By Emmanuel Ugoji
A confirmation that he who the cap fits should wear it has been exemplified at PEF where Alhaji Ahmed Bobboi has served as Executive Secretary since October 2016. His tenure also confirms that society gets better when square pegs are put in square holes and not in round holes.
In one of the articles published to commemorate his first year in office Bobboi was described as a man who does not have nepotism in his dictionary. It was not surprising that soon after he assumed office he adopted the matra of square pegs in square holes to place staff of the agency based on their competence and the results has been outstanding.
Although he was underrated based on the assumption that he was not one of the big names in the downstream sector, little did his critics know that Bobboi has put in some decades of work in PEF where in has worked in several departments and served in many parts of the country and that such movements and deployments equipped him lots of skill and experience he required to run the agency.
He has done so much within the period, but what is most outstanding is his latest achievement which is development of the template on “Downstream Automation Fuel Management Information Systems (DAFMIS). It is an innovation for organizing, evaluating and efficiently controlling PEF (M)B’s operations
It takes an experienced and dedicated person to embark on a project that offers an end to end petroleum tracking, inventory and monitoring solution that will resolve challenges in the downstream petroleum sector and deliver benefits to industry stakeholders and deliver long term socio-economic benefits to Nigerians.
Through the use of a sensor network, DAFMIS generates a near real-time data enabling the monitoring of petroleum products on trucks, depots, jetties and refineries in such a manner that petroleum product marketers who cut corners in the distribution of products are put on their toes.
DAFMIS is a major improvement on Aquila, an automated electronic system which the PEF (M) B has used over the years to acquire and maintain accurate data for petroleum products distribution, ensure transparency and efficiency in the management of bridging claims to marketers.
While Aquila tracks petroleum products from depot to depot and does not monitor products while on transit or monitor what happens to products after receipt at the depot, through DAFMIS PEF (M) B can track products at refineries, inside the vessel used for importation, while loading them on trucks for distribution, ascertain the quality and quantity of products imported and distributed, talk to the driver of loaded truck while in transit. as well as track products after they A major advantage of DAFIMS and which makes it ingenious is that it has a monitoring capacity that finds out when petroleum products are being smuggled outside the country.
Apart from DAFMIS, Bobboi has in four years helped to sustain the supply and demand of products across the country. Prior to his assumption, distribution of products were so epileptic that Nigerians living in hard to reach areas found it extremely difficult to buy petroleum products because of its high cost. Residents of such areas, including farmers paid so much to move farm produce from the hinterland to the markets.
Due to a cordial relationship which he developed with stakeholders, lots of independent marketers opened filling stations in almost every nook and cranny of the country such that the major marketers now own just eight per cent of total number of filling stations in the country. This has also contributed to making the products available at uniform price.
Bobboi has maintained an excellent accounting system using ICT in all PEF operations. No wonder the agency has been recognized by the National Council on Hydrocarbons as an effective fund manager for the petroleum sector.
It is also on record that within his first year in office, Bobboi was able to put under control the divisive politics that caused low staff morale in PEF (M) B such that harmony among staff was achieved within a short period. Prior to the development a lot of staff deployments were made based on considerations that were not in the interest of the organization and Nigeria.
So far, the over 330 staff of the fund work in teams with energies refocused as Bobboi has made it clear that PEF is a national institution whose operations must be in line with national vision and in line with the aspirations of the Federal Government.
To ensure the sustainability of the arrangement, he introduced a staff posting and deployment policy, the first of its kind in the history of PEF. The policy which is reminiscent of what obtains in corporate organizations insists that for any staff to qualify for promotion as a manger, the person must have worked in the field and served in various departments so as to be well rounded and equipped to function in such capacity. He structured the policy in such a way that no staff served in one department for more than four years. Bobboi served in at least seven positions before his appointment as Executive Secretary.
Within the past four years Bobboi was able to carry out lots of staff improvement programs which saw lots of PEF personnel attending several courses both locally and internationally to improve their skills on the job and the outcome has been very rewarding in terms of organizational efficiency and effectiveness. He made training compulsory since he became Executive Secretary.
It will not be forgotten in a hurry that Bobboi took issues of IT seriously right from his first day in office and this explains why all the 30 locations of PEF operations at depots and tank farms have been fully automated in line with the ICT needs of the fund. This refocused the agency and made it to deliver services at minimum costs and with maximum benefits.
PEF (M) B started working with Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to develop software that enabled the agency to ascertain the quantity of products aboard ships, at tank farms, depots, trucks, pipelines and outlets. This singular feat reduced costs of operations while revenue was generated.
With his Midas touch and IT interventions, payment of claims to marketers became more efficient and credible. Payments are now being made on weekly basis based on services rendered as against the previous arrangement where payments were made based on figures quoted on invoices and this was a major source of leakage before his appointment. Allowances accruing to government from marketers are being remitted regularly courtesy of a policy he introduced which allows PEF to withdraw its personnel from depots where marketers failed to live up to their financial obligations.
Presently, Bobboi is pushing for the completion of a new data center in Lagos which will serve as a back-up centre for the retrieval of information in case a crash happens in any of the 130 operational locations.
He is working on a rail equalization project which is targeted at the reduction of pressure on the roads by trucks transporting petroleum products to different parts ofl the country. Already discussions have reached an advanced stage with the National Association of Road Transport workers and Nigeria Railway Corporation so as not ensure that unhealthy competition for business space would not frustrate the project.
The Executive Secretary has commenced the revision of transportation zone mapping so that hard to reach parts of the country including mountainous areas and riverine communities are accommodated in the transportation network of petroleum products. The objective is to reduce the high cost of products in those parts of the country.
The equalization of gas distribution to rural areas is in the works and this will serve as PEF’s contribution to environmental protection because all the fire wood used in domestic cooking contributes a lot to deforestation. A study on the equalization of gas, which he commissioned within his first year in office, has reached an advanced stage.
Going by his performance in the past four years, Bobboi has distinguished himself as one Nigerian who has a knack for excellence when giving an assignment. His gift of reviving an organization and boosting the morale of workers is worthy of emulation by other public officers who are less gifted on how to inject fresh blood into the operations of their organizations.
From all intents and purposes PEF has not had it so good in its the over 40 years of existence and this explains why staff and other stakeholders wish that Bobboi is given the chance to continue with his good works. If he who the cap fits should keep wearing it and if it is true that society does better when square pegs and put in square holes, then the Federal Government should take heed to the wishes and voices of the people.
Emma Ugoji is an Abuja based analyst