• Sunday, May 26, 2024
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Expanding his footprints in oil and gas


You probably still think of Tony Elumelu as a banker. Yes, he is and will continue to be, especially now that he is back as Chairman of United Bank for Africa. These days though, the man is assuming a larger than life role in the world of Africa’s economic discourse. And he is topping that too by showing the world that more than a banker, there is something in his DNA that was masked for a long time by his loyalty and romance with banking.

What we now know and continue to learn of the man on a regular basis is that this well-honed top level executive is a serial entrepreneur who has wasted no time, since launching to the world, Heirs Holdings, his proprietary investments holding firm, through which Elumelu has demonstrated his serial entrepreneurial acumen, and a desire to incubate businesses across Africa, promote his philanthropy, and push a novel but very interesting economic philosophy across the world known as “Africapitalism”. It is indeed in this economic philosophy that is resident, Elumelu’s philanthropy. Because if you ran into him and asked him, as a proponent and champion of this new thinking, to express it to you, you are likely to hear him say this :

“Africapitalism is an economic philosophy through which we advocate for the private sector’s commitment to Africa’s development through long-term investment in strategic sectors of the economy, that drive economic prosperity and social wealth,” he will tell you with that quintessential Tony Elumelu’s smile. Those who know him at close quarters and have worked with him will tell you that his smile is often borne out of a belief and strong confidence in what he professes. This has been particularly seen expressed practically in the kinds of businesses that he has been making his investments in. Apart from banking, where he has made substantial investments, he has made and continues to make investments through his Heirs Holdings in businesses that have potential to affect and touch lives. This is expressed through the investments he makes in the energy sector, where his aim is clearly directed at making interventions in the power space to address decades-long shortages in the supply of electricity, not only in Nigeria but across the African continent.

It is the driver behind Elumelu’s regular foray into the global stage in search of solutions to the challenges confronting Africa. For instance, as Nigerians prepared to celebrate Independence Day on Wednesday to mark 54 years of nationhood, he was wrapped in thought about an appropriate gift to present to his country Nigeria and his fellow citizens, Nigerians, to mark the occasion. So in far away Geoje in South Korea, precisely on 26th September, he launched a global partnership whereby his Heirs Holdings and Seadrill Limited, an offshore drilling company managed from London with operations in 15 countries and 7,500 employees, as well as Total Upstream Nigeria launched a new deepwater drill ship named West Jupiter.

Tony Elumelu is chairman of Seadrill. The ship was built by Samsung Heavy Industries, but his foray into the oil and gas sector is not new and this is only but an expansion of this interest. It represents Elumelu’s desire to see Heirs Holdings continue to make proprietary investments in strategic sectors throughout Africa. Heirs Holdings affiliates, Tenoil Petroleum & Energy Services and Transcorp Energy are the companies that have been established to lead Transcorp’s focus on the energy sector.

In Geoje, South Korea were officials of Samsung Heavy Industries, Total Upstream Nigeria and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board. The deep-water drilling rig, a submersible, is said to have capacity to operate under 12,000 feet. “It was built for Total’s Egina Oil and Gas deep offshore field and it’s to be operated by Seadrill for an initial 5-Year period under the $1.1 billion contract between Total and Seadrill,” he explained.

But here’s the real significance of what took place in South Korea with regards to the commissioning and the allusion to it being an Independence Day gift from Elumelu to Nigeria.

He would say just this about it all: “The commissioning is a milestone in Nigerian business presence in the offshore sector, and aligns with the Nigerian government’s policy of deeper indigenous participation in the oil and gas industry. The ship is Seadrill Limited’s sixth-generation drill ship and latest addition to the Total Upstream Nigeria Limited (Total) fleet of ultra-deep water vessels operating in Nigerian waters.”

He would go further to say at the ceremony in Geoje that: “The global partnership between Heirs Holdings and Seadrill is an important part of our strategy of investing in Africa’s long-term economic development and today, we celebrate an inspiring example of global collaboration.”

And to particularly signpost Elumelu’s desire to see that his economic philosophy of “Aficapitalism” is clearly expressed in the investments he makes, he explains this about the vessel itself: “The vessel we are flagging off was built in South Korea by Samsung and will be operated by a Nigerian crew for a French customer, developing one of Nigeria’s oil fields. It represents a genuine commitment to knowledge sharing and indigenous participation in Nigeria’s resource sector and is a milestone that we can all be proud of.”

He continues to champion and be driven by the notion about making Africa great. And when he speaks about the goal of his holding company, Heirs Holdings, he talks about how it can continue to make positive interventions not only in Nigeria but across the continent. “Our goal is to be the continent’s preeminent proprietary investment group, but more than that, our investments must empower Africans to achieve more, and touch lives in a meaningful, sustainable way,” Elumelu says.

Tenoil Tenoil was incorporated in 2005 to serve as the platform to manage and operate Heirs Holdings’ investments across the energy value chain, as well as extractive minerals sector. Tenoil participated in the 2007 oil bid round organized by the Ministry of Petroleum and was awarded OPL 2008, an exploration and production asset in the Eastern Shallow Offshore area of the Niger Delta bordering OML68 operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited. The Production Sharing Contract for the block was signed with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in May 20011 by which Tenoil was appointed the operator of OPL 2008. This marked the entry of Tenoil into the upstream sub-sector of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry.

Elumelu presently serves as a member of the Global Advisory Board of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) and USAID’s Private Capital Group for Africa Partners Forum. He sits on the Nigerian President’s Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council and serves as Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Dialogue Series on Global Food Security. He played a leading role in the formation of the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria and now serves as its vice chairman. He chairs the Ministerial Committee to establish world-class hospitals and diagnostic centres across Nigeria, at the invitation of the Federal Government.

Phillip Isakpa