A Gas-Powered Future: Ekpo’s transformative six months at the helm of Nigeria’s Gas Ministry

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By Dr Owolabi Ajibade

A seismic shift is rocking the Nigerian energy sector. At the epicentre stands Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo, Minister of State Petroleum Resources (Gas).
In just six months – for he assumed office in August 2023 – yet a whirlwind of transformative initiatives have redefined the agenda, placing innovation, sustainability, and global partnership at the heart of a gas-powered future for Nigeria.

Let’s start with the environment, a cherished gift and for which contemporary humanity has an uphill task to protect at all cost. Ekpo’s leadership of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources Gas has demonstrably prioritized environmental responsibility. The pursuit for the Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialisation Programme and other gas monitisation programmes, such as the recent zero-routine gas flare milestone recorded by TotalEnergies, stand as a landmark achievement. This decisive action not only combats greenhouse gas emissions, but also promotes responsible resource utilization, a critical step towards a cleaner future.
In addition, the resolution of gas supply issues for Geometric Power Plant in Aba, Abia State is a testament to the Minister’s focus on tangible results. By ensuring steady flow of gas, the plant’s recent commissioning not only improves regional energy security, but also fosters industrial growth and socio-economic development.

Worth also lauding in the last six months is the Minister’s aggressive push for the completion of the multi-billion dollar Obrikom-Obiafo-Oben (OB3) and Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipelines’ projects. These critical infrastructure will not only stimulate economic activities and job creation, but also strengthen the nation’s energy backbone, ensuring efficient gas transportation and distribution.

Ekpo’s strategic vision, however, extends beyond national boundaries. The ongoing bilateral discussions surrounding the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline project highlight his commitment to regional cooperation and energy integration.
This ambitious project, connecting multiple West African nations and ultimately Europe, has the potential to unlock new markets, diversify revenue streams, and solidify Nigeria’s position as a global energy leader.

In the same vein, recognizing the interconnectedness of the energy sector, Ekpo established an inter-ministerial gas task force in collaboration with the Ministry of Power. This collaborative effort fosters synergy between key stakeholders, aiming to address low gas supply to thermal power plants, enhance energy security, and ultimately achieve sustainable growth along the power value chain.

Ekpo’s inclusive leadership style is also underscored by his sustained engagement with a diverse range of stakeholders. From government agencies to industry players and external partners, this open dialogue fosters collaboration and consensus-building, a vital step in harnessing Nigeria’s vast gas reserves for the nation’s collective benefit.

The drive to ensure gas affordability by Nigerians has led to Minister Ekpo’s directive for the domestication of in-country LPG: Imagine cleaner air, cheaper cooking fuel, and a booming job market. That’s the tantalizing future on the horizon thanks to a bold new initiative by Rt. Hon. Ekpo.
His focus on boosting affordable LPG use could mean putting clean, efficient energy within reach of millions of Nigerians, while igniting a wave of local business growth. This is not just about gas; it is about empowering Nigerian homes and industries to thrive.

The Gas Minister’s scorecard in the last six months is not without his pursuit of innovation as the engine of progress. In fact, embracing the future, Ekpo has championed technological advancements. His push for automation of the National Gas grid network and the revitalization of virtual pipeline deliveries demonstrates his commitment to optimizing gas supply chains, maximizing operational efficiency, and enabling real-time monitoring and response capabilities.

Rt Hon. Ekpo’s proactive approach to regulatory challenges is a masterstroke in unlocking the true potential of Nigeria’s gas sector. Unlike navigating a jungle, a well-defined regulatory environment is like operating on a well-lit highway. His focus on gas pricing ensures fairness for producers and consumers alike, fostering a stable and predictable market.

His emphasis on flare elimination and methane abatement in line with global best practices demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, attracting investors seeking sustainable practices.

Frameworks like the MDGIF Council establish clear guidelines and a collaborative platform for stakeholders, streamlining operations and minimizing bureaucratic hurdles. In essence, these strategic actions are akin to building the essential infrastructure – not just pipelines, but a robust regulatory framework – that will propel sustainable growth within the gas sector. This allows businesses to invest with confidence, ultimately leading to a thriving gas industry that benefits both Nigeria and the investment community.

Minister Ekpo is not just talking about a brighter future for Nigerian gas, he is building it. The commissioning of a cutting-edge LPG vessel and the launch of groundbreaking ceremonies for crucial infrastructure projects are more than just ribbon-cuttings – they are concrete steps towards a future powered by clean energy and economic diversification. This focus on infrastructure ensures Nigeria has the pipelines in place to deliver its gas wealth not just today, but for generations to come.

In conclusion, Rt. Hon. Ekperikpe Ekpo’s tenure has been marked by visionary leadership, strategic foresight, and demonstrably positive outcomes. His achievements in fostering innovation, attracting investments, and prioritizing sustainability have laid a strong foundation for the transformation of Nigeria’s gas industry and the establishment of a robust gas-based economy.

Imagine a Nigeria where clean, efficient LPG fuels homes, businesses, and industries across the nation.
Minister Ekpo’s focus on domestication efforts is making this a reality, improving air quality and public health. Beyond homes, a revitalized gas sector will usher in an era of economic opportunity. The projects spearheaded by Minister Ekpo will create jobs, empower local businesses, and position Nigeria as a key player in the global energy market.

As Nigeria navigates the evolving global energy landscape, Ekpo’s leadership stands as a beacon of progress, ensuring that the nation leverages its vast human and natural resources for the benefit of all its citizens.
By unlocking the potential of its gas reserves, Nigeria can look forward to a future powered by progress, prosperity, and a cleaner environment.

Dr. Ajibade is a gas expert with over 20 years of experience in the energy sector and wrote from Lagos.