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Mele Kolo Kyari, The Playmaker Metaphor and His Traducers, By Kabir Kabo Usman, PhD

A confession from the onset: This writer is not a football aficionado. However, one does not need to be an ardent lover of soccer to understand what a “playmaker” is in the context of the game.

Playmakers are not limited to national soccer teams or league clubs; they can also be found in corporate organizations and public institutions.

A playmaker, typically, is a key player in a sports team—particularly in soccer or basketball—responsible for creating scoring opportunities.
A playmaker possesses exceptional vision, passing ability, and game intelligence, orchestrating a team’s offensive plays to defeat their opponents.

In a broader context, a playmaker is someone crucial in driving success and making strategic decisions in any organization or group. While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were arguably the greatest playmakers for Barcelona and Real Madrid football clubs, Engr. Mele Kolo Kyari, OFR; has emerged as a transformative playmaker for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL).


As the Group Managing Director, Kyari has charted a progressive path for NNPCL, leading the implementation of the agency’s core mandates.

Appointed at a time when the Nigerian oil and gas sector was struggling to survive as an economic driver, the Borno State-born technocrat has faithfully implemented policies and reforms, heralding a new chapter for NNPCL and the Nigerian economy.

Kyari took over the NNPCL in June 2019 with impressive professional credentials, particularly in petroleum economics, together with crude oil and gas trading. In the last half-decade, Kyari’s robust revenue generation and strategic upliftment of Nigeria’s oil sector have significantly boosted the country’s economy, earning him numerous accolades.

To strengthen Nigeria’s energy security and improve the profitability and efficiency of the oil and gas sector, Kyari launched the TAPE agenda, focusing on transparency, accountability, performance, and excellence. This initiative aims to eradicate corruption and transform NNPCL into a reputable oil giant.

Kyari set ambitious goals for NNPCL, including increasing crude oil production to three million barrels per day and boosting reserves to 40 billion barrels. His intervention resolved a longstanding dispute in the Akuku Toru community of Rivers State, restoring about 35,000 barrels of oil production per day.

In November 2019, under Kyari’s leadership, NNPCL reached the Final Investment Decision (FID) on Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited. This project is expected to generate over $20 billion in revenue and create over 50,000 jobs.

Kyari also oversaw the commencement of the Ajaokuta-Abuja-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline project, securing funding from a Chinese bank.

Furthermore, he led the digitization of NNPCL’s operations, reducing human-related operational risks with software that allows marketers to view inventories across 22 depots in real-time, enhancing decision-making and efficiency.

Also, Kyari’s management organized a transparent recruitment exercise, resulting in the employment of 1,050 Nigerians. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the NNPCL Chief Executive mobilized stakeholders in the oil and gas sector to raise N21 billion for the Petroleum Industry Intervention Fund (PIIF), supporting medical interventions across Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.

This effort was particularly vital during the year-end festivities and beyond, with NNPC Limited implementing comprehensive plans to prevent any shortages in petroleum product supplies.

The enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021 by the National Assembly transformed NNPC into a commercially-oriented National Oil Company governed by the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).

This legislative effort turned NNPC from a loss-making entity, with a loss of N803 billion in 2018, to a profitable organization, declaring a net profit of N674 billion in 2021. Kyari’s leadership was pivotal in this turnaround, achieving profitability by 2020 and aiming for a profit increase of N2 trillion in the 2022 Audited Financial Statements.

NNPC Limited’s acquisition of OVH Energy in 2022, along with its existing assets, positioned it as a major player in the African energy market, significantly boosting the profitability of its subsidiary, NNPC Retail. To combat crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, NNPCL adopted advanced surveillance methods similar to those used by the Saudi Aramco.

The Central Coordination, Data Integration, and Activation Control Room enable real-time monitoring of the Niger Delta’s pipeline networks, enhancing security and increasing crude oil production.

In a previous piece titled, “Global anticipation realized: President Bola Tinubu’s prescient reappointment of Mele Kyari as NNPCL’s GCEO,” this writer argued that under Kyari’s visionary guidance, the NNPCL has weathered industry challenges and evolved into a symbol of resilience and innovation.

His achievements span various areas, transforming NNPC LTD by focusing on Human Capacity Development, Gas Development, Refinery Rehabilitation, and initiatives to support the Downstream sector.

Kyari led the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the Kolmani River II in Bauchi, resulting in commercial oil quantities on the Upper Benue Trough, Gongola Basin. This landmark achievement could lead to increased foreign investment and employment in the region.

In May 2021, Kyari led NNPC to sign agreements with Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO) and other Production Sharing Companies (PSC) partners, resolving disputes around deep offshore block OML 118 and paving the way for a new $10 billion investment in the Bonga South-East Field to boost the nation’s oil reserves and production.

Kyari also resolved a 1993 PSC dispute, unlocking over 7 billion barrels of oil and 20 Tcf of gas reserves, potentially attracting up to $40 billion in investment over the next five years and relieving NNPC of almost $10 billion in contingent liabilities.

His leadership introduced a real-time command and control center to monitor and report suspicious activities to security agencies, increasing oil production to 1.6 million barrels per day by the end of 2022.

Indeed, the Mele Kyari revolution at NNPCL is exciting many Nigerians, though not without opposition from some forces of retrogression. The agitations of these groups demanding the sacking of Kyari, who now is the celebrated playmaker at NNPCL, are questionable calls.

President Bola Tinubu’s foresight in reappointing Kyari, as NNPCL boss last year, has been vindicated by the significant strides made under his leadership. It is imperative that the jejune calls – for Kyari to be axed – be disregarded in favour of continuity and further progress in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

Kabir Kabo, PhD, a former DG/CEO of Nigeria’s Centre for Management Development (CMD), a petrochemical and hydrocarbon chemistry expert, writes from Abuja.

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