The appointment of Jean-Marc Cordier as the head of the oil trading arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited has raised diverse concerns among industry experts and operators.
Cordier would head NNPC Trading Ltd, a subsidiary of NNPCL, and this was announced in a statement issued in Abuja by the company’s Chief Corporate Communications Officer, Garba-Deen Muhammad.
The announcement, however, triggered resentments among analysts and operators on Monday, though other experts found nothing wrong with the development.
Energy expert and Chief Executive Officer, Sage Consulting, Bode Fadipe, said, “It is of concern to most Nigerians that at this time of our life we are still having a foreigner in such a strategic business enterprise in this country.
“The question many people will ask is that, don’t we have Nigerians who can manage that office? Are the expatriates now investors in the business or is it a joint venture that allows a foreigner to hold that kind of position?
“Has NNPC Ltd sold its shares to the public? To the best of my knowledge, it is still the Nigerian government that owns the shares in NNPCL. It is still owned by the government, so when did it start appointing foreigners to such a level?”
Fadipe said this was the first time he would see such an appointment in the national oil company, describing the development as abnormal.
“I think it is an anomaly. I don’t know what would have informed that kind of position, but I think it is a situation that calls for further interrogation,” the energy analyst stated.
But on his part, a legal consultant and energy law advisor, Prof. Yemi Oke, argued that under the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, NNPCL should be a going concern, as there were requirements under the law for appointments.
“There are other Nigerian companies that have expatriates as employees, all they need is to comply with the expatriate quota and show that there’s no local manpower skilled enough to man that particular office, due to the technical nature of the position,” he stated.
However, an impeccable source at the national oil firm told our correspondent that most commercially viable subsidiaries of NNPCL would be managed by expatriates, going forward.
“I was reliably told that most subsidiaries or units that are commercially viable, the operations would be managed by expatriates, with the those in M3 category now limited to administrative schedules.
“This is same with NNPC Retails (the filling stations arm), NETCO (National Engineering and Technical Company), NPDC (Nigeria Upstream Development Company), etc,” the source, who pleaded not to be named due to lack of authorisation, stated.
The source added, “If the expatriates are on M3 NNPC grade (Executive Vice President is M2, Group Chief Executive Officer is M1), would that not lead to rivalry and conflict, at the expense of the company’s man-hours?”
When asked what then could be the reasons for appointing expatriates if the units to be headed by them were currently commercially viable under the management of indigenes, the source replied, “Perhaps, it is to instill higher productivity, improved net profit, better efficiency and operational effectiveness.”
NNPCL, in its statement, said Cordier, served as a former Vice President of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, adding that his appointment was in furtherance of the ongoing repositioning in the company for improved growth, better performance and service delivery.
The statement read in part, “A renowned international oil trader, Cordier, a French/Swiss national, holds a Masters degree in Corporate Finance with Distinction from Paris 9 University.
“He comes into the role with a rich background spanning over 30 years in physical oil, oil derivatives, and risk management, with significant experience in reorganising and creating a trading business.”
Also commenting on the development, the President, Nigeria Consumer Protection Network, Kunle Olubiyo, said NNPCL should endeavour to promote the local content drive of the Federal Government.
“Does it mean that there are no competent Nigerians who could do the same job, with respect to the promotion of local content? NNCPL has a mandate of refining petroleum products and it is a national company.
“So for it to now go out to look for a foreigner shows that it is taking the wrong direction. Was it established solely as an oil marketing company? I think that move is a misalignment on this part,” he stated.