Experts frown as NNPCL appoints expatriate subsidiary head

Oluwanifemi Ojo
Oluwanifemi Ojo
Mele Kyari - Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC)

Experts and operators have raised concerns and frowned on the appointment of Jean-Marc Cordier to lead the oil trading arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited.

The Punch reported that the appointment of Cordier to lead NNPC Trading Ltd, a subsidiary of NNPCL, was announced in a statement released in Abuja by the company’s Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba-Deen Muhammad.

Although some experts did not complain about the new development, some others were not satisfied with it. This brought about resentments among analysts and operators on Monday.

The Chief Executive Officer, Sage Consulting, Bode Fadipe, who is also an energy expert said, “It is of concern to most Nigerians that at this time of our life, we are still having a foreigner in such a strategic business enterprise in this country.

“The question many people will ask is, don’t we have Nigerians who can manage that office? Are the expatriates now investors in the business or is it a joint venture that allows a foreigner to hold that kind of position?

“Has NNPC Ltd sold its shares to the public? To the best of my knowledge, it is still the Nigerian government that owns the shares in NNPCL. It is still owned by the government, so when did it start appointing foreigners to such a level?”

Fadipe described the new development as abnormal considering the leadership records in the past. He said this was the first time he would experience such an appointment in the national oil company.

In the words of the CEO, “I think it is an anomaly. I don’t know what would have informed that kind of position, but I think it is a situation that calls for further interrogation.”

Meanwhile, legal consultant and energy law advisor, Prof. Yemi Oke, argued “There are other Nigerian companies that have expatriates as employees, all they need is to comply with the expatriate quota and show that there’s no local manpower skilled enough to man that particular office, due to the technical nature of the position.”

However, a strong source at the national oil company told The Punch that going forward, most commercially viable subsidiaries of NNPCL would be managed by expatriates.

The source who pleaded to be anonymous said, “I was reliably told that in most subsidiaries or units that are commercially viable, the operations would be managed by expatriates, with those in M3 category now limited to administrative schedules.

“This is same with NNPC Retails (the filling stations arm), NETCO (National Engineering and Technical Company), NPDC (Nigeria Upstream Development Company), and so on.”

Further the discussion, the source said, “If the expatriates are on M3 NNPC grade (Executive Vice President is M2, Group Chief Executive Officer is M1), would that not lead to rivalry and conflict, at the expense of the company’s man-hours?”

The source revealed that the reason for the massive adoption of expatriate by the oil firm is to “Perhaps, it is to instill higher productivity, improved net profit, better efficiency and operational effectiveness.”

The statement about Cordier’s appointment read in part, “A renowned international oil trader, Cordier, a French/Swiss national, holds a Masters degree in Corporate Finance with Distinction from Paris 9 University.

“He comes into the role with a rich background spanning over 30 years in physical oil, oil derivatives, and risk management, with significant experience in reorganising and creating a trading business.”

The President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, said “Does it mean that there are no competent Nigerians who could do the same job, with respect to the promotion of local content? NNCPL has a mandate of refining petroleum products and it is a national company.

“So for it to now go out to look for a foreigner shows that it is taking the wrong direction. Was it established solely as an oil marketing company? I think that move is a misalignment on this part.”

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