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Buhari raises 'Chief Sam' to oil portfolio

Former Bayelsa State governor Timipre Sylva appointed Minister of State for Petroleum Resources

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has appointed former Bayelsa State governor Timipre Sylva as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, replacing Emmanuel Kachikwu.

Amid a series of changes, Buhari has himself retained responsibility for the full portfolio.

Born in 1964 to an old trading family in Okpoma, at the exact site of the proposed Brass liquefied natural gas terminal, Sylva entered politics at the age of 27, winning the Brass seat in the local State Assembly. He set up his first marine support company serving the upstream sector in 1994.

Sylva, known locally as "Chief Sam", later worked as special advisor on petroleum to Edmund Daukoru, who served as Petroleum Resources Minister under ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, advocating what he called a "Triple E" policy of engagement, empowerment and enforcement to reverse a growing militant trend in the Niger Delta.

In a bid to discourage the rise of armed groups in the oil-producing states, Sylva ventured into the creeks to negotiate ceasefires with factions of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), seeking “arrangements” with camp commanders to restore peace.

While running in the 2006 gubernatorial elections, Sylva told Upstream he sought “to bring government and oil companies together to seed middle-level manpower to breathe confidence and pride back into our youth.”

Sylva strongly identifies as an Ijaw (Izon) man, and has been a keen advocate of locating oil resource and youth training centres inside the creek communities.

"If you've got an oil industry then you must be part of it, but not by destroying the goose that lays the golden egg," he previously said.

His appointment resonates with earlier reports that Buhari would approve appointment of an indigene of the Niger Delta to the oil portfolio.

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