Nigeria's president, Muhammadu Buhari, has unveiled a revamped national oil company that he called commercially driven and not relying on government funding. Buhari says the Nigerian National Petroleum Company would improve energy security amid shortages and high prices. But energy experts in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, question if needed reforms will accompany the re-branding.
The transition of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into a limited liability company took place Wednesday at a high-level state event in Abuja.
During the meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari and other top government officials unveiled the new company's logo and said its asset base will be declared soon.
Buhari said it's a landmark moment for Nigeria's oil industry and that it would guarantee energy security in the country.
The president also said the new oil company will operate independently, without relying on government funding and rules.
Buhari says it will position Nigeria to earn bigger income from oil and address local energy needs.
"Our country places high premium in creating the right atmosphere that support investments and growth to boost our economy and continue to play an important role in sustaining global energy requirements. We're transforming our petroleum industry to strengthen its capacity and market relevance for the present and future energy priorities," he said.
The transition was triggered by Buhari’s signing of a petroleum industry bill into law last August.
Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and also has huge natural gas reserves. But the country lacks refineries and a reliable electrical grid, leaving millions to grapple with regular power cuts, fuel scarcity and high energy prices.
Some experts like Emmanuel Afimia, founder of Abuja energy consulting company Enermics Consulting Limited, say oil company leaders need to move past business as usual.
"One of the problem we've always had in Nigeria is the problem of implementation. If NNPC can actually do the right thing, if the regulatory authorities can also do the right thing, then I believe that NNPC will be able to achieve its objectives of maximizing the opportunities, maximizing output and also maximizing the profit in the industry,” he said.
Afimia says if properly run, the company will attract more investment.
"With this, funding issues will be resolved because NNPC can simply go into its purse to bring out funds to for funding new oil and gas projects without having to wait for the president or house of assembly to approve anything, it would ensure that the country is able to move fast, and then investors will be confident enough to invest in NNPC," he said.
Authorities say the company could be ready to list its shares on the stock exchange by the middle of next year.
Many will be watching to see how — and if — the rebranding changes the status quo.