The Federal Government has put forward the name of a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mohammed Barkindo, for the position of Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Barkindo worked at NNPC until 2010 and served as acting secretary-general of OPEC in 2006, as well as representing Nigeria at the group.
Bloomberg reported that two persons privy to the development confirmed the nomination but asked not to be identified because it had yet to be made public.
OPEC has tried unsuccessfully for more than three years to find a replacement for the current secretary-general, Abdalla El-Badri, who was due to stand down in 2012 after serving two terms in the role. At OPEC’s last meeting in December, El-Badri’s term was extended until July.
Political rivalries between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq have prevented the cartel from settling on candidates that each of them proposed. The disagreement over choosing a successor flared again at the December 4 meeting as the slump in oil prices heightened tensions over the direction of the group’s policy.
Barkindo “would be well placed in the secretary-general role and could offer a smooth transition out of the current deadlock, enabling the OPEC secretariat to resume operations at full strength,” said John Hall, chairman of consultants Alfa Energy.
“He knows how OPEC operates and is known to many delegates,” added Hall, who has worked in the oil industry for more than 40 years.
The Wall Street Journal reported that OPEC delegates had previously said Indonesia, Nigeria or Angola were the most likely countries to produce the cartel’s leader because they were seen as neutral in the group’s geopolitical disagreements.
A Nigerian candidate would be a better option to reach a consensus because members like Iran would not approve a Saudi candidate, said one OPEC delegate from a Persian Gulf Arab country. Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals for power in the Middle East and at odds over the civil war in Syria and violent conflicts in Yemen.
Another oil official from the region said Mr. Barkindo “is very popular, experienced,” but his success would depend on whether Indonesia fields a candidate. Badri may also want to stay on “but he cannot stay forever,” another Persian Gulf official said.