The choice of Senator Heineken Lokpobiri as minister of state for petroleum must have been one of the best decisions of the president, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu must be foresighted to have identified Lokpobiri as the one to reshape the ministry at a time like this, in Nigeria’s political and economic history.
His first experience in public service was in 1999, at the start of Nigeria’s current democratic journey. Before then, he was just a lawyer, plying his trade basically in the area of environmental rights and petroleum law. He was doing very well. When he decided to contest for a seat in the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, his Ekeremor people knew they have got a good product. They stood by him. He won the election and eventually emerged the very first speaker of the state house of assembly. Those who worked with him at that time have continued to speak of his leadership qualities, the wisdom with which he led the Assembly and all. In fact, a former lawmaker who now occupies a sensitive federal government position told TNN that after the Lokpobiri days, the state house of assembly has lost the vibrancy and quality the Assembly was known for. Even as a rookie in law-making business at the time, Lokpobiri walked and worked with his colleagues in such a way that Bayelsa as a state knew progress and experienced positive changes. The government of Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, at the time, was able to achieve so much because of the inputs of people like Lokpobiri as head of the legislature.
For example, it was under Lokpobiri that the first university in the state-the Niger Delta University-was born. Besides, it was under Lokpobiri’s leadership of the Assembly that 32 new local governments were created, though the federal government refused to recognise them, forcing the state to rename them as Rural Development Areas, RDAs. They are still functioning till date, engendering rural development in all parts of the state.
There is hardly anything he touches that does not flourish. As senator of the Federal Republic, Lokpobiri was actively involved in various committees, including sports, public accounts, police affairs, Niger Delta, and Millennium Development Goals. He chaired the Senate Sports Committee and sponsored the National Agency for Elderly Persons bill.
At the expiration of his first term, he rummaged all oddities and returned as senator and was made committee chairman on water resources and was equally a member of the committee on solid minerals.
There is one unique selling point for Lokpobiri-his natural intelligence. He seems to be combining this with academic intelligence, as well as his team work spirit very effectively. And this may explain why he is phenomenally outstanding wherever he finds himself.
Only recently, as minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Lokpobiri paid so much attention to rural development issues. Most of the development initiatives during the first term of the then president, Muhammadu Buhari were made possible because of Lokpobiri’s outside- the- box -thinking sagacity.
This is why, perhaps, many people believe that with Lokpobiri on the saddle as minister of state for petroleum, a fresh chapter in innovative ideas and transparency in the running of the ministry would have been open.
Lokpobiri was born on March 3, 1967. He received an LL.B (Hons) in 1994 from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt in February 1995.
An expert in environmental rights and environmental law, the senator also holds a doctorate degree from Leeds Beckett University, UK, which he obtained in 2015. He is a member of the APC in Bayelsa State and has been instrumental to the strength of the party over the years.
He is very happily married.