When Sylva Is More Precious Than Gold: A Two-year Scorecard Asminister Of State For Petroleum Resources

By Asu Beks
Click for Full Image Size
His Excellency, Chief Timipre Sylva (Former Minister Of State, Ministry Of Petroleum Resources)

From his humble upbringing in the creeks chasing after crabs on the seashore , to his current status as ' sheik ' of Africa's largest producer of oil and the sixth largest oil producing country in the world , few individuals personify the statement "To hit the ground running ' like Chief Timipre Sylva , Nigeria's Minister of State for Petroleum Resources .With Sylva's experience as a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum in 2004, coupled with his stint as governor of one of the largest oil producing states in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari could not be faulted in his choice of a deputy.

Nonetheless, industry watchers still voiced scepticism about Sylva's ability to steer the affairs of the country's oil and gas industry in the midst of a global oil price meltdown, dwindling investment and increased divestment towards cleaner energy. Since his appointment however, the former Bayelsa State governor has presided over some of the biggest oil and gas investment decisions and infrastructure projects Nigeria has made in the last decade. Drawing from his wealth of experience as an administrator, Sylva has leveraged the competent team of directors in the ministry as well as chief executives of agencies to deliver the Presidential mandate for the country's petroleum industry.

Proceeding with his mandate, the minister unveiled his ‘Roadmap and Deliverables for the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector’ with emphasis on curbing cross border leakages of petroleum products; Completion of the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Programme; Increasing crude oil production to three million barrels per day; and Reducing the current cost of crude oil production by at least five percent . Other priority areas include; aggressive promotion of the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB); promotion of inland basin exploration activities; Promotion of deep offshore exploration activities; and collaboration with the private sector to aggressively increase domestic refining capacity.

Sylva was barely one month in office when his conflict management and resolution skills were put to test. Sylva played a key role in the initiation and implementation of the Amnesty Programme that brought about peace and stability in the Niger Delta region. Therefore, it did not come as a surprise when he successfully mediated the dispute regarding operation of OML 25 between Shell Nigeria and Belemaoil Producing Limited in Rivers State.Soon afterwards, the minister was thrust unto the global oil Scene to negotiate and Supervise Nigeria's compliance with the oil production cut agreement made by OPEC+ Members to halt the free fall of oil prices in 2020.

Under Sylva's guidance, Nigeria beat daunting odds to achieve full compliance despite other economic challenges. This led OPEC to announce his appointment as its Special Envoy to encourage other members to stay the course and abide by the cuts and general OPEC principles.In October 2019, Sylva launched the ‘Operation White Project’ aimed at entrenching energy security, reducing the inflated petroleum products consumption figure and ultimately eliminating the subsidy wage bill. Nigeria has since witnessed a drastic drop in its national fuel consumption figures from about 70 million litres daily in 2017 to less than 55 million litres daily in 2020. Against the backdrop of relative security and availability of petroleum products in the country, Sylva set his sights on Nigeria's gas potentials with a view to optimizing the Gas Value Chain. It was in this regard that he inaugurated the National Gas Expansion Programme (NGEP) and commenced positive action on gas commercialization and flaring.

Furthermore, in February 2020 Timipre Sylva successfully hosted the 4th edition of the Nigerian International Petroleum Summit (NIPS) and launched the Nigeria Gas Transportation Network Code as a precursor to his declaration of the Year 2020 as the Year of Gas'. Subsequently, in May 2021, he unveiled the 'Decade of Gas' outlook at the pre-summit conference of NIPS 2021.In a bid to sustain the availability of petroleum products across the country, Sylva revealed plans to introduce Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative to petrol.

According to the Minister: "What we have decided is that we should try and give the masses an alternative, this will move the masses to CNG... this costs less than the subsidized rate of the PMS which isN145 per litre, CNG will cost about N95 to N97 per litre." With this act, Timipre Sylva surmised the resolve of the present administration not to have Nigerians experience fuel scarcity again.Sylva's sense of compassion was on display once again during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic as he coordinated the petroleum ministry's response and interventions to combat the pandemic and its attendant impact on critical sectors of the nation's economy.

He led partners both in the upstream and downstream sectors of the industry to distribute medical consumables, equipment and palliatives to affected Communities across the nation.Regardless of the negative impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, industry watchers acknowledge that increased collaboration between the ministry and its agencies contributed immensely towards achieving a lot in 2020. Some of these include the Roll-Out Auto Gas initiative; Completion of the Marginal Field Bid Rounds; Commission of the National Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB)with Headquarters in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State; and construction of the Ajaokuta- Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipe line among others.On the issue of the delayed passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Sylva has tried to rekindle hope in the long-delayed matter, describing it as the most debated subject in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. He added that following the renewed cooperation within the ministry and its sister agencies, the PIB when passed into law, will unlock several midstream and downstream infrastructural opportunities to further enhance domestic oil and gas utilization.

In the area of refining, Sylva has repeatedly reiterated the Federal Government's resolve to rehabilitate the country's refineries through Public-Private-Partnership arrangements, while also providing the fiscal and regulatory incentives for the development of indigenous refining capacity. To this end, in 2020 Sylva commissioned the 5,000bpd Waltersmith modular refinery in Imo State to complement national demand for petroleum products, while in May 2021, the FG and Tecnimont SpA signed-off on the Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) Contract for the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt refinery.

Sylva's exploits across the industry have attracted accolades among which include his nomination as the Gas Person of the Year’ by the Nigerian Gas Association (NGA) at its 12th National Conference and awards held this year in Abuja. Similarly, he was recently honoured by the Nigeria Festival of awards as Minister of the Year. The organizers cited Nigeria’s massive strides towards a gas future as basis for the recognition.

Furthermore, in April 2020, Sylva was conferred with the (Honoris Causa) Degree of Doctor of Science, Letters, by the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, while barely a month later, he received the Business Day Excellence in Public Service Award. The Award is an honour well-deserved and justifies he minister's committed leadership of the Oil & Gas Industry towards more growth and prosperity.After two years in the saddle, the verdict from industry stakeholders is unanimous Sylva has indeed raised the bar and is poised to do even He has also built bridges between the ministry a sister agencies It is evident the former Chair of the Governing Board of the Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (OGFZA), is working assiduously to support President Muhammadu Buhari's target of delivering millions of Nigerians out of poverty by achieving set targets.As they say, 'the reward a job well done is more work'. We must admit that there is still a long way to go, therefore, Sylva must roll his sleeves further, as it is not yet Uhuru.

A Catalogue of achievements of Chief Timipre Sylva as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources