By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In order to interact with members of the Fourth Estate and to demonstrate transparency as to how the company operates, on the 25th April, 2023 some Board Members and Management of NP (SL) Ltd, comprising Crispin Mackay, Desmond G. Williams, Gibril Saccoh, Ambassador Kobi Walker, Vandi Bockarie and Dr. Williette James, engaged a cross-section of journalists at the company’s Head Office on Siaka Stevens Street, close to the Cotton Tree, to dilate on issues pertinent to the functioning of the petroleum importing and marketing business entity and how it has fared on over the years.
Chief Executive Officer of NP (SL), Ambassador Kobi Walker, who is held in high esteem for diligently and efficiently injecting sound managerial initiatives that have catapulted the entity to higher heights. making it one of the most successful indigenous business entities in the country, that had and still continues to contribute immensely towards socio-economic development, gave a brief historical synopsis of how the origins of the company.
According to the astute and savvy Chief Executive Officer, it was thirty-five Sierra Leoneans, four decades ago, who were former employees of the British Petroleum (BP) Company, that came together and decided to invest their end of service benefits by purchasing shares from the company that was in liquidation at that material time to establish what today has become NP (SL) Ltd.
He emphasized that it was in 1996, under the leadership of the current President of Sierra Leone, Dr Julius Maada Bio, at a time when the country was under a junta that the company became a privately owned business entity adding that from that time up to the present moment the company has maintained its autonomy devoid of any politician having a stake in it.
The CEO further intimated as it stands currently in the country, NP (SL) Ltd and Leonco are the two biggest players in the petroleum landscape as they are the largest importers and marketers of petroleum products in the country but was quick to underscore that NP(SL)Ltd , however, imports the largest quantities of fuel, which includes petrol and diesel, further divulging that the company has a large storage facility at the Kissy Terminal capable of retaining large quantities that last for a considerable period of time.
Kobi Walker registered the fact that the two companies are not in any form of competition but rather are complementing each other especially in periods of fuel crisis adding that their main focus is looking at the bigger picture which is to diligently assuage the petroleum needs of individuals and institutions in a smooth way that ends up in a win-win situation for all.
He continued that contrary to negative propaganda that the company has politicians as shareholders and as a result its Management is sometimes being held captive or are remote controlled by politicians, the reality of the situation is that NP (SL) Ltd is wholly a privately owned indigenous petroleum marketing company.
The Chief Executive Officer intimated newsmen that, regardless of the challenges that the company had been grappling with, it has over the years expanded its operations within the West African Sub-region to neighbouring Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and The Gambia where they are also marketing petroleum products as well as providing other related services to the wider public.
In a professional and articulate manner, demonstrating immense knowledge of the operations of the company, he disclosed that NP (SL) Ltd stands tall as one of the indigenous companies that are truly adhering to the country’s Local Content Policy. In explaining how that is done he revealed how the company places premium on offering employment opportunities to primarily Sierra Leoneans as well as sub-contracting Sierra Leonean entities to carry out certain tasks as when the need arise.
“This is a policy that we do not just take for granted and through it the company has empowered a lot of Sierra Leoneans socially and financially as well as other local service providers, an accomplishment which all of us must be proud of,” he stated with pride.
Dilating on how the company is a responsible corporate citizen, Kobi Walker , informed journalists how the company has stood by the side of the Government and People of Sierra Leone in thick and thin, making reference to the swift response of the company during national disasters or alarming situations like the outbreak of the Corona Virus when it donated up to a Billion Leones to help combat the spread of the virus, how it decided to fund the construction of a Burns Unit at the Connaught Hospital in the wake of the Wellington Tanker explosion saga that claimed many lives, empowering the National Fire Force to easily access water by funding the construction of boreholes and others which he mentioned in passing.
He disclosed that there was a time when the NP-SL Ltd. was inundated with bad press reports following the arrival of a rival company APP. “At that time, it was very unfortunate that almost every press house wrote exciting stories about APP and wrote very unexciting and damaging stories about NP-SL Ltd. It was only The Calabash Newspaper and One Drop that cared to ask us for our own side to the story and we told them and they wrote. I thank them for that,” Amb. Walker commended.
He concluded by calling on members of the Press to continue to spread the good news of the company and equally so to constructively point out any flaw that needs to be addressed.
On his part, the Sales Manager of NP (SL) Ltd, Vandi Bockarie, told journalists that from time to time the company teams up with entrepreneurs to open new Filling Stations in different parts of the country. “We provide the technical expertise as to how the stations are supposed to be constructed after which we provide the calibrated pumping machines and from time to time supply fuel to these new Filling Stations,” he explained adding that they have succeeded in having a presence in all the districts in the country with the aim of making petroleum products accessible to many.
A snap question and answer session for clarity climaxed the engagement.
In another engagement, the Human Rights Commission-Sierra Leone (HRCSL), through its Directorate of Business and Human Rights and Labour Relations on Tuesday 25th April commenced a wave of strategic engagements with Oil Marketing Companies in the country beginning with the Management of NP SL Limited.
The purpose was to share findings of a monitoring exercise conducted by the Directorate in January this year in some fuel/gas stations in Freetown, where alleged human rights violations were documented.
Recommendations on how to mitigate such violations were put forward by the Commission and a collaboration on training of staff of the company on human rights in relation to business and employee relations was discussed.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NP (SL) Ltd , Kobi Walker, commended the work done by the Commission and made commitment to adopt the findings presented so as to work towards improving the quality of work in the company.