Umar Gbobe Aminu

The new Secretary General of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Dr. Muhammad Sanusi Barkindo of Nigeria, assumed office on Monday August 1, 2016, at the OPEC Secretariat, in Vienna, Austria. The new OPEC helmsman, who was elected recently, took over from Abdalla S. El-Badri of Libya whose tenure has expired. Dr. Sanusi Barkindo is the second Nigerian to occupy that position, with the late Alhaji Rilwanu Lukman being the first.

Dr. Muhammad Sanusi Barkindo was elected to the coveted position after a keen contest. The emergence of a Nigerian as Secretary General once again demonstrates the country’s ability to provide leadership at all levels of endeavor.

This is indeed a great honour to Nigeria and the oil industry. OPEC, founded in 1960, with headquarters in Vienna, Austria, is by all intent and purpose one of the strongest institutions that have stood the test of time as a global body with uniqueness that is unequalled.

The nomination of Dr. Sanusi Barkindo by the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari for the position of the Secretary General of OPEC and his eventual election into the office is not misplaced, given the ability, charisma and competences of the new OPEC chief.

Sanusi Barkindo is assuming his new role with an intimidating credential as a professional, a technocrat and a diplomat, who has put in, three decades in the oil industry culminating to his becoming the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC). He had served for 10 years as Nigeria’s National Representative to the OPEC Economic Commission Board and was at various times the OPEC Governor for Nigeria for a number of years.

Barkindo was a key player in the global negotiation on climate change and main negotiator for OPEC member states at the signing of the Kyoto protocol on Climate Change, in Japan, 1997. In the negotiation, developing countries members of OPEC would face no restriction on their emissions but were encouraged to adopt policies to promote greener growth aspiration. This position is now being reflected in OPEC member states’ various initiatives on greenhouse emission such as environmental cleanup, gas emission curtailment and elimination.

In 2009, Dr. Barkindo was elected as Vice President of the Conference of Parties (COP 15) of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Summit (UNFCCC) held in Copenhagen, Denmark. Also exposure to the oil and gas industry and his experience on global climate change issues stood him out in the contest.

The new OPEC Secretary General should focus significantly on strengthening OPEC’s internal cohesion which is fundamental to addressing the various challenges currently besieging the oil industry and its impact on member nations’ revenue profile and growth aspiration.

In this regard, the Joint Oil Data Initiative (JODI) intended to promote transparency and consistency in reporting among OPEC member states would be one initiative that Secretary General Barkindo should be keen in supporting.

He should see the continuation of the fruitful OPEC cooperation with European Union (EU) as a key consumer market with a view to promoting enhanced technical and investment cooperation with OPEC member states and EU member countries.

The EU/OPEC avenue for cooperation has, for so long, been viewed as a veritable platform for promoting dialogue between oil producers and consumers which has helped in addressing issues of mutual interest such as concern for security of oil demand and of supply, market stability, investment and technology.

He would also be looking at strengthening OPEC/US relations with a view to promoting Washington’s understanding of OPEC’s actions intended at ensuring global market stability for the interest of both producers and consumers alike.

He should put on the front burner OPEC’s initiatives on environmental issues as it relates to Kyoto and carbon emissions as well as support OPEC member states’ programmes relating to alternative fuels, such as clean coal, biofuel and solar technology, given his pedigree on environmental matters.

Of paramount importance will be his attention to supporting investment into OPEC member states to improve upstream production capacity as well as enhance downstream development that would support improved refining capacity of OPEC member states.

Given the growing importance of gas in the energy mix and its potential as a high level revenue resource for OPEC members complementing crude oil export, the new Secretary General should be keen to support member states’ collaboration on gas initiative and expansion strategy.

The Secretary General should as an exigency work towards enhancing high level of cooperation with other key oil producers outside of the OPEC fold, such as Russia, Oman, Egypt and other emerging producers for cooperation and collaboration in order to promote and strengthen global market stability.

Umar Gbobe Aminu is of the Corporate Transformation Office of the NNPC.