By Ojie Ejemhen —
The evening was exciting, glamourous, refreshing and enervating. That was the night of Thursday, May 20, 2021, when BusinessDay, one of Nigeria’s foremost business newspapers, recognized the exploits of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, and honoured him with an Award of Excellence in the oil and gas sector.
The award was one in a string of distinguished awards and recognitions for the Bayelsa-born politician for the strategic reforms he has supervised to fruition in the oil and gas sector of the nation’s economy.
What distinguishes the BusinessDay Award of Excellence from others is that it is not invented to further the vanities of government officials; it is not bought at a price, as some politicians who do not even know the value of it could pay any huge and tall price for it. This is an award that was hinged on the critical reforms in the Nigerian oil and gas sector, with empirical evidence and data on which judges for the award took the decision.
In its citation, BusinessDay said the award was in recognition of Sylva’s “remarkable strides in various areas of the oil and gas sector, in line with the set deliverables of President Muhammadu Buhari for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources”. These set deliverables are: policy and regulation; gas revolution; Niger Delta and security; transparency and efficiency; refining and local production capacity; International coordination and transparency and efficiency.
In under two years of being in the saddle as minister of state, supporting the policy directions of Mr President in the oil and gas sector, Chief Sylva has made remarkable progress in executing his key mandate.
BusinessDay wrote of his achievements: “During his one year in office, Sylva, in synergy with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was able to resuscitate oil producrion in the communities and got youths of the area engaged, thereby combating communal unrest and bringing peace and stability to a community that was formally ravaged by insecurity.”
This is no mean feat, considering the challenging Niger Delta region. “I am grateful to God Almighty who gave me life. I thank BusinessDay for considering me worthy of this award. I thank my boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, who gave me the opportunity to serve in his government and to make my little contributions to the growth and development of the oil and gas sector, and, by extention, to Nigeria. As Nigerians, we need to do everything within our powers to bring peace to the region and to our country. We have tried our best in the past, in the present and we will continue to play our part in the future,” he said shortly after the award.
Since coming on board as the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Sylva, in collaboration with President Buhari, has eradicated queues from petrol stations across the country; vigorously pursued the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which had defied passage in the National Assembly for over 20 years; commissioned the Nigerian Content Tower; and has also declared a decade of gas for Nigeria, a move considered as novel in the history of gas exploration in the country.
The minister also successfully supervised the bid rounds for marginal oil fields in the country, the proceeds from which government was able to bridge the yawing financial gap in last month’s FAAC.
Chief Sylva, supporting Mr President has consistently pushed for the removal of corruption-laden and deceptive petroleum subsidy, which has benefited only a privileged clique in the country. The minister has argued thus: “Petroleum subsidy does not benefit the poor but a few rich people and, sadly, it is the poor people they (the rich) use to frustrate subsidy removal. Very ironic,” he had repeatedly said. This has fuelled his zeal in pushing for the abolition of the petroleum subsidy regime. The few cannibals benefitting from the sleaze have gone wild on a campaign and propaganda to discredit this patriotic move by the minister.
Chief Sylva has, however, resolved that nothing would frighten him from doing what is right for Nigeria.
As if these achievements were not enough, Chief Sylva, with the support of the president, pushed for the rehabilitation of the three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, beginning with the Port Harcourt refinery. There is also the ongoing Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NPPC) Abuja-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipelines project, an initiative energized by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.
President Buhari has, indeed, made giant strides in the oil and gas sector although it is generally agreed that so much still need to be done to put Nigeria on the top scale in oil and gas exploration globally.
In one of Bob Marley and the Wailers lyrics, “who the cap fits, let them wear it,” and I believe the cap of honour truly fits Chief Timipre Sylva. Thank you, BusinessDay newspaper for another garland of honour for this patriotic Nigerian.
Ojie Ejemhen contributed this piece from Garki, Abuja