13 June 2018

Nigeria: Ali-Zarah - Nigeria Needs to Rely Less On Oil Revenue

interview

The General Manager, Information Technology, National Petroleum Investment Services (NAPIMS), Muhammad Ali-Zarah, in this interview speaks on efforts to curb illegal oil bunkering. Excerpts:

Can you tell us about innovations your division has introduced so far?

I joined NAPIMS in 2005 as a manager and then progressed to become the Manager Information Technology (IT) NAPIMS and then in September 2016, I was appointed as the first General Manager of IT in NAPIMS. Earlier, there were a lot of issues on IT devises that were not working while the staff and management of NAPIMS were getting frustrated in the use of technology because the technology was almost not functioning. The IT division department at that time was under the procurement department whereby they were just procuring computers and there were no value addition.

So, management asked us to come up with a blueprint on how to move NAPIMS forward. And part of the things we did was to engage all the staff. We worked across all the divisions to know what they needed to be efficient. So, after getting all the information we required, we then did gap analysis on what the problems were. We then identified two critical things, one of which was the network. But the network wasn't the problem, the problem was power. So, what we needed to do was fix the power and once that is stable, the devises on the network would be okay.

So, we attacked that by resolving the issue of power. Currently, we have almost 300 KVA uninterruptible power source (UPS) that powers the two buildings in 36/38 Gerard roads and then we provide an Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR) that would do power resolutions and face corrections to ensure that the UPS are not using corrupted powers.

After stabilising the power, we started working on the network . Speaking on the network today, we are comfortable and we have stabilised and can say we have the best technology in the whole of NNPC's subsidiaries and Strategic business unit (SBU). We have latest devises and we also introduced video communication across the formation. In terms of network with the physical communication across the corporation, we are interlinking with the corporate and other SBUs.

The next phase was we went on to do a Hybrid cloud or an on-premises cloud by deploying an infrastructure that can house all the business applications NAPIMS has today.

We also went ahead to deploy a print solution so that security is embedded on the print solutions we have. We are ensuing that we have a state of art technology in our training facility. We have upgraded our training centre and it would be an e-training environment. And so with all this, we have accelerated NAPIMS to be an IT driven organisation.

How has this impacted on your organisation?

IT is now embedded in everything in NAPIMS as against what we had initially. The management in their own wisdom are very supportive because when you don't have a management that isn't supportive to your innovations or initiations, it dampens people's moral. But we have a management that is so anxious to have NAPIMS at the level comparing us with other international oil companies (IOCs) so they were able to give us much support and they were able to back their support with a budget so it makes thereby making my work a little bit easier.

But specifically how has the innovation impacted on the oil and gas sector?

NAPIMS focuses on the investments in the oil and gas industry and it was very difficult for some of us to get to get across in terms of collaboration with the IOCs that are more IT driven. But today collaborations are being done across the industry with the infrastructure we were able to deploy. And going forward, we are planning to start having E-meetings instead of having face to face meetings with all these facilities on ground.

Are there new innovations you are hoping to adopt in the near future?

We are currently developing an application called the Budget Cashcall and Performance Monitoring (BCP Pro). We are deploying this so that across the industry, things would be done and collaborated via technology.

Illegal oil bunkering is still a major problem in Nigeria and is once again in the news, can technology play a part in curbing these thefts?

Recently we had a discussion with our Group General Manager ITD, and we are looking at surveillance systems and we are deploying technology to aid the use of surveillance systems. We are looking at having drones that have satellite installed in it to hover around the Niger Delta for us to get information sent real time of the activities across the pipelines.

What progress have you made in that regard?

Currently we are still at the initial stage. We are developing the IT strategy on the Enterprises Architecture (EA) of the surveillance system in terms of monitoring the pipelines. We have gotten two vendors that are working with us on that and they are coming sometime next month to make a presentation to the Group IT Division on it. The two consultants showcase their technology by showing us how their technology works. One of them has deployed this technology in Qatar and they were also able to deploy and monitor the Dubai international airport. So, the NNPC wants to see how it would help the NNPC at large.

Going forward, what are your thoughts on the oil and gas industry?

For me, the oil and gas industry should be secondary to Nigeria. Because the mono -economy we have been running would not help the systems. Diversification in certain areas need to be encouraged because even our neighbours -Niger, Chad and Ghana now have oil. So, we are no longer going to be the big brother in terms of oil and gas. Nigeria needs to move away from this mono economy and look for more revenues elsewhere rather than relying on oil and gas.

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