My initial ambition was to become a medical doctor, but I found myself studying Industrial Chemistry, which I really loved. After I graduated, I ‘served’ at Shell Petroleum Development Company in Warri, Delta State, during the mandatory National Youth Service Corps Scheme. Through that experience, I had a passion for the oil and gas industry, and that sort of killed my passion for Medicine. I found myself learning new things and getting to know about the oil and gas industry. I was retained by Shell as a contract staff when I finished my youth service. That enlarged my scope of knowledge of the industry.
Meanwhile, before I left school, my department had wanted me to come back to the university as a lecturer.
When I got into the oil and gas industry, I was basically working on the field. Most times, I would go offshore and stay there for about 35 days. I did that for seven years with Halliburton, and that took most of my time. It was in the latter part of the seventh year that I enrolled for my MBA. I completed the MBA in two and half years instead of two years, because there was a strike action at the time. Immediately I finished the MBA, I went for a Post-graduate Diploma in Chemical Engineering. My intention was to get a Masters in Chemical Engineering, but could not achieve that due to my hectic work schedule.
As the best graduating student in Industrial Chemistry, I was given N250. It might seem like a token now, but it was big back then.
It was really big money then. I was very excited about it.
No, that was not the case with me, because I was loved by all my lecturers.
When I graduated, the head of department told me there was a slot for me to work as a lecturer. I told him I would accept the offer, because during that period, I was more like an assistant lecturer in my study group. We usually had discussions on different subjects, and other students relied on me to explain certain things to them. I actually had the passion for teaching. However, my decision changed because of my stint in Shell. I discovered that the oil and gas was an interesting industry to be in. When I went back to the university to get my transcript and the HOD asked me if I would like to work in the school, I declined.
I was loved by my boss because I was inquisitive and always ready to learn. After my employment as a contract staff, I got to learn a lot about the oil and gas industry by reading books. Working in Shell was very interesting. I learnt new things and developed myself. That was the first place I worked with a computer. It gave me a lot of exposure.
I never envisaged that. But, towards the end of my service year, my then boss insisted that I had to be retained because I was hard-working. Sometimes, I used to go to the office on weekends. I usually spent Saturdays finishing up tasks I didn’t complete during the week. By the time I resumed on Monday, my table would be clear. During my youth service, I created a good impression of myself with the people I worked with.
I was responsible for designing all the wells and stimulation programmes (of the company). I wrote the proposal from start to finish. I was assisting my boss, but he assigned the task to me, and I did it perfectly. While I was with Shell, an international oil company approached my boss, and told him that they wanted to hire me, because they liked the way I worked. Back then in 1992, I was earning less than N30,000; and my boss told them they had to pay more than what I was earning if they wanted to take me. My boss actually negotiated on my behalf. He told them I was earning close to N100,000. That was how I left Shell and joined the international oil company.
That is a big issue in the oil and gas industry. You can imagine a company producing about 500,000 barrels of crude oil, and can only take 50,000 barrels. There are several technologies we can adopt to tackle the menace. One of such is by putting cameras on the well head. There is also something called anti-theft device. The crude comes from the ground to the well head and goes to the pipeline, so if there is going to be any theft, it would be from the well head or along the pipeline. The anti-theft device sends an alarm to the parent company if there is any vandalisation. During a recent conference of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, some of these technologies were discussed.
A Yoruba adage says, “If you want to catch a monkey, you also behave like one”. In that aspect, giving the contract to the ex-militant is good because they know the people that are vandalising those pipelines. I have lived in Port Harcourt (Rivers State capital), and there is a lot of ‘coal fire’. Over there, an illegal refinery is called ‘coal fire’. It is mostly done by vandals in the swampy areas of the state. That is one thing the government has been able to eradicate. Putting ex-militants in place to regulate or stop the menace is actually a good decision, because they know themselves and they know the nooks and crannies of the swamps.
We need to be more serious and aggressive about our Health Safety and Environment policies. The relevant regulatory bodies in the country need to enforce this. In our company, we have a policy of zero tolerance to spillage. If there is a spillage, it becomes a big issue, so we try to avoid it in the first place. However, only a tiny fraction of the spillages in the oil and gas industry result from the activities of companies like ours. Most of the spillage is as a result of the vandalisation of pipelines and well heads. A company in a Niger-Delta community recently had their well heads vandalised and crude oil was gushing out. The cost of drilling wells for crude oil in Nigeria is enormous because of such vandalisation. One would have to spend a lot of money to drill a well, and not get returns on one’s investment due to vandalisation.
Vandalisation is done by corrupt people that understand the industry. They do this in collaboration with outsiders. Most times, it is not the host community that does the vandalisation. At times, outsiders do this without the knowledge of the host community. But, companies have now employed people from the host communities to watch over those pipelines.
It has, to some extent, but we have not seen the full impact of it yet. It is a good move if it is well executed. When I got into the industry in 1991, it was filled with foreigners doing basically everything, while Nigerians were onlookers. But, when the Nigerian Content Development and Management Board was instituted, it gave power to Nigerians.
I would say they are correct but if one understands the industry very well, one will realise that there is a pro and a con to everything. An example is the Niger Delta Development Commission, which had been in existence before the Petroleum Industry Act. With the NDDC, oil producing states have a certain percentage of funds given to them to develop their communities.
However, the NNPC is being patterned after Saudi Arabia’s ARAMCO. ARAMCO is the parent company, just like NNPC is the parent company for all the oil companies in Nigeria. I believe things will get better if the people involved are committed.
The area I think we need to look at is not the bill itself, but the implementation of the bill. One can have a good plan but if it is not properly implemented, it will be useless. We need monitoring bodies to ensure that the PIA is fully implemented. If the PIA is fully implemented, the country will be the better for it, especially the oil and gas industry. We actually need technocrats in proper positions in the industry. We put people in positions because they are from certain families or tribes; and that won’t take us anywhere. We have square pegs in round holes. If the right people are in the right positions, things will change for the better.
In Nigeria, we still have a long way to go technologically. I am aware that some countries are going away from oil (fossilised fuel) now, and are focusing on generating green energy. It will take us time to get there. We should make do with what we have for now. At a point, the oil might become useless, so it is time for us to start looking at what the future holds. If not, Nigeria will be left behind. We will produce oil and nobody will buy it. We should continue what we are doing, but we should also train people, and send them out of the country to acquire knowledge.
It is not going to be easy. Nigeria is a mono-economic country; our major source of revenue is oil. The moment we have a paradigm shift, things will be better for us.
Globally, people are talking about climate change and the effect of greenhouse gases. It is being taken seriously all over the world. It is better we start looking towards clean energy. It will not be easy, but we have enough time to learn and start working towards it.
One of the most difficult decisions I took was in 2015, when oil price nosedived and I was told to lay off everybody. Meanwhile, those are people I had worked with for so long, and I was asked to tell them that their services were no longer needed. It was really tough but as an operation manager, that was what I had to do. Everybody left and we had to shut down the operation. We even had to sell some of the equipment.
My roles are multifaceted. I oversee the whole operation of the company. I make sure that the finances are good, and the bottom line is okay as well.
I make sure I recruit the best and most competent people into the company. I have a background in operations, business development and technical. The business development manager, operations manager and some other members of staff work with me to achieve the goal of the company, which is to become one of the best oil servicing firms in Nigeria and beyond.
They are numerous. One of the greatest decisions I took was when we bought our first piece of equipment. We had no contracts but we took the risk of buying that equipment, and by the grace of God, within two months, we got a job for the equipment. It was a very big risk but it turned out well.
I would say it was a blessing, and also not a blessing. If we had not discovered oil, would our economy be like this? Before the advent of oil in the 60s, Nigeria was doing well because we relied more on farming. But, when oil came and everyone found out it brought good revenue and they were well paid, everyone left what they were doing and wanted to work in the oil and gas industry. My take is that while the discovery of oil was a blessing for the country, Nigerians have mismanaged it. Developed countries such as the United Kingdom and United States of America have oil, but they still developed their country in other areas. However, we have totally mismanaged ours, such that if the price of oil goes down, our economy goes down with it.
There is so much wastage in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. I see subsidy as wastage because assuming the cost of producing a litre of oil is $2, one would refine it for another $2; that is a total of $4. Yet, we want to sell it to the public at $1.5. As a businessman in Nigeria, one cannot make profit that way. That is why all our refineries are dead because the cost of production is more than the selling price of the product.
Absolutely, it will. With the likes of Aliko Dangote refining crude oil, the price won’t be left at the rate it is now. If it remains that way, Dangote will refine oil and send it out of the country, because he knows he won’t make money here because of the price regime. What the government is trying to do is for companies to open more refineries. But, they are only waiting for the price to be right before they open them. If fuel subsidy is removed and it becomes a free market, one will have choices, even if the prices differ.
It is bad, but the government is also trying to be careful. Subsidy should not be removed at once, because the negative effect on the populace will be massive. What they are trying to do is a gradual removal. The only problem I have with it is that, why are they waiting for the next administration to do it? Why don’t they start now and let the public know?
There is a law in place banning the flaring of gases. They are on the right track but it is the implementation that is our major challenge in this country. We have a lot of gas in the country; we only need to use it well. But, we don’t have a lot of facilities for it. But, with the Dangote refinery and other refineries coming up, the price of gas will nosedive, and there will be stiffer competition.
It is a very big issue. I think the government needs to take a drastic step. It is a big disgrace to this country, and being in the industry, I feel ashamed that we have so much resources, yet we are suffering from lack of those same resources. Everybody in Nigeria is thinking about their own pockets, and that pains me. Some filling stations have fuel but they are hoarding it because they feel the government will soon increase the price. We need uncompromising regulatory bodies; people that would move around the filling stations. If they do that for a week and begin to revoke the licenses of the people that are caught engaging in sharp practices, things will improve.
Also, we rely more on road transportation for distribution of petrol, because not all states have depots. Thankfully, some rail lines are now working. We should look towards transporting PMS to different depots through the railway. That way, they will be stored in various states, and can be more easily distributed. If that is done, I’m sure there won’t be scarcity again.
My advice to them is that, ‘there is no place like home’. If we all, including professionals like you and me, stay in this country and contribute our quota, Nigeria will develop. When the good hands are leaving Nigeria for other countries, they are leaving the bad hands to continue spoiling things.
There are three major things— honesty, commitment and integrity.
I was born into a family of four, and I was the only son. My parents were strict because they did not want me to end up being a spoilt brat. They instilled discipline in me, and that was my driving force. As a child I was very rough and playful. When I wrote the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination, I failed. I got F9 (poorest mark) in two critical subjects, and my dad said I would become a mechanic. I begged him for another chance. I retook the exam and I had seven distinctions (As) and two credits (C4s).
I met her through a friend of my mum. Right from when I graduated from the university, I was a workaholic. While working in Warri (Delta State), I used to come to Lagos once a month. On one of such trips, my mum’s friend asked about me, and my mum informed her that I was not married at the time. She (mother’s friend) then invited me to her home, and introduced the lady (who later became my wife) to me. We met at our house with my sisters, and I asked her some questions. I did not know how to ask a girl out (woo), so I just threw the question at her. I asked her if she would marry me. She just laughed over it (laughs). But today, we are married with three children.
My first role model was my dad because he was very strict and disciplined. He taught me a particular lesson that has lingered in my mind. My dad had three Peugeot 504 cars, and I asked him to give me one to be driving to Warri, but he refused. He said he would rather sell it to me. I had to pay to get the car from him. Three months later, I asked him why he sold the car to me. He answered that I had taken better care of the car because I bought it.
I like swimming. But as a pastor, most of my activities are in church these days.
I enjoy (white amala).
I love swimming, playing table tennis and reading.
That would be Canada, because I have relatives there.