By Amin Kef Sesay
Positive development strides by the National Petroleum (NP) SL Limited have made it the epitome of a viable indigenous national enterprise in the petroleum industry. It embodies what the ordinary Sierra Leoneans can achieve when they come together with a shared vision and goal. With a capable Board of Directors and Management the company is contributing positively to the development of the nation.
NP SL-Ltd has turned the fortunes of an entity which started from a humble beginning into a viable profit making and job creation entity. In its employ are Sierra Leoneans occupying various senior and junior positions.
With honouring its tax obligations to Government via the National Revenue Authority (NRA) in a timely manner, the company is also helping to boost the country’s economy as well as the steady and meaningful execution of its Corporate Social Responsibility, which has and still continues to improve the standards of living of many Sierra Leoneans.
The pro-active and sterling initiatives of NP’s Board of Directors and Management in respect of timely procurement of petroleum products and ensuring its availability on the market for public consumption, has seen a marked deviation from the days of fuel shortage to that of abundance.
It is highly commendable for a well-established and result-oriented company like NP to have climbed to such an enviable position especially when cognizance is taken of the fact that it is exclusively owned by Sierra Leonean shareholders, a typical testimony of how local entrepreneurs could raise the bar high.
Going down the annals of history the former British Petroleum Company decided to sell its shares to the Government of Sierra Leone that was in Governance at that material period of time.
Things took a different twist when in 1996 the Government sold its 60% shares in NP to some of the company’s members of staff. Again it was made known that 55 % was paid upfront from the end of service benefits of the workers from BP and the 5% offered to all the other workers. Thus the company known as LEONEOIL was born.
The 55% sale of Government shares to NP came as a result of the World Bank’s advice to privatize the latter. It was also revealed that among the 4 companies that bid, which included ELF, LEONOIL won the international competitive bidding conducted by Arthur De Little, a United States based Management consultancy firm hired by the World Bank.
It could be recalled that the World Bank, which advised Government to privatize NP, monitored the bidding process for the three international companies and one local company that competed culminating in LEONEOIL, which metamorphosed to NP, meeting all the set criteria.
Financial experts, whom The Calabash Newspaper had the privileged to talk with noted that the aforementioned members of staff were indeed entrepreneurs who properly managed the company to such an extent that, unlike others, it survived most of the bottlenecks that it encountered throughout the years it has been in existence.
Shedding light on the historical background of NP, it came out glaringly that the 40% PMMC’s stake in the company, owned by the late Jamil Sahid Mohammed and Tony Yazbeck, was given as collateral for a loan from a Bank by one of the parties.
The business mogul, Jamil Sahid Mohammed, later sold to Cape Oil PMMC’s 40% shares to offset a fidelity loan, but LEONE OIL was not satisfied with that move and took the matter to court on the grounds that it was in violation of the M and A which dictates that the other side has the first option to buy. The outcome of the matter was that the High Court gave judgement in favour of LEONE OIL.
For mischievous reasons certain individuals have been churning out rumours that NP has a monopoly over the petroleum market in the country which is totally untrue, baseless and misleading as it has been factually proven that there are other Marketing Companies marketing petroleum products that are registered with the Petroleum Agency.
It must be noted that Petro-Leone is a storage company developed by both Addax and Leone Oil so that petroleum products will always be available in the country and avert shortage. Experts further stated that if such a venture is disrupted, the country will relapse to the former state of shortage of fuel and long queues will once more re-surface across the country, causing a lot of inconvenience and national hiccups.
At present, NP-SL has filling stations in different parts of the country with other facilities like tyre mending outlets, mini marts and sale of gas in some of them. The company also has branches in neighbouring Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and The Gambia.
NP has mastered the art of marketing petroleum products, is been widely commended for its impressive customer care services, promoting the country’s local content and complementing other Government development interventions.
It can be asserted that the National Petroleum Limited is one that has grown by leaps and bounds. The company is an embodiment of sterling local entrepreneurship that is worthy of emulation.