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NIGERIA - Profile - Funsho Kupolokun.

The Group Managing Director of NNPC since early November 2003, Kupolokun until then was a special assistant to President Obasanjo on petroleum matters for several years. At the request of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Kupolokun was given the top NNPC post to replace Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, with whom he had quarrels as the two men differed on several issues. Gaius-Obaseki had made enemies after he presided over the firing of 28 NNPC directors in August 2003 and exposed Nigerian traders involved in the smuggling of stolen crude oil to the Ivory Coast; and his behaviour was also the reason behind Rilwanu Lukman's resignation in October 2003.

Traders had been unhappy with NNPC's policy of setting high official selling prices (OSPs) for the state company's share of Nigerian crude oils. Kupolokun, however, has since kept the practice of NNPC setting high OSPs which has made international traders like Vitol and their local counterparts (see OMT No. 7).

Kupolokun has been the main force behind the expansion of NNPC's E&P operating unit Nigerian Petroleum Development Corp. (NPDC) both within the country and abroad. At the opening of a three-day international oil and gas conference in Abuja in early August 2004 he said NPDC was to be the operator in the development of six offshore oilfields in Nigeria in partnership with international oil companies (IOCs). The fields have a total of 457m barrels in recoverable reserves, and will produce up to 130,000 b/d. NPDC's oil output then averaged about 50,000 b/d, produced under JVAs with IOCs, mainly Agip. NPDC's JVA partners are to include Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Chevron, and Total.

To help NPDC in developing and operating producing assets, a number of fields have been transferred from both Chevron and Shell by NNPC since early 2004. NNPC has created NPDC unit, the Committee on Transfer of Operatorship and Capacity Building, to oversee these operating activities, while another sub-committee has been set up by NNPC's regulator NAPIMS to follow the legal aspects of the transfer. This follows events at the end of 2004 when three operators - Shell, Chevron and Total - reached a final agreement to transfer operatorship to indigenous companies on 24 marginal fields on payment of a $150m signature bonus.

In July 2004, NPDC launched a programme aimed at raising its operations to the level of world-class national oil companies, such as Statoil of Norway and Petrobras of Brazil. Part of the objectives is to make NPDC a viable oil producing company to acquire and develop E&P blocks anywhere in the world, Kupolokun said. By then NPDC had already been bidding for oil blocks in three African countries (see NPDC's profile in OMT No. 6). George Osahon is the managing director of NPDC.

Kupolokun remains close to President Obasanjo and Vice President Abubakar. He is a prominent engineer and has proved to be an efficient administration. Since late 2003 he has been concentrating on "cleaning up the mess" left by his predecessor, Gaius-Obaseki. In late 2004, over 2,350 of NNPC's 14,000 employees were sacked in the third major round of lay-offs in 16 months, in a move to reposition the group and eliminate inefficiency as well as boost productivity. Kupolokun then said there was to be further streamlining at all levels within the group until all the "dead wood" had been cut out. NNPC was eventually to replace the sacked personnel with younger and more qualified recruits.

Kupolokun is keen on development of the gas market both locally and in the region. He says the industry "must pay an appropriate price for gas-fuelled power if the sector is to take off". Among other positions he holds, Kupolokun is board chairman of the West African Pipeline Co. (Wapco), which will export gas to neighbouring countries from late 2006. He was behind the merger of two LNG export ventures into one (see Gas Market Trends No. 7).

Prominent NNPC executives under Kupolokun include Mike Bajomo, his special aide who until late 2003 was head of oil marketing intelligence at NNPC's London office; Amina Baba-Kusa, head of crude oil marketing, who in late 2003 succeeded Ebun Ajanaku; Group Executive Director for E&P Edmund Ayoola (formerly head of NPDC); Group General Manager for legal affairs Chief Sena Anthony, who is also the secretary of NNPC's board; Abiye Membere, NNPC general manager in charge of PSCs; Suleiman Achimugu, head of the Pipeline & Products Marketing Co. (PPMC), who in late 2003 replaced Austin Oniwon - previously Achimugu was executive director at Port Harcourt refinery; and Philip Chukwu deputy general manager of NNPC NAPIMS.
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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Aug 22, 2005
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