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F.R.A. Marinho: Tribute to Father of Nigeria’s Oil and Gas Industry

-By Gideon Osaka

The oil and gas industry was again thrown into a state of shock on Tuesday January 19, 2021 following the announcement of the death of Chief Festus Remi Ayodele Marinho, the first Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Marinho’s death came at a time the industry in Nigeria was yet to come to terms with the demise in quick succession, of two former NNPC GMD’s, Maikanti Baru and Joseph Dawha in 2020.

The man who once described himself as the only Nigerian worker who was retired twice from service, is widely and collectively described as the father of Oil and Gas Industry in Nigeria, the industry that lays the golden egg.

Marinho who was born on December 30, 1934, and passed on at the age of 86, is survived by his wife, Chief (Mrs.) Yetunde Oreoluwa Marinho, five children, 14 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Background

Born at Ijebu-Ode in Ogun state, Chief Marinho’s childhood was spent at the “Brazilian Quarters” of Lagos Island where he attended St. Gregory’s College, Obalende.

In 1956, he matriculated into the University College, Ibadan, became a ’College Scholar’ in 1957 and graduated with Bachelor of Science (Special Honours) in Physics in 1960. He thereafter proceeded to Imperial College, London for post-graduate studies in Petroleum Reservoir Engineering from 1960 to 1961.

Thereafter, he undertook various practical attachments with International Petroleum and Service Companies as well as in established and reputed Oil Conservation Boards all over the world. Throughout his career, he undertook further training at various Technology and Management Institutions. He visited more than 35 countries in all the continents, attending conferences, seminars, OPEC meetings and other official assignments.

Public Service

His public service journey started sixty years ago, in June 1960 (just before Nigeria’s Independence) at the age of 25. He was one of the three graduates in the five-man team that started the then Hydrocarbon Unit in the Ministry of Mines and Lagos Affairs. Chief Marinho rose rapidly to become, in 1971, the first Deputy Director of Nigeria’s just maturing Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and then the first and only counterpart Director of Petroleum Resources, ever, from 1975-77.

He led the technical team that started up the Nigerian National Oil Corporation (the precursor of the NNPC) as its first Manager-in-Charge from 1973-75. He was appointed the MD of the NNPC at its inauguration on April 1st 1977.

Achievements

Chief Marinho, was the first and only Managing Director of the defunct Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC) – the forerunner of NNPC – and the only one who served twice as Group Managing Director of NNPC having served from 1977-1979 and 1984-1985 respectively. His last appointment was made by President Muhammadu Buhari as Head of State.

He had been at the vanguard of the oil industry’s development and growth in Nigeria from its earliest dawn and effectively focused the NNPC as an instrument for the achievement of Government policies.

He spear-headed the drafting of Nigeria’s most important Petroleum Laws and Regulations that have existed without major amendments for more than four decades; managed the planning and construction of three refineries within a decade; the construction of an extensive network of products and crude pipelines and petroleum storage depots countrywide within the same time frame; he broke the monopoly of the major multinational products’ marketers in the domestic products’ market by throwing the field open to independent indigenous marketers’; drove Nigeria’s aspirations for Nigerianisation, domestication of technical expertise; his relentless effort to commercialise the nation’s natural gas resulted in the construction of base-load pipelines to the west and north of Nigeria and set the foundation for the now thriving Natural gas, liquids and liquefied, middle stream activities.

He contributed significantly to the nation’s interaction with OPEC and to the insurance of Nigeria’s continued relevance, nationally and internationally.

His activities were briefly interrupted by the ‘N2.8billion ‘Oil-gate saga’, with his redeployment and subsequently re-instated as a second time MD of the NNPC, after the ‘hue and cry’ had been established to be a ‘hoax’ by the Justice Irikefe Judicial Tribunal of Inquiry.

Post NNPC, Chief Marinho played further background roles in the Oil Industry, including serving as Alternate Chairman of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited and the Bonny Gas Transport Company Ltd. He was one time director of Nigerian Agip Oil Company and Agip Natural Energy Resources Co and  a Director of NLPC Pension Fund Administrator

Chief Marinho was a leading light in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry as he devoted his entire career to developing the industry which is today the mainstay of the economy.

He was a recipient of many religious, traditional and professional awards including a Papal Knighthood, medals and recognition by, among others, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, the Petroleum Training Institute, Warri and the Nigerian Gas Association. He was the 1985 University of Ibadan Alumni Lecturer.

One of his last major outing in the industry was in July 2018, when he was among past GMD’s that graced the valedictory ceremony in Abuja  in honour of late Maikanti Baru the immediate past GMD of the NNPC.

At that event, Chief Marinho gave a remark that drew admiration and applause from the cheering crowd.

“On the day of my dismissal, the Federal Government sent me a letter of retirement. The following year, the Minister also sent me another letter of retirement. So apparently, I’m the only one in Nigeria who was retired twice,” he said.

Few years back when the premier NNPC Group Managing Director turned 80, a symposium was organised as part of the Octogenarian’s birthday celebration. The Chairman of that ocassion, His Royal Highness Dr. Edmund Madubebe Daukoru, described Chief Marinho as “the father of Oil & Gas Industry in Nigeria”.

He recalled Chief Marinho’s constructive engagement with the IOCs and how most of them (Nigerians) working for Shell benefited from his protective arms. The royal Father said Chief Marinho was a very good Manager of human resources and a visionary leader. He averred that the Nigerian content we harp about today was perhaps pioneered by him and stressed that Chief Marinho was a very kind man, who stands for integrity and forthrightness in his dealings with people.

At end of the session, Chief Marinho, on whose behalf the symposium was organized, revealed that throughout his years as the CEO, he served under the military where decision making was short and without the shackles of bureaucracy.

He said he was likely to be the only GMD to get a legislation signed into law in seven days. He thanked God that he was lucky to have served under Heads of state who saw his proposals – whether it was the refinery construction, the Pipelines or human capacity development, for what it was: an effort at national development; and gave him all the necessary approvals and supports.

Industry mourns

The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, in a condolence message to the family of the late NNPC boss, also described Chief Marinho as “the Father of Oil & Gas Industry in Nigeria” because of the pioneering roles he played in the crafting of the institutional framework, infrastructural development and international best practices being used in the Corporation till date. 

 Mallam Kyari  in the condolence message,  said his role in refinery and pipeline construction and human capacity development were all testimonies of his contribution to national development.

He said Chief Marinho’s visionary leadership provided the foundation for what has come to be known as “Nigerian content”, adding that his achievements in the Corporation would be a beacon and inspiration for many future generations of staff and leaders. 

“He was indeed a rare gem and we will surely miss his wisdom and wealth of experience,” the GMD stated.

The Chief Executive Officer of Lekoil Lekan Akinyanmi in a condolence statement said:

“Words will fail us to describe the enthusiasm and devotion exhibited by Chief Marinho while he served as Lekoil Chairman. Even after retirement from our Board, he remained a confidant and advisor to me personally. He will be sorely missed.”

Chief Marinho was Chairman of Lekoil between 2011 to 2013 and oversaw the groundwork of the company which has grown to become a major indegenious oil and gas industry player in West Africa.

“His insights and passion for industry growth will be sorely missed. We express our deepest condolences to his family,” Mr. Akinyanmi said.

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