By Deng Akok Muoradid
" I believe that we have reached a stage in the economic development of African where moving forward is perilous, moving backwards is cowardice and standing still is suicidal but we must persevere because winners do not quit and quitters never win" PLO Lumumba
Number of citizens have led the ministry of petroleum but failed to perform to the best expectations of the people until in 2016 when president Salva Kiir appointed a nationalist and reformist. Upon assuming the office, Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth embarked on reforming and transforming the petroleum sector since he was appointed at the critical time when our economy was at the verge of collapse due to the armed conflict. Since South Sudan is an oil dependent country, Lol's dream was to regain the economy which he indeed accomplished in two years time. He is the first petroleum minister to reform and transform the petroleum sector as well as initiating the projects which benefit the citizens in oil areas. His achievements are visible, tangible and undeniable. All the South Sudanese have benefited from Ezekiel Lol's achievements and this can be acknowledged by any reasonable citizen. Before his appointment, the petroleum sector was experiencing many challenges ranging from the closure of several oil fields, destruction of oil facilities, reduction in the oil production, lack of care for the citizens living in oil areas and rampant corruption in the ministry. As a hardworking, loyal, committed and God fearing leader, Ezekiel Lol quickly rescued the situation by solving many of the problems that were facing the petroleum sector. Below are some of Ezekiel Lol's achievements which were aimed at economic recovery in South Sudan.
- Resumption of oil production in former Unity State
Toma South and Tharjath oil fields were shut down due to the outbreak of the armed conflict in 2013. All the oil facilities at Toma South and Tharjath oil fields were deliberately destroyed in the conflict. The closure of the above fields resulted in the reduction in the number of barrels from 350000 BPD to 130000 BPD thus leading to the decrease in the daily oil income. However, the appointment of Ambassador Ezekiel Lol restored the lost hope of economic recovery in South Sudan. Ezekiel Lol repaired the oil facilities that were destroyed and officially launched the resumption of oil production first in Pariang and finally in Tharjath oil fields. In a matter of days prior to the resumption of oil production, the United States Dollars began to drop against the pounds giving hope to the hopeless citizens that every problem has its own solution.The resumption of oil production at unity oil fields is one of his tangible and visible achievements.
- Launching of clean water projects in Juba and oil producing areas
Before the appointment of Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the local communities in the oil producing areas were unaware of the importance of oil because they were lacking basic social services like clean drinking water, health centres etc despite the fact that the revenue generated from oil are supposed to be used for providing the social services. As a caring leader, he contracted a local NGO known as Nile Hope to construct water facilities for the suffering inhabitants in oil areas. The ministry of petroleum through Nile Hope drilled many boreholes in Northern Liech, Central Upper Nile and Ruweng States. The similar boreholes were also drilled in Managaten, Hai Referendum, Gudele, Khor William, Logo Logo and Joppa areas in Juba. This is in accordance with the Government's policy of " oil for social services".
- Signing of " refinery and pipeline construction" agreement with South Africa
South Sudan doesn't have a refinery and it sends its crude oil to Sudan for processing and export via pipeline. Sudan is charging 34 dollars per barrel for South Sudan to transport the crude oil through pipeline to the oil terminal at Port Sudan. In order for South Sudan to preserve revenue being paid to Sudan and to make use of crude oil products, Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth signed a refinery and pipeline construction deal with South Africa's Central Energy Fund on 23rd November 2018. Apart from the construction of oil refinery and pipeline, the deal also offers avenues for cooperation in the training of workers and engineers as well as exploration of oil blocks. This agreement is on the process of implementation and it will be completed soon.
- Hosting of first and second Africa oil and power conferences in Juba
The ministry of petroleum under Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth hosted a first and second Africa oil and power conferences in Juba in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The hosting of the first and second global energy conferences is a milestone in the history of petroleum sector development in South Sudan because most of oil producing countries in the world came to know more about South Sudan's oil through these conferences. The conferences drew representatives of major oil companies, ministers of oil, gas and dam from oil producing countries. It addresses the most pressing and opportunities in South Sudan's oil and power industries including: the growth of exploration activities, the resumption of oil production, regional infrastructure, security status at operational areas etc.
- Implementation of " road for crude oil agreement" signed between South Sudan and the People's Republic of China
At the end of 2018, President Salva Kiir Mayardit travelled to the People's Republic of China and signed a road construction agreement with the president of China construction companies. The content of the agreement is the construction of tarmac road from Juba to Bentiu, Juba to Torit, Juba to Yambio, in exchange for ten barrels of crude oil per day. Since the agreement was signed on the paper, It is the task of petroleum minster to coordinate with the Chinese construction companies for quick implementation. Ambassador Ezekiel Lol worked tirelessly to make sure that the road construction starts in less than a year. He ordered the oil drilling companies at the oil fields to begin transferring ten barrels of crude oil to the Chinese road construction company. The Chinese Construction Company announced to the public last week that it had started receiving ten barrels of crude oil from South Sudan.
- Eradication of environmental pollution in oil producing areas
During the reign of the previous ministers, the lives of innocent inhabitants in the oil areas was being threatened by the petroleum pollution. The local communities around the oil fields lost thousands of cattle and livestock as a result of environmental pollution. Nevertheless, hundreds of people died of water diseases due to the pollution of water by the leaking crude oil. Hundreds of children were born without heads, hands, limbs etc. These victims were crying for help from the ministry of petroleum but none of the previous ministers managed to rescue them. However, the continuous suffering of the local communities around the oil fields was later heard by Almighty God through the appointment of Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth. Ezekiel Lol instructed the oil drilling companies to prioritize the safety of the local people around the oil fields. He has put some safety policies in place to ensure that such a scenario never repeat itself in future. The inhabitants around the oil fields in South Sudan are freed from any environmental pollution at the time of writing this article.
Therefore, Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth deserves the right to full recognition as a loyal, committed, hard working and patriotic citizen of South Sudan. He is a true God fearing leader who prioritize the interest of his people. It is very rare to get such a hardworking and caring leader in Africa. He is the first petroleum minister to institutionalize, professionalize, reform and transform the petroleum sector. This is the right for the youth of South Sudan to stand up and appreciate him for what he has done. The history will never forget the achievements of Ambassador Ezekiel Lol in the petroleum sector.
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