Tributes Pour in for OPEC’s Barkindo as His Death Casts Gloom over Abuja Oil Summit

•Remains of Barkindo were laid to rest yesterday in Yola •OPEC member nations, Senate president, Sylva, others mourn

By Emmanuel Addeh

The sudden death of the Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Dr. Sanusi Barkindo, yesterday cast a dark cloud over the just-concluded Nigeria Oil and Gas (NOG) Conference that took place in Abuja.

The remains of Barkindo were laid to rest yesterday in Yola, Adamawa State.

The pervasive impact the top OPEC chief who had until the end of this month to conclude his headship of the international organisation, did not go unfelt as tributes poured in for him from all over the world.

The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mallam Mele Kyari, had in the early hours of Wednesday announced the death of the oil industry expert, stressing that he passed on at about 11pm on Tuesday. Barkindo was aged 63.

His death came as a huge shock to many industry players who were with him at the NOG earlier in the day, during which he gave arguably one of the longest speeches at the event, extending well over 30 minutes.

Barkindo betrayed no sense that he was unstable at the oil summit, receiving what turned out to be his last standing ovation after his speech.

The cause of the death of Barkindo, who was earlier at the Presidential Villa was still undisclosed as of yesterday evening, but THISDAY learnt that he had taken ill suddenly in the night before he was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after.

Meanwhile, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday mourned Barkindo’s demise.

Lawan described the sudden death of Barkindo as tragic.

The Senate President described Barkindo’s leadership of the global oil cartel as exemplary, noting that the deceased worked assiduously to build cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC countries to save the energy market at a time of a global crisis.

Lawan, in a statement said Barkindo’s pragmatic approach and hard work at the critical time brought stability to the volatile oil market.

The Senate President said Barkindo’s stewardship at OPEC made him a pride for Nigeria and Africa, adding that his death was a monumental loss to Nigeria, the world and particularly to the global energy community.

“The news of the tragic death of OPEC Secretary-General, Mohammed Barkindo, came to me as a rude shock. Barkindo’s exemplary leadership at the global oil cartel brought stability to the ever volatile oil market.

“The world will remember him for how he was able to rally both the OPEC and non-OPEC members together to save the energy market. The world will miss him and particularly the global energy community,” Lawan said.

The Senate President also condoled with the Government and people of Adamawa State over the great loss and prayed Allah to forgive the sins of the departed and accept his soul into Aljannah Firdaus.

Similarly, in a letter of condolence he personally signed, the Minister of State, Petroleum, Mr. Timipre Sylva, described the demise of the OPEC scribe as unfortunate, stressing that he was a worthy ambassador of Nigeria.

“His contributions in the global energy space will be difficult to match. We share in your grief and pray that the Almighty Allah will grant him eternal rest and the family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss,” he wrote in a letter to Barkindo’s family.

In its tribute to Barkindo, who was born April 20,1959 in Yola, Adamawa State, OPEC’s secretariat in a statement said it was in “shock” and expressed “deep” gratitude for the over 40 years of selfless service (he) gave to the organisation.

Kyari, in a tweet called Barkindo’s death a “great loss to his immediate family…and the global energy community.”

A former Minister of State, Petroleum, Emmanuel Kachukwu, said he was devastated to hear of the passing of “my brother and friend”, adding that “words cannot express the deep pain and sorrow we feel.”

On its part, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) extended its deepest condolences to the family of the oil industry veteran whom it said fought for the right to develop.

“While words cannot express the tragedy of this loss, the legacy left behind by H.E. Barkindo will be remembered by the global energy community for years to come,” it said.

“In Africa, he will always be remembered as a patriot, an instrumental figure who fought for the continent’s right to develop our oil and gas,” it added.

Also, the African Refiners and Distributors Association (ARDA) led by its Executive Secretary, Anibor Kragha, described Barkindo as a global energy icon, whose magnificent legacy would never be forgotten.

“He worked assiduously to strengthen the worldwide energy markets at a critical time and successfully ensured stability of the global economy, even during the unprecedented turmoil of the COVID pandemic and other shocks,” Kragha said.

Barkindo was acting OPEC Secretary General in 2006, representing Nigeria on OPEC’s Board of Governors from 2009 to 2010 and was finally appointed as Secretary General in 2016 and re-appointed for a further three years in 2019.

He was an Adviser to former Minister of Petroleum Resources and OPEC Secretary General, the late Dr. Rilwanu Lukman and was GMD of the NNPC.

He oversaw some of the most turbulent periods in the history of OPEC, forging partnerships with non-member countries, including Russia, weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, navigating global oil price fluctuations and geopolitical tensions.

Barkindo was set to join the Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow in the Global Energy Centre after his term at the OPEC secretariat ended on July 31. He was expected to be buried in his hometown in rural northeastern Nigeria.

Regarded as a consummate diplomat, Barkindo was seen as a bridge when challenges in the global oil industry were being discussed. “We are continually looking to break down barriers,” he once told journalists.

A graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University (1981), he held a diploma in Petroleum Economics from Oxford (1988) and an MBA from Washington University (1991) and between January 2009 and April 2010, served as the NNPC head. (ThisDay)

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