On August 22, 2019, shortly after his inauguration as Minister of State Petroleum Resources, President Muhammadu Buhari handed Timipreye Marlin Sylva a nine mandate area constituting the policy agenda in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
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 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, Chief Sylva reeled out his numerous achievements to journalists with the tone and candour of a fulfilled man.
Who would blame the ex-Bayelsa governor for toing this 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 investments decisions that has transformed the economic landscape of Nigeria. We have done well in this 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 need to be done to opt 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 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 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 billions foreign investments in the oil and gas sector to Africa in 2020 where the country only managed to grab a paltry $3 billion despite it’s no 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 years jinx.
Sylva was also key in the Final Investment Decisions (FID) on the multi-billion dollar Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) project and the strategic 614 kilometres Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kano (AKK) gas pipelines project designed to transport the abundant gas resources from the oil fields in the Niger Delta to industrial establishments in the northern and other parts of the country and beyond.
The completion of both project 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 the successfully launched by President Buhari in 2020 coupled with the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) are designed to put Nigeria at the driver’s seat of global gas investments and utilization, especially at the behest of the drive towards renewable energies. The NGEP, with N250 billion investment fund provided by the Federal Government focuses on the development of 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 enthusiastic 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 fuel to CNG under this ambitious programme.
As chairman, he supervised the equity investment agreements between 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 are 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 realized 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 sing songs 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 Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the ailing refineries. The rehabilitation work on the Port Harcourt 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 (FID) for the Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical Company Limited 10,000 tonne per day Methanol Plant, which is expected to create over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs.
A man who has shown so much commitment and enormous spirit of patriotism in putting the interests of the nation first deserves the applause of Nigerians from both 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.
Ejemhen writes from Abuja