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On Wednesday 6 July 2022, news broke that the Secretary-General of OPEC, Nigeria’s Mohammad Barkindo, had passed on.

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The announcement, which was made by the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, came just hours after Barkindo visited Nigeria. Barkindo had met with President Muhammadu Buhari and delivered the main speech at an energy conference in Abuja.

Eminent figures from across the global petroleum industry have since expressed their regret at his death and praised his leadership of the organizations he had headed in his lifetime.

Haitham Al-Ghais, an oil industry veteran from Kuwait who was due to succeed Barkindo, described his predecessor as “a friend”, and said that his legacy “would be remembered in the history of OPEC for years to come.”

What follows is a profile of Mohammad Barkindo’s career.

His Early Years And Education

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo was born in Yola, Adamawa State, on 20 April 1959. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1981. He went on to earn a Postgraduate Diploma in Petroleum Economics from Oxford University, UK, in 1988.

In 1991, he gained an MBA (Master of Business Administration) from the Southeastern University, Washington DC.

Barkindo had an Honorary Doctorate from the Federal University of Technology, Yola. He was also a fellow of George Mason University, Fairfax, USA.

His Career At The NNPC

Between 1986 and 1989, Barkindo was a special assistant to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources and OPEC Secretary-General, RilwanuLukman. Following this stint, he spent two decades taking on various roles at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

In 1992, he was appointed Head of International Trade, at the NNPC Headquarters. In the years that followed, he occupied these positions: Head, International Trade, NNPC London; President, Duke Oil Inc. (a subsidiary of the NNPC); Chairman, NAPOIL (between 1993 and 1994); General Manager, NNPC London office (1993-1997)

He was also Managing Director and Chief Executive, HYSON/CALSON (an international trading division of the NNPC); and Group General Manager, Investments, NNPC Headquarters (2003-2004). In 2007, he became Coordinator, Special Projects, at the NNPC, and oversaw the Federal Government’s projects at the group from 2007 to 2009.

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Barkindo was a member of the Oil and Gas Reform Implementation Committee (OGIC) which drafted the first Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in 2008. The following year, he resumed as the General Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, a position he filled until 2010.

Prior to becoming GMD, he had served as Deputy Managing Director at the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).

His Roles At OPEC

Barkindo was involved with the OPEC for decades, in a time span that somewhat overlapped with his years of service at the NNPC.

He was appointed to Nigeria’s delegation to OPEC in 1986 and represented the country at OPEC’s Economic Commission Board from 1993 to 2008. He was also a delegate to the African Petroleum Producers Association (APPA) between 1987 and 2010. In 2006, he became OPEC’s Acting Secretary-General.

Barkindo was chairman of the OPEC Task Force of the 15th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) and worked on the OPEC/European Union dialogue on Energy Markets, Taxation, and Environment.

On August 1, 2016, Barkindo became Secretary-General of OPEC. He succeeded Abdallah Salem el-Badri, a former Libyan official who was also the longest-serving Secretary-General of the organization. Barkindo was due to retire from OPEC at the end of July.

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His successor is Haitham Al-Ghais, a Kuwaiti national who is a veteran of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) and its Deputy Managing Director.

Other Professional Engagements

Beginning in 1991, Barkindo headed Nigeria’s technical delegation to the UN climate negotiations. He was the only Nigerian delegate to attend every conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), starting from COP 1 in Berlin (1995).

He chaired the Group of 77 and China at the UNFCCC, and served three terms as Vice President of the Conference of the Parties—COP 13 (Bali, Indonesia), COP 14 (Poznan, Poland), and COP 15 (Copenhagen, Denmark). He participated in the conventions COP 22 (Marrakesh, Morocco, 2016), COP 23 (Bonn, Germany, 2017), and COP 24 (Katowice, Poland, 2018).

Barkindo was due to resume as a distinguished fellow at the Global Energy Center of the Atlantic Council, a think tank in the United States, after ending his tenure as Secretary-General at OPEC.

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This article was first published on 8th July 2022


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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