed by Nigerians and also detect and prevent sharp practices along the line.
Before now, NNPC had recorded encouraging performance in product supply and distribution to the nation in its capacity as supplier of last resort even as the nation bears a great cost in terms of absorbing the shocks of differences in cost that had led to smuggling and its negative impact on the economy. It is in this regard that we argue that this new measure will, hopefully, ensure that every drop of product imported into this country is utilised within the borders of this nation for the benefit of the Nigerian populace. Understandably, President Muhammadu Buhari sees this as a national imperative, important enough to form the core of the mandate he gave to the leadership of the oil and gas industry.
However, it must be realised that to achieve this mandate requires diligence, commitment, courage and robust partnership amongst various downstream stakeholders and, indeed, all Nigerians. There is also a dire need to streamline the corporation’s operations along international best practices by championing and implementing strategic reforms at every layer of the supply and distribution chain.
Oil industry watchers are optimistic that if the corporation is able to plug the leakages and tighten all loose ends, it is possible for the nation to achieve more in this regime of modest oil prices.
It is pertinent, in our opinion, to also remind strategic infrastructure partners of their cooperation in the actualisation of this initiative aimed at deploying adequate measures to ensure that all regulated petroleum products imported by NNPC are well accounted for and utilised in the country.
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