More Changes Imminent at NNPC
From Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

Tuesday's shake-up at the Nigerian National Petrole-um Corporation (NNPC), which claimed the job of 28 directors may just be a prelude to some far-reaching changes intended to prepare the oil industry, especially the downstream sector, for liberalization.

Sources at the corporation told THISDAY yesterday that the sacking of the top officials of the oil company is to be followed by an overhaul of the operations of the entire downstream sector including the Pipeline Products and Marketing Company (PPMC), the four refineries, Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) and other subsidiaries.

These subsidiaries with the exception of NGC have recorded their lowest performances in recent times.

The source said the sacking of the former PPMC chief executive may not be unconnected with the re-curring scarcity of petroleum products in the country and the apparent inability of the company to device workable solutions to the disruptive impact of vandalisation of pipeline facilities.

During one of the sittings of the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum, the former Managing Director, Engr. Dan Nzelu told the members that PPMC was helpless in trying to contain the problem of pipeline vandalization.

Also, there were accusations of sharp practices levelled against some officials of the company particularly those stationed at the various depots by marketers.

The imminent purge of the oil sector apart from being used to infuse new blood into the affected companies, may include the reduction of their work force.

What would be the fate of those to be affected in the eventual deregulated NNPC has been a subject of several negotiations between the NNPC management and the worker's union. On each occasion, the Group Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr. Jackson Gauis Obaseki, had told the workers that the intention of government was to transform the refineries into profitable ventures and that workers' interest would be protected.

Already, the management of NNPC and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) is working on a draft plan of action, which is expected to guide the incoming management of the subsidiary companies to get them in good shape in readiness for privatisation in the early part of 2004.

THISDAY gathered that in keeping with the determination of the presidency to effect the complete deregulation of the downstream sector, the refineries have been earmarked for what industry experts referred to as 'partial privatisation' within the next six months.

President Olusegun Obasanjo had at the weekend during his media chat expressed dismay over the inability of the refineries to function due to the non-completion of repair works at the plants.

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