The new Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Kuwaiti’s Haitham Al Ghais, yesterday engaged the Nigerian media on his immediate plans for the oil industry, hours after he assumed duty as the new head of the organisation.
Al Ghais, who spoke glowingly of his predecessor, Sanusi Barkindo, who died while on a visit to Nigeria last month, explained that while the legacies of the late Barkindo would continue to be upheld, members of OPEC would collectively determine the next set of decisions by the body.
The new OPEC secretary general was unanimously picked by member nations in January and was already in waiting to succeed Barkindo before the death of the Nigerian-born global oil and gas leader.
Fielding questions during the virtual event, Al Ghais stated that the 600 million Africans currently without electricity must be considered while the global discussions on the current energy transition are ongoing.
“The African continent has over 1.2 billion population, with over 600 people without electricity. There is an ongoing discussion about energy transition, and the voice of the people needs to be heard and taken into consideration and accounted for.
“In the energy transition, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Everybody’s voice must be represented and everybody must be part of the dialogue, particularly on the African continent,” he declared. While underscoring the critical role Nigeria plays in OPEC and its pivotal place in the African oil and gas market, he promised to visit Nigeria soon, maintaining that with the cooperation of Nigeria and other member nations, OPEC would weather the storms in the global oil market
Describing the ongoing construction of a regional gas pipeline that would convey Nigeria’s gas to Niger, Algeria and then to Europe as a significant development, Al Ghais stated that any assistance to be rendered to the continent must be collectively discussed and agreed on by all stakeholders in OPEC.
According to him, while OPEC decisions are usually collective, the framework laid in stabilising the global oil industry by Barkindo at the organisation will not be abandoned.
He added: “In OPEC, the direction is dictated by market conditions, which is what unites OPEC and the wider group of OPEC+, to do whatever is necessary to maintain the market balance.
“Healthy state of the market, which is a balance between supply and demand, is to the benefit of not only the oil producing, but also the oil consuming countries, and the wider global economy.
“I will maintain this course and direction. It is not only me personally, it is all the organisations within OPEC member countries and the wider alliance of the OPEC+ who are interested in maintaining what late Barkindo embarked on in 2016.”
After observing a minute’s silence for the late Barkindo, he described the former OPEC head’s death as tragic, noting that the demise was not only a personal loss, but one that was felt globally.
Al Ghais stated that Barkindo worked for OPEC’s multilateralism and played prominent roles in the dialogue among energy stakeholders around the world and expressed the hope that he would be able to build on the many legacies of the late Nigerian.
“We travelled together for various meetings and occasions related to OPEC, and OPEC+, and Mohammed Barkindo and I were such close personal friends…His death was a tragic day for me. When I woke up at 6am in the morning in Kuwait, and I got a message from one of the governors here representing one of the member countries, I was in disbelief.
“The name Mohammed Barkindo is well known everywhere you go. He was an ambassador for OPEC and for OPEC+. He was a man who worked for cooperation, for multilateralism, for dialogue among everybody and all the energy stakeholders around the world.
“We will ensure his legacy will live on. He has built a lot and I hope to be able to build on it,” he said. Responding to a question on how he intends to handle pressure from the United States to supply more gas to the global market, Al Ghais noted that he would be willing to sit down with officials from the country to discuss the way forward for the industry