Dr. Chris Ogiemwonyi is an industrious son of Benin Kingdom. He retired as an Executive Director in NNPC and a former Minister of State for Works. He spoke to WESTERN POST on front burning issues concerning the Nigerian nation.
Sir, what can you identify as the problem with our oil industry?
The case for the oil industry where I spent 34 years, the call for diversification is true but before we talk about diversification the management itself of the oil and gas today, when you see the International Oil and Gas Companies (IOCs), who are here on joint ventures with Nigeria. The other arm, the production sharing contract companies equally working with the government in partnership, I think today I will say we need strong effective monitoring of this oil and gas business. Today we see the need to be more steadfast in doing that so that the cost of our operation will be within what we expect. The cost of contracting, the contract circle the need to quickly address it because if you don’t approve these contracts timely, there will be problem. Then on the diversifying, it is something an imperative. We have seen some countries building refineries within two years but in our case it is quite different. Our refining capacity is there but the issue of vandalism is still a problem. So it is a matter of trying to really address it holistically and let those who are very experience drive this industry. I think we can do better to manage the oil industry. We have inexperience people manning the oil industry today.
What is your take on the perceived government interference in NNPC
It is not the best option. I always pride NNPC staff as competent and I think we should give them a better enabling environment to operate. There is lots of interference from the top. Talking about having more refineries, if we want to have that then we must deregulate. Let market forces prevail, today the market is controlled. When investors see that they can guarantee their investment surely people will want to invest. If you look at it people feel that if we deregulate the price will be higher than what we have today, but I tell you the problem today is that we are subsidizing products to neighbouring countries. The borders are very porous, if we do it rightly, I think we should go for deregulation, let the market forces dictate the price and then we block various leakages in our operations, in our importation, a lot of things go wrong at that level is just that the system have allowed these things to continue to take place.
What was your experience like as minister?
I was Minister of State for Works for one year. And my recommendation when I was leaving was that if you have a Minister of State, if it is necessary, ensure that you give that Minister of State as well as the full Minister their respective job discretions. Wherein you want the Minister to work with the Minister of State at his whims and caprices, we have seen most cases where the Minister of State is really doing nothing or very little. My experience in the one year I spent, I can confidently tell you that I was under utilized to compare to where I was coming from, from the NNPC where I was head of an establishment. I did not shy away from this discussion when I was a Minister. I remember I told Mr President that subsequent Minister of States it will be nice they have job discretions.
We can talk about roads from now till tomorrow. Before I went in as a Minister I had a different perception but when I was now a Minister I saw more than I did not know before. One common problem facing many of these projects we talk about like the East West road, the contract award process is not faulty but when you remember you award a contract you pay 25 per cent mobilization, say a N30billion contract, you will give the first 25 per cent and subsequently every year you put N2billion into that contract. If time is not taken, that contract will last for another ten years which is not ideal. So the major issue facing most of those contracts is funding and I think we must start thinking outside the box to see how we can fund our key projects.
“You talk about roads, we have issues in Health sector, our universities, various services are contending with the limited resource at the centre. So the East West road though it is a little bit different, I understand for that one, it was alleged that there was no design or there is design, I don’t know, but one thing we equally did in the Ministry of Works the period we were there was to advise that the design for a particular road should be unique for that road and not generics designs. What we applied when I was there with Daggash was to say you must design as per that road because two roads are not the same. The terrains differ from place to place because within one mile you can see a variation in the strength of the ground so you cannot use the design here in Benin now where we have firm soil to a place like Bayelsa that is water logged. If you do that at least you will solve the first problem of design by design cases.
We understand you are nursing a guber ambition?
When I was Minister of state for Works, I was thinking of running for the governorship of Edo State but when I notice the leadership style of those driving the PDP in Edo state I pulled back to re-strategize. Where I come from in my profession we always believe that one plus one is two but I realized that what I was seeing here was quite different. I came from a system where you use your best eleven, where competence is key. But I realized that in PDP in Edo State their preference is loyalty and I pulled out. I did a lot for PDP during the 2011 general elections because I remember the President asking us Ministers to go back home and work.
“He asked Ministers who are from PDP controlled states to go and work under their governors but states where you have none PDP governors, the Minister from that state is supposed to take leadership of that state. As the Minister from Edo State then I was supposed to take charge but the state was quite peculiar because you have very strong leaders who are very domineering, they are not prepared to allow you as a Minister to play your role. I noticed all these things, I was not prepared to be confrontational with these people. I just felt the best thing was to allow them do what they know best which is politics and I went back to my business. But from all indication, their politics have led them nowhere today; they are gnashing their teeth for all they have done to Edo people. Our people have embraced change, PDP are not use to change, and they are clueless.
Why are you dumping PDP for APC?
My decision to have a transition from the PDP to APC today is informed based on some other factors, notably the leadership style of Governor Oshiomhole. I always believe that once the head is good there is high probability that the body will be good. But once the head is not too straight there is high probability that the body will not perform well. I am pleased with the type of leadership that I see among the APC people. I see very refined people. I see Oshiomhole doing what he speaks, no double standards, hard working, focused, smart. And at the centre the APC again, look at the National Chairman of APC today, a fantastic super secretary. I see APC as people I can work with, I see people who are sincerely working toward a change due to the decadence we have observed today in Nigeria caused by the PDP government.
“I give you one example, before I left NNPC I was driving this project gas to power, by 2009, I was promising Dr Luqman that we will deliver 6,000 megawatts by 2009, this was the beginning of 2009, I was saying by December 2009 we will deliver 6,000 megawatts. That time I was pushing the IOCs, pushing the NNPC, pushing Pan Ocean to deliver, that time we were on about 3,400 megawatts. Where are we today after almost six years, I hear we are now making about 3,200 megawatts, it is like we have lost almost five, six years. So if you look at the APC Governors you will know they meant the change.
“Look at Fashola, there was a day I took that Lekki new bridge to Orsborn, when I got to the Orsborn end I took my phone and called him and I told him my brother I am proud of you. There was one day I was going to the Airport in Lagos, I asked my driver where is this Oshodi traffic? He said ‘no Sir no traffic again’ and I saw all greens. They changed that place to a park. This is an APC governor.
“Go to Edo North and the entire Edo state and see what Oshiomhole is doing. Roads they said before were going nowhere, today they are going some where. Today we have red roof schools. The first thing you give to a people is education because once you are educated they can diversify. If you see what APC governors are doing you will say these people are focus, they know what they are driving at. And if you give them the opportunity to lead Nigeria, you will see growth. And that is some of the reasons why I am glad to say I want to be a progressive.
People will always speculate. Edo guber race is 2016. From 2015 there is still a whole 365 days. That you go to bed and you wake up is by the Grace of God. Let us wait and see. If God says I will, he will give me the enablement, he will give me good health and the people of Edo state will decide who will be there governor. And if it is the will of God that I will be, one day it will surely come to pass. I believe in destiny, I believe in what God has ordained. I am declaring for APC now to go and work for the party. So if the people believe that I have the capacity, if they believe they can trust me then I will go for it. Governance is not for children, you must have the capacity, you must have the experience, you must have done something similar. It is not where you go and learn, it is for people who are focussed. But when we get to the bridge we will cross it, it is still too early to talk about 2016 because that will be distractive to the laudable government headed by Governor Oshiomhole, who has done Edo people proud.
What’s your take on the PDP’s boast of winning Edo State?
Our people are not stupid. People like to do comparative analysis, PDP was in Edo for ten years and APC is here now for six years, the boy in University of Benin or Ekpoma will compare when PDP was here and what they are seeing today. We are no more fools, nobody can come here and talk about using Federal might to rig, the people of Edo State will decide. You are not coming to force anything down our throats, time has past when one man will decide who becomes who in Edo State, Edo people are not fools. We are all giving support to Oshiomhole because of what he is doing in the state; our people can see the different. Look at our roads with six lanes. Look at the Benin Water storm project today flood no longer sack our people. If not for the bad state Oshiomhole met this state, we would have been comparing Edo to Lagos. Edo people will vote APC come 2015 and 2016 there I no doubt about that.
“What I can see is that Nigerians are no longer people you go and give rice to deceive them at the even of an election, giving them fake promises, we have since passed that stage. What Nigerians need now is effective leadership, a leader they can trust, leader that will make a promise and deliver. A leader that will stop oil theft, corruption, improve our power sector and solve our insecurity problem. We need a Federal government that can guarantee us security, take roads seriously, a government that will respect the rule of law, that the legislature is independent. And if you see what the APC is saying that is the direction. The current PDP-led Federal government is incompetent and the must go.