Musical Chairs Follow Lukman Resignation: The Sudden Resignation of Rilwanu Lukman, Nigeria's 'Mr Oil' from His Position as Adviser to President Obasanjo Sent Shock Waves through the Industry and Triggered a Series of Changes of Personnel. Why Did He Resign and What Does It Portend?

By Ford, Neil | African Business, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Musical Chairs Follow Lukman Resignation: The Sudden Resignation of Rilwanu Lukman, Nigeria's 'Mr Oil' from His Position as Adviser to President Obasanjo Sent Shock Waves through the Industry and Triggered a Series of Changes of Personnel. Why Did He Resign and What Does It Portend?


Ford, Neil, African Business


The best known figure in Nigerian oil politics, the Presidential Special Adviser on Petroleum Resources, Rilwanu Lukman, has resigned. Although Lukman did not give any official explanation for his decision, it is understood that a clash over oil sector reform with the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Jackson Gaius Obaseki, precipitated the move. It has been suggested by some in Nigeria that 65 year old Lukman will shortly be unveiled as the country's new ambassador in Washington, but this has yet to be confirmed.

Obaseki himself was replaced at the helm of the NNPC on 3 November, signalling the government's desire to remove the NNPC's monopoly over the import of oil.

In a television broadcast, Obasanjo said that he will now push ahead with lifting the monopoly. He said: "Maybe those who get involved in the monopoly of importation are also ensuring that the refineries are not working satisfactorily. Maybe if there is no monopoly it will be easier to get our refineries to work."

The departure of the two men triggered several other personnel changes. One of Obaseki's predecessors as NNPC group managing director, Edmund Daukoru, was named as Lukman's replacement as Presidential advisor. An engineer from the oil producing state of Ondo, Daukoru has previously worked as production general manager at Shell Petroleum Development Company.

Funso Kupolokun, the hitherto Special Assistant on Petroleum Matters to the President, and effectively Lukman's former number two, has replaced Obaseki at the NNPC, where be has previously served as group executive director Alhaji Jafaru Paki, a former managing director of Unipetrol Nigeria, has taken Kupolokun's place. The game of musical chairs continued further down the feeding chain, with the retirement of three NNPC group executive directors and another 25 senior officials.

Matters appear to have come to a head at a meeting held on October 1 and Lukman, known as the face of the Nigerian oil industry, tendered his resignation three days later. In his letter to the president, the former adviser thanked President Olusegun Obasanjo for the opportunity he had been given to serve the nation and he commended Obasanjo for the growth and stability the President had brought to the economy. He officially stepped down at the end of the month, after having been the Presidential oil adviser since the 1999 return to democracy.

Since his 1999 election victory, Obasanjo has adopted a hands on approach towards the oil sector and has never appointed a minister of oil. Instead, he has preferred to handle most matters himself, with the help of his previously key adviser, Rilwanu Lukman. If Lukman has been feeling increasingly sidelined, then this could also indicate Obasanjo's increasing control over policy making.

Lukman previously represented the President at NNPC meetings and acted as alternate chairman of the NNPC, while Obaseki had hitherto reported directly to both Lukman and Obasanjo. It is understood that Lukman felt his efforts to liberalise the oil sector were losing out to Obaseki's determination to maintain the position of NNPC. It will there fore be interesting to watch the pace of change in the Nigerian oil industry over the next year.

NNPC holds 50-60% equity in many of the E&P consortia operating in the country and there has been some conflict between the parastatal and the oil majors over funding development work.

RESIGNED OUT OF FRUSTRATION?

Rilwanu Lukman had previously managed Cement Company of Northern Nigeria and Nigerian Mining Corporation during the 1970s and early 1980s, before joining the government. He served as the Minister of Mines, Power and Steel for two years from 1984; Minister of Petroleum Resources (1986-89); and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1989-90). His time in the petroleum and foreign affairs Ministries prepared him for a career in international oil politics and following a spell as Opec secretary-general, Lukman joined the Obasanjo team. …

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Musical Chairs Follow Lukman Resignation: The Sudden Resignation of Rilwanu Lukman, Nigeria's 'Mr Oil' from His Position as Adviser to President Obasanjo Sent Shock Waves through the Industry and Triggered a Series of Changes of Personnel. Why Did He Resign and What Does It Portend?
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