Family and oil industry sources confirmed that he passed on in the early hours of Monday at his residence in Vienna, Austria after a brief illness.
The oil industry veteran played a key role mending fences in the often fractious Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as well as in Nigeria, where he worked to reform the oil industry and resolve a conflict with militants.
“He was widely recognised and highly regarded in the global petroleum industry; a loyal and dedicated man, who had the best interests of Nigeria and OPEC at heart,” OPEC said, without expanding on the cause of his death.
Lukman was oil minister between 1986 and 1990, and then again between 2008 and 2010, in addition to heading state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) between 1999 and 2003.
He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) from 1993-94.
During his last tenure as a minister, he tried to reform Nigeria’s troubled oil industry, working to cut its bloated fuel subsidies and to find private finance for its state companies. But he also assisted the government in brokering an amnesty with militants that had crippled the country’s oil industry.
The seasoned official is best remembered internationally as one of the most experienced heads of OPEC, where he served as a secretary-general between 1995 and 2000, and as president three times between 1986 and 2002.
He was known as a skilled, soft-spoken diplomat, helping steer the group toward consensus, particularly during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998.
“Whoever is president has to get people to work together,” he told The Wall Street Journal in a 2008 interview.
The late Lukman was born on August 26, 1938 in Zaria, Kaduna State and left behind a wife and three children.
He attended the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria from 1956-58 and later proceeded to the prestigious Imperial College London where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering in 1962.
President Goodluck Jonathan has commiserated with the former minister’s family, the government and people of his home state, Kaduna, as well as his friends, associates and all those he mentored over the years in the domestic and global oil industry.
A statement signed by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, said Jonathan shares their sorrow as they mourn the brilliant engineer, technocrat and administrator who spent almost all of his working life serving his country and the global community in various capacities.
“As Alhaji Lukman’s soul returns to its Maker, President Jonathan joins all who knew him in giving thanks to God Almighty for bestowing him on the nation and for the great intelligence, integrity, competence and humility with which he distinguished himself in all his national and international assignments.
“Nigeria, the President firmly believes, will always owe a huge debt of gratitude to the late Petroleum Minister for his very significant contributions to the development of the country’s oil and gas industry, and for serving with acclaimed distinction as the nation’s representative at the helm of OPEC affairs over many years.
“President Jonathan prays that the Almighty God will receive Alhaji Lukman’s gentle soul and grant him eternal rest in Paradise,” the statement reads.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on Monday described Dr. Lukman as the best oil minister Nigeria ever had.
The former Vice President made the revelation in a statement by his media office in Abuja.
“I will describe (Rilwan) Lukman as the best oil minister we ever had given his unmatched knowledge of the industry and the integrity with which he ran the ministry,” the statement quoted Atiku as saying.
He recalled that Lukman’s contribution to the management of the nation’s oil and gas sector provided the impetus for his elevation as secretary-general of OPEC.
The Turaki Adamawa described his death as a monumental loss and prayed that Allah will grant his family and the nation the fortitude to bear the loss.