By Ojie Ejemhen

On August 22, 2019, shortly after being inaugurated as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, President Muhammadu Buhari handed Timipreye Marlin Sylva a nine-mandate area constituting the policy agenda in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

In under two years of being in the saddle as Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, supporting the policy directions of Mr. President in the oil and gas sector, Sylva has endeared himself to Nigerians through remarkable achievements in key areas.

On Tuesday, August 18, 2021, as he featured in a special media briefing to present the two years performance report of the the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Sylva reeled out his numerous achievements to journalists, with the tone and candour of a fulfilled man. Who would blame the ex-Bayelsa State governor for toeing that path with the successes he has recorded in areas where only men with faith and zeal excel Never has Nigeria had it so good in the oil and gas sector than now, despite the havoc wrecked on the global economies by COVID-19.

“So far, I can tell you without any fear of contradiction, we have ticked all the boxes,” he said at the briefing and added that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, “We were able to take some key investment decisions that transformed the economic landscape of Nigeria. We have done well in these two years of coming on board and I am grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari for giving me the opportunity to serve this great country, Nigeria.”

The elated Sylva was, however, quick to add that so much still needs to be done to up the scale and be at par with other oil and gas-producing countries of the world: “That does not mean that it is time for us to rest on our oars. We believe it is time to do more jobs; to clean up and deliver legacies that would outlive this administration.”

One area where Chief Sylva would not be forgotten easily is his commitment and push for the passage and assent of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). The presidential assent on August 16, 2021, is expected to trigger a chain of local and foreign investments, which had in the past eluded the country due to the absence of enabling law governing the oil and gas sector of the economy. Absence of a governance law stalled Nigeria’s chances of benefiting from a whopping $50 billion foreign investment in the oil and gas sector to Africa in 2020, where the country only managed to grab a paltry $3 billion despite its number one position in the sector in Africa.

With the support of President Buhari, Sylva guided the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to a N258 billion profit in the 2020 financial year, breaking a 44-year jinx.

Sylva was also key in the final investment decisions on the multibillion-dollar Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) project and the strategic 614 kilometres Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project designed to transport the abundant gas resources from the oil fields in the Niger Delta to industrial establishments in the North and other parts of the country and beyond.

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The completion of both projects is expected to generate millions of jobs across the value chain and help deepen domestic gas penetration in the country as well as increase Nigeria’s competitiveness in the global LNG market.

In his vision to open up the hitherto mono-economy to diverse investments, Sylva, within the last two years, structured the Decade of Gas project and it was successfully launched by President Buhari in 2020, coupled with the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP), which are designed to put Nigeria in the driver’s seat of global gas investments and utilization, especially at the behest of the move towards renewable energies. The NGEP, with N250 billion investment fund provided by the Federal Government, focuses on the development of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) sub-sectors; develop gas-to-people structure; ensure policy guidelines implementation, regulations and DPR guidelines.

The minister has expressed enthusiasm about the CNG programme because it offers a cheaper and cleaner alternative fuel to petrol. Under the projects, government projects the conversation of about one million vehicles from petrol to CNG under this ambitious programme.

As chairman, he supervised the equity investment agreements between the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Duport Midstream Company for the establishment of an energy park in Egbokor, Edo State, and Eraskon Nigeria Limited, for a lubricating oils blending plant in Gbarain, Bayelsa State, as well as the establishment of 80 million standard-cubic-feet-per-day gas processing plant with NEDO Gas Processing Company in Kwale, Delta State, and a 300 mmscfd Kwale gas-gathering hub, all aimed at boosting investments in the oil and gas sector.

Early this year, Sylva also supervised the marginal field bid round by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to award 57 fresh oil licenses to help increase the involvement of indigenous Nigerian operators in the exploitation and development of the country’s oil and gas resources. The proceeds realised from that bid round helped to augment the Federation Account when the nation’s earnings from crude oil sale dipped dramatically.

The quest to curb importation of petroleum products has been the singsong of Nigerians over the years and, early this year, Sylva, with the support of President Buhari, embarked on the rehabilitation of the nation’s four refineries after years of half-hearted attempts by previous administrations to carry out turnaround maintenance of the ailing refineries. The rehabilitation work on the Port Harcourt refinery has since commenced, with the Warri and Kaduna rehabilitation to follow in quick succession. Sylva believes that, with the four refineries fully functional, Nigeria would have no need to import petroleum products, especially premium motor spirit (PMS).

The commitment to the development of host communities in the oil-producing region of Nigeria was demonstrated in the inauguration of the Oloibiri Museum and Research Centre (OMRC) project committees in August 2020, to oversee the execution of the project to preserve the heritage and historical developments in Nigeria’s oil sector as well as the final investment decision for the Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical Company Limited’s 10,000-tonne-per-day methanol plant, which is expected to create over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.

On Sylva’s directives, NCDMB invested in Butane Energy to deepen LPG utilization in the North through the rollout of LPG bottling plants and depots in Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Niger, Plateau, Gombe, and Jigawa states. Also, he approved the investment in Bunorr Integrated Energy Ltd for the establishment of a 48,000-litres-per-day base oil production facility located in Greater Port Harcourt Area, Rivers State, as well as investment in Chimons Gas Limited for the establishment of 168,000MT per annum LPG loading and receiving terminal located in Koko, Delta State.

A man who has shown so much commitment and enormous spirit of patriotism in putting the interests of the nation first in his call to duty deserves the applause of Nigerians from far and near. I believe a national cap of honour fits this true son of Nigeria for these lasting legacies in the oil and gas sector of our economy.

•Ojie Ejemhen writes from Garki, Abuja