ABUJA – Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a new head of the state oil firm on Tuesday, part of an overhaul aimed at rooting out corruption and mismanagement.
Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu was named as the new managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which has been accused of failing to account for tens of billions of dollars in the last few years.
Buhari, who was elected in March, has made clear his desire to clean up the oil sector, which provides the government with about 70 percent of its revenue. He dissolved the NNPC board in June as a first step.
“Dr. Kachikwu who was the executive vice chairman and general counsel of Exxon-Mobil (Africa) is to take over from Dr. Joseph Thlama Dawha,” said a statement issued by the president’s spokesman Femi Adesina.
Kachikwu has a law degree from the University of Nigeria and also studied at Harvard Law School before embarking on a career that took him to Texaco Nigeria Limited and later Exxon-Mobil.
Buhari, who was inaugurated on May 29, is yet to announce his cabinet and is seen as likely to keep the oil portfolio for himself rather than trust others with an industry that has long been mired in corruption scandals.
The NNPC represents national interests in oil and gas exploration, manages the energy sector and is also the oil sector regulator.
Constitutionally, it is meant to remit all revenues to the country’s treasury but the act establishing the state firm allows it to retain what it needs to cover costs with little oversight.
The result is a legal grey area that has been open for abuse for decades.
In June, the National Economic Council said the NNPC had earned 8.1 trillion naira ($41 billion) from 2012 until May 2015, but only paid 4.3 trillion to the federal government.
And a 2013 investigation by the then central bank governor Lamido Sanusi found the state oil company had failed to pay $20 billion in revenues to government accounts between January 2012 and July 2013.
The NNPC said the money could be accounted for and was therefore not lost. A subsequent audit by PwC found that some funds were unaccounted for, but bemoaned a lack of cooperation and issued an audit with extensive caveats.
(Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram, Editing by Angus MacSwan)
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