By Austin Chukwudi

Engr Paul Obelley

In the wee hours of Monday, June 15; I was jolted from my deep sleep by a phone call from a friend. I had indeed wondered who would be calling at this odd hour, having agreed with my friends and relatives abroad that late or early phone calls do not augur well to my sleep apnea consequent upon congenital nasal problems.

As I picked the phone and actuated the “answer” button, I heard the sonorous but sorrowful voice at the other end; “Chief Paul Obelley has passed on”, and there was a dead silence from both end of the line as if rehearsed for dramatic effect. And there was ululation from both ends again as in a in dirge.

Could this be a dream? A waking dream? I thought, as I cleared my eyes and asked, “Do you mean Engr. Paul Obelley, a former Managing Director of WRPC? The answer was in the affirmative.

Thence the full weight of the message came down heavily on me. This was a man; a top-tier engineer, a technocrat in the oil and gas industry, a philanthropist to the core, a community leader, a man of the people, an outstanding, amiable Managing Director of Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited from 2012 to 2015 – just gone in a flash?

Report from a close family source says that he had taken ill on Thursday – not serious, as he celebrated his 64th birthday on Saturday, June 13. He however suddenly lapsed into a critical condition, and sadly passed away on Sunday.

Chief Obelley transverse the oil and gas industry with a zest that could only be equated with one who had a clear vision and the love of his country. His knowledge of the refining business was legendary.  He was an astute administrator, a team player who mobilized the workforce to achieve so much during his stints as the Executive Director, Operations and later; the Managing Director, Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited.

Engr. (Chief) Paul Obelley was born June 13, 1956 in Eleme, Rivers State. He attended Hedon College London, graduating in 1977 with a diploma in engineering. He later enrolled in Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in engineering (BSc. Hons, Chemical Engineering).

He joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 1980 as a Process Engineer. He held several positions in NNPC, including: Process Engineer; Senior Engineer; Manager, Engineering and Technical Services; Executive Director, Operations (WRPC); and Group General Manager, Special Projects at NNPC Corporate Head Office Abuja.

In November, 2012, Engr. Obelley was appointed the Managing Director of Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited (WRPC). As the Managing Director of WRPC, his engineering skill flowered and blossomed into milestone achievements. Among his notable achievements were: record stream time of the plants which cemented the WRPC’s legacy as the best performing refinery and the flagship of the Refining and Petrochemicals Directorate of NNPC; concerted efforts towards the reactivation of the polypropylene plant and other units of WRPC as well as the emplacement of excellent logistics management. His drive towards growth and sustenance of WRPC, industrial harmony and good public relations mileage with the host communities are outstanding and would be invoked for many decades in the history of WRPC.

Engr. Obelley won top scholastic awards during his school days, as well as awards in his professional career – including: General Manager’s Award (1985); NNPC Group Managing Director’s Merit Award in 1987 and 1997.

He was a fellow of Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers(FNSChE), a fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE) and a registered engineer with the Council of Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

The late former Managing Director of WRPC was a good team player, a committed community leader and a chief of Eleme Kingdom; the “Onne-Eh Mao of Eleme Kingdom”. A jolly good fellow, he was fondly called “Lion” and “Agwu Ne Che Mba”.

Engr. Obelley authored several books, including: ‘ARE YOU A STEWARD, DIGGER, OR BEGGAR?’, ‘Making a Success of your Life & Career’, ‘WHAT MY MENTORS TAUGHT ME’, ‘YOU ARE NOT POOR!’, ‘WEALTH IN THE WILDERNESS’.

 He was a good mentor and a lover of sporting activities, including swimming and tennis.

He is survived by a wife and children. May God Almighty grant him a peaceful repose.