Felix Amieyeofori is the managing director and chief executive officer, Energia Limited, one of the companies awarded marginal oil fields in 2003 whose fields are producing. FEMI ASU caught up with him last week on the sidelines of the Nigerian Association for Energy Economics (NAEE) conference in Abuja and he spoke on several issues including expectation for the current marginal field licensing round.
What do you think about energy access in Nigeria, which was the focus of the conference?
The conference tried to let people know the usefulness of energy and then how remote energy is from the people and how the government and the people can work together to bring about access to energy. Though data in Nigeria is always challenging, but so far almost 50 percent of the people in Nigeria are not connected. But of course, most people in the cities are going into private energy, but the government has a lot to do to get energy to the people. I think the efforts by the rural electrification scheme where they are creating power through solar network in isolated communities and the rural areas will give people opportunity to have access to electricity.
Now, there is increasing involvement of indigenous companies in the Nigerian oil and gas industry as some are currently acquiring divested assets by international oil companies (IOCs). What is your take on this development?
It is clear that it is a positive development for the country. With expatriate companies, of course there will be capital flight because they will take the money out of the country. It is like a farmland or fishing pot where you come to do your farming and then you leave, just like the office and your home. Your office is in Nigeria and your home is in UK, so definitely you have to take your earnings to your home. But where you have the office and the home in the same place, it is better for the country. So when more Nigerians get into the business they will not take the money out because their office and their home are in the same place. So capital flight, expatriate quota and all the things that we experience with the IOCs obviously will not be a problem.
The divestment by the IOCs is widely seen as a boost to the capacity of indigenous companies who acquire the assets, but there are concerns on competence.
Of course, the divestment is a boost because it is increasing their assets. It is making local firms have more access to the oil fields and the oil blocks. So obviously, it is going to increase capacity. It is going to increase experience. It is going to bring technology. Presently, most of the technology is offshore, but as more Nigerians get involved at the controlling level, definitely technology will come and it will expand. We will have our own oil industry not dependent on foreigners, but on the locals.
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) recently threatened to embark on strike if the ongoing divestment by some IOCs was not halted, saying it would lead to loss of jobs by Nigerians. What do you think about this?
It is shortsightedness. It is still a mentality that is not right. We have to create our own environment. Some years ago we were not there. We came in through the marginal field programme and today we are employing. People that the foreigners cannot employ, we are employing them. It is just a transition. People are scared. They should just hold on. We will employ. We will increase. In fact, the welfare is even better because we know ourselves. We know where we come from. We feel the pinch in the shoes, which the foreigners don’t really know. He only works with you, pay you salary because you are just a labourer but we know we are not labourers. If you work with me, you are not a labourer, you are a person. So that is all going to change. It is all a matter of time and we will realise that we have the industry in our hands.
As a marginal field operator, what are some of the challenges you would like the government to resolve to enhance your operations?
Of course as marginal operators, we don’t have all the facilities. We still depend on the IOCs to export our crude. We still depend on a lot of things, but gradually we are building capacity ourselves. People are pooling together, asking government to support initiative so that we can build capacity. You understand the Nigerian content; it is all part of indigenisation and growth in the Nigerian industry. So there is capacity-building going on. Government is supporting capacity. Government is listening because in other areas, independents and locals produce more than the IOCs, so eventually Nigeria will get there. And the idea is for Nigerian companies, independents to have more production.
What do you expect from the current marginal field licensing round, which was flagged off late last year?
For those of us who are already on ground and are producing, we would like to have more because we have proven that it is doable. Nigerians can do it. Nigerians know what to do. Energia is one of those awarded in 2003. We have been producing for the past four years. Energia/Oando Joint Venture, is the operator of Obodugwa/Obodeti marginal field in oil mining license (OML) 56 in Delta state.
What do you think the involvement of companies like Energia will do to enhance access to energy in Nigeria?
In Energia, we have a very robust corporate social responsibility programme, where we operate in Kwale, Delta State, people are feeling the impact of the company. Our vision is to get everybody around us to develop, not only money, but in terms of infrastructure. We are really on top of the game.