By Amin Kef Sesay
“I am wondering what could have been the situation with regards accessing petroleum products in this country in the absence of the National Petroleum-Sierra Leone Limited (NP-SL Ltd),”an influential businessman, Mohamed Jibateh, stated at one of the company’s Filling Stations in Bo, where this writer was also purchasing fuel. Attracted by his comment, I humbly asked him why he expressed such an opinion.
“This is one company that I have been closely watching over the years and I have noticed how it has grown, how it is consistent in the importation and marketing of high grade petroleum products, how it is very mindful of enhancing customer care,” he responded with sparkling eyes furthering that, as far as he knows, historically other oil marketing companies could not stand the test of time and as a result quickly folded up and some of those that are present in the country are not even effectively and vibrantly functioning as NP-SL Ltd is doing.
He furthered that since he started using Castrol Oil, a lubricant marketed by the company, the engines of all his vehicles are performing very well, also stating that all of those vehicles are in proper and good working order. He underscored how he has never come across a lubricant that is as qualitative and effective as Castrol Oil also admitting that it is not just an oil but a liquid engineering.
When I introduced myself as a journalist that is conducting a research on the operations of petroleum companies in this country, Mohamed Jibateh, became very much interested in the discussion. He suggested that we could chat in the shopping mart at the Filling Station so that he could tell me more about his impressions of the company which he believes could help me in my research.
He started by intimating that, indeed, the Shareholders of NP-SL Ltd are real business-minded personalities who have demonstrated and crystalized their collective ambition into a successful reality. “The well-structured Filling Stations of the company are a testament that these indigenous investors really decided to embark on an organized business venture contrary to a haphazard way of doing things. Are not the Filling Stations of the company draped in yellow and green colours really attractive?” he asked rhetorically with a broad smile to which I nodded in agreement.
The renowned business man then moved on to state that when it comes to customer care NP-SL Ltd cannot be really matched by any other petroleum marketing company in this country. “The company is not putting a borrowed robe when it is referred to as 1st for Customer Care as over the years it has proven beyond all reasonable doubts that it has mastered the art of enhancing customer care,” he maintained, anchoring that he is speaking from the perspective of a customer who has felt and seen it on several occasions.
He talked about how members of staff of the petroleum business entity, especially the pump attendants, are very polite and courteous when dealing with customers. “They will patiently listen to concerns and proffer solutions. If they think certain concerns are above them to address then they will direct the enquirer to the requisite individual they believe could address them adequately,” he pointed out underscoring that when customers and non-customers are treated in dignified ways, giving them the opportunity to have their concerns and views known and addressed then such could definitely enhance the credibility and integrity of the company.
Jibateh said the calibrated pumping machines that the company is using to sell petrol and diesel are very standardized. “They are so precise in pumping the right quantity of fuel to an extent that buyers always have the confidence that they are getting value for money, are very transparent, cannot be easily and clandestinely manipulated by unscrupulous persons,” he noted adding that it could one reason why buyers’ confidence in the company is at the highest peak.
“Maybe you could say I am obsessed with the products that the company markets which you may conclude when I tell you now that I am using NP Gas at home,” he was referring to a cooker that is produced for the company in different cylinder sizes. He talked about the high performance of NP Gas that he is using at home praising it for not being injurious to the health and how he easily refills it with gas that he intermittently buys at any NP-SL Filling Station. “I am recommending it as a useful gadget for everyone as I know no one will have regrets for having one at home,” he told me when I raised the points of dangerous gaseous emission and refilling.
Inside the shopping mart where we were sipping soft drinks, I was joined by a friend, Abu Whyte Jones, who then sat with us. After an introduction was made and noting what we were discussing, as a way of adding his own voice, Abu Whyte Jones made mention of how NP-SL gives preferential opportunity to Sierra Leoneans when it comes to job employment. My new friend, the businessman, was quick to conclude that such is indeed a positive move in and one in the right direction. “It is in line with promoting the country’s Local Content Policy and such has been helping greatly with regards reducing the level of unemployment in the country as well as poverty,” he stated adding how it is rare to see such an empowerment in operation with certain companies.
Jibateh again highlighted how he has heard about the vibrancy of the company’s branches in Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and The Gambia. “It shows that the company is worth its salt and a real manifestation of true entrepreneurship,” he rated.
“In terms of fulfilling its Corporate Social Responsibility what I have so far heard about NP-SL is impressive. Apart from all the worthy causes that they have supported their latest of availing Government One Billion Leones to help combat COVID-19, which I read in your medium, is really commendable and that is how it should be as it lends credence to public-private partnership,” he stated in business-like manner.
Our discussion ended by him stating that indeed it is not really certain what the situation would have been with regards the absence of NP-SL Ltd in terms of accessing petroleum products in the country but maintained that factually the company is doing extremely well by timely assuaging the petroleum needs of the public and be extension contributing positively to the socio-economic development.