…a truly commercial company is expected to be more concerned with recruiting the right skill sets and competences, without any recourse to trivialities of nationality or ethnicity. Moreso, the idea of employing foreign nationals aligns perfectly with injecting world-class technical expertise into a company that has over 99% of Nigerians as its staff. As long as the company has not exceeded its expatriate quota, it is well within its rights to recruit qualified personnel from wherever they may be found in the world.
Some foreign expatriates have been hired by the Nigerian national oil company. The decision was in furtherance of the ongoing repositioning drive towards enhanced growth, better performance and improved service delivery according to one of its communications. The development was in consonance with the company's renewed aspiration as it consolidates on its journey towards becoming a full commercial entity.
The development, typical of any other issue in this country, made it's rounds in news fora and online discussion circles, with almost every Nigerian having an opinion on it. What are the problems? There is a lot of fuss about this. Why did the NNPC decide to hire foreign nationals to run some of its business units? Who are the expatriates hired by the NNPC and did the company violate any rules? This piece will answer many more posers.
The coming of the PIA will allow the NNPC to grow its business portfolio, increase its bottom line and improve its operational efficiency. The best-in-class personnel are hired for its jobs to up the skill set and competences. The focus should be on improving the bottom-line for an organisation that is currently a limited liability company since certain decisions by the NNPC are expected to be made solely for business reasons.
Three expatriates were hired to head three of the company's core businesses. Huub Stokman was the first to be hired and he was the Managing Director of NNPC Retail. Mr Jean-Marc Cordier, a French/Swiss national, was the head of the trading arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. The Chief Operating Officer of the NNPC Exploration and Production Company, a Belgian, was hired a few days later.
What are these expatriates bringing to the jobs? Mr Huub Stokman is the Managing Director of NNPC Retail. He received a certificate in general international management from the INSEAD Business School in France.
He has held several sales management and change management roles at the company for over twenty years. He was at several locations in Germany, UK, Austria and Ukraine, where he worked as the Divisional Manager Bitumen, Central and Eastern Europe.
As General Manager of the company, he oversaw retail forecourt operations, fuel wholesale, industrial customers, lubricants, Bitumen and aviation business. For the past five years, he was the Chief Executive Officer of OVH Energy, which spanned over 400 retail service stations and was an Oando licensee.
The national oil company acquired Oando's OVH, taking over its downstream assets under the Accelerated Network Expansion (ANEX). A reception jetty with a 240,000MT monthly capacity was added to the NNPC's fold. Over 400 additional filling stations were added under the NNPC retail brand in Nigeria and Togo.
He was hired as the head of the company. The appointment of a renowned oil trader, Cordier, was not a big deal. Mr Cordier earned a Masters degree in Corporate Finance from Paris 9 University. He has thirty years of experience in global oil markets. He was a former vice president of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, one of the world's largest oil companies.
A renowned international oil trader, Cordier comes to the role with a rich background that spans over 30 years in physical oil, oil derivatives and risk management. He worked for 24 years with Elf Trading/Total Trading and four years as the Global Trading Manager at Addax Energy in Switzerland.
He was in charge of building the trading activity for ADNOC at the time of the launch of AGT.
The appointment of Mr Cordier will help towards achieving the strategic direction of NNPC Trading, which hinges on the maximization of crude trading and the expansion of the local portfolio. Mr Cordier has over three decades of experience in building successful international oil trading businesses.
The COO of NEPL was also hired. A Belgian national, Mr Foucart is a 1993 graduate of Civil Engineering from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. He started his career as a Project Engineer at Repsol in Algeria, working in the company's productive assets and development projects He has over 25 years of experience in the oil and gas industry.
Between April 1997 and April 2013, Foucart rose through the ranks at Repsol working as construction manager, asset manager, production engineering manager, project and engineering manager, and director. He was in charge of Phases 150 and 450 of the Development Project of the offshore Perla Field when he was working for Repsol.
As the E and P Cost Efficiency Director at Repsol, Foucart was in charge of the company's RISE, a vehicle that supports Repsol's E and P in achieving its business. He was promoted to Chief Operations Officer at Repsol Sinopec Resources UK LIMITED in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, in October of last year, where he was responsible for the safe and reliable operation of nine assets.
He was promoted to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Repsol in September 2022. As the CEO of Repsol Sinopec Resources UK LIMITED in Aberdeen, Scotland, UK, Foucart was instrumental to the improvement of the company's operational performance.
Did NNPC violate any rules in hiring these expatriates? Yes, the answer is no. NNPC is not breaking any law by using expatriates. The Nigerian government approves expatriate quota for multinational companies operating in the country, and the NNPC is one of them. The Nigerian Local Content law is very clear. Multinational companies deal with business partners from different countries across the globe in order to facilitate international business and there may be a need for non- indigenous manpower and expertise.
The fact that a truly commercial company is expected to be more concerned with recruiting the right skill sets and competences without any recourse to trivialities of nationality or ethnicity is also included. The idea of employing foreign nationals is compatible with injecting world-class technical expertise into a company that has over 99% of Nigerian employees. If the company has not exceeded its expatriate quota, it is within its rights to recruit qualified personnel from anywhere in the world.
The question should be asked by those who get emotional over the new hires, at what point did the NigerianLNG start having a Nigerian as its managing director? Telecom companies in Nigeria have been headed by expatriates. By keeping quiet if they can't clap, the naysayers will help the NNPC to operate as efficiently and as profitable as it can be.
James Samuel wrote from Lagos.
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