PINNACLE OIL AND GAS: THE LIMITS OF PROPAGANDA

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By Uche Anichukwu

In teaching the mystery of the little beginning of the gospel, Christ gave the parable of the mustard seed, which someone sowed in the field. Although it is the smallest of all the seeds, it ultimately grew into a tree so that birds of the air made nests on its branches. This is only true about the gospel; it is also true about life, generally. Big things start small. And that includes today’s big accomplishments and trillion dollar businesses.

In the 1950s, many publishers turned down the manuscript of a 28 years old Nigerian. Only Heinemann gave the author and African fiction any chance and published it. But it ultimately became the most widely read book in modern African literature. According to Wylie Agency, it sold over eight million copies in 60 languages, globally. This is the story of the legendary Chinua Achebe and “Things Fall Apart”.

Apple started off in the garage of Steve Jobs’ adopted parents in Cupertino, California where the Reed College dropout later teamed up with another dropout, Steve Wozniak. Today, Apple is worth $2.65 trillion in market capitalisation. The HP brand started off in a 12-by-18-foot garage with just $538 investment in California, but it worth $26.24 billion. Amazon.com began from a garage in Seattle, USA. Its current market capitalisation is $1.42 trillion. Larry Page and Sergey Brin rented Susan Wojcicki’s 1,900-square-foot home in the course of Google’s journey to being corporate giant. Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company is worth $1.54 trillion. Walt Disney started in 1923 in a garage belonging to Walt’s uncle, Robert Disney. The company’s net worth today is $203.63 billion.

So, today’s big businesses started small yesterday and on the Nigerian scene, that includes Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd., which was registered by Dr. Peter Mbah in 2004 (not 2007 as some claim), but started operations in 2008 with a N1 million capital base and two staff in a one-room apartment in Lagos. But by dints of radical innovation and unimpeachable integrity, Pinnacle weathered the odds in already saturated petroleum downstream subsector dominated by the oil majors to become the number one in the industry. And this is something the people of Enugu, Nigerians, and the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, are proud of.

One therefore wonders why the malicious propaganda around Pinnacle Oil and Gas Ltd. simply because its Founder and CEO, Dr. Peter Mbah, is running for the governorship of his home state, Enugu. If the inspiring stories of Amazon.com, Apple, and Google etc. are possible, why do some desperate politicians want to sell the falsehood that Pinnacle revolution was powered by funds looted from Enugu’s treasury? It is an unfortunate debasement of Enugu people before the world as low-thinking people, who know nothing about how modern businesses are financed or built.

By the way, how much of Enugu’s money for the short period Mbah spent in government as Chief of Staff and Commissioner could have built just the Pinnacle’s $1 billion offshore, subsea terminal that President Buhari commissioned recently?

Modern businesses thrive on ideas. Once you have a brilliant idea and the credibility, and pass the due diligence check, financiers are likely to bankroll your project. For instance, it is a fact that a consortium of banks, namely, First Bank, Fidelity Bank, Globus Bank and Coronation Bank, who believed in the pioneer project, financed Pinnacle’s $1 billion terminal. This and the fact that reputable international partners are eager to do business with Mbah and Pinnacle is a testament to his integrity, scrupulousness, and good governance of the company. No bank puts a dime into a project without due diligence.

Pinnacle is audited by KPMG, a foremost audit firm in the world. Obviously the propaganda peddlers do not know what it means to be audited by KPMG. That firm cannot possibly audit a company without due diligence check on both the company and its promoters let alone sit on any proceeds of crime as an auditor.

Furthermore, an American is Pinnacle’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) in addition to 12 expatriate staff from US, UK, Netherlands, etc. You can’t attract and retain such without an irreproachable integrity, transparency, and good corporate governance.

Those who think Mbah just went into business after serving in the Government of Enugu State got it all wrong. He has paid his dues in the business world starting from the late 1980s and early 1990s as a young man. By 1992, he had already set up companies and was importing 18 containers of electronics and spare parts from Europe. He built his first house in Lagos in 1992 and set up FOCUS International School that early in life.

By 1993, Mbah had already penetrated the petroleum downstream subsector as a representative of the U.S-based International Oil Company (IOC) courtesy of the late Dr. Lazarus Agbowo, who was the Vice President of the IOC. He was earning commissions on every barrel of crude oil lifted. He achieved these as a young man before heading to the University of East London for his Law degree and returned to the country immediately after to manage his businesses.

His stint in the public sector as Chief of staff and later as Commissioner was by chance because it was offered to him when he came to Enugu for his Law School programme. He was never a subject of any Economic and Financial Crimes Commission investigation and neither he nor Pinnacle was ever charged to court let alone enter into any plea bargain with the EFCC. His name was struck out before any matter concerning Enugu went to court. He has publicly challenged anyone with proof to the contrary to come up with it.

It is noteworthy that Dr Mbah rejected a bribe of $20 million by a syndicate that wanted to defraud the IOC in the 1990s.

In any case, the malicious propaganda speaks about the character of those behind it. It takes someone, who has never built anything in his or her life, except shady enterprises and living off government patronage as appointees and contractors to think that one just needed a huge sum of money to build Pinnacle into a unicorn as Mbah has done. With all the money in the world, a late entrant like Pinnacle could still not have taken 23 per cent of the market share and topple the major distributors to emerge the number one in the downstream petroleum subsector without dints of sweeping innovation, integrity and industry.

Dr. Mbah has presented a manifesto that has impressed the people of Enugu as comprehensive and ambitious. He is also marketing it in town hall meetings across the 68 development centres. He has promised to replicate the Pinnacle success story by, among others, growing Enugu’s economy from the present $4.4 billion to a $30 billion economy in eight years. Anyone who thinks he can do better should put his manifesto and pedigree on the table for the electorate to decide because Enugu people are not interested in propaganda.

_Anichukwu is Deputy Director, Mainstream Media, Enugu PDP Campaign Orgnaisation_

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