Political will, collaboration needed to address petroleum sector rot – Ashiru, oil Industry Expert

The Nigerian petroleum industry has, over the years, become one of the most critical players in the nation’s economy. The sector’s contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have been impacted by a plethora of challenges, including massive oil theft, monumental pipeline vandalism, and corruption leading to erosion of revenue and environmental degradation of flora and fauna in the Niger Delta.

Adedeji Ashiru, CEO of Contec Global Energy Limited, in this interview with BusinessDay’s Isaac Anyaogu, offers some panacea to curbing oil theft and massive revenue loss in the sector, often described as the nation’s cash cow.

Ashiru, a graduate of Ocean & Offshore Technology from renowned Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), and member of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN)/Board of Advisors of Metropolitan School of Business and Management, UK, who has always sought to contribute his quota to the development of the engineering profession beyond the shores of Nigeria, calls for pragmatic action against crude theft.

The major problem bedevilling the Nigerian economy has been the theft of crude oil, he said, adding that a series of efforts have been made by successive governments to bring the mysterious cartels responsible for the heinous economic crime to justice, but this has been ineffective.

“Of a truth, this economic malignancy has been quietly devouring the nation‘s fortunes for years. You cannot give what you don’t have, and this has greatly contributed to the reason why the Federal Government’s approach to oil theft has not yielded any positive results. They are the benefactors and beneficiaries of the oil theft. The stealing involves a chain of individuals that includes security operatives, locals, government agencies, and individuals from all walks of life.

“This stealing can be stopped by the collaboration of the police, army, navy, local security guards, and authorities to perform surveillance. The presence of heavy military guards with the aim to clampdown on the leaders of the cartel that are involved with heavy penalties on whoever gets caught in the act. In addition, government officials involved in the act either directly or indirectly should be sacked and should involve financial institutions and the apex bank to close any account traceable to oil theft and forfeiture of the proceeds.”

Recently, Mele Kyari, group CEO of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company ( NNPC) Limited, said that Nigeria lost $4 billion to oil theft at the rate of 200,000 barrels per day in 2021 alone, just as billions of dollars were also lost to pipeline vandalism.

Ashiru says a sustainable solution to oil theft is that the federal government must have the political will and determination to tackle the menace. “The political will to solve the problem is very key on the part of the government at all levels. This is the first step to achieving any meaningful impact in the country.”

Additionally, he said the Federal Government should put in place adequate security for waterways and land, create avenues for proper engagements with relevant stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, and forestall sabotage from all quarters.

” One of my major contributions to sustainable growth in the energy business in Nigeria is to make gas available to areas where there is no gas pipeline. In 2005, we submitted a feasibility study and business plan to the Federal Ministry of Petroleum on making gas available to areas with no pipeline network.

The Federal Government bought into it, and our company was licensed by the Federal Government of Nigeria to operate a virtual pipeline and deliver clean fuel through gas compression facilities, natural gas driven power stations, and process discharge stations. Today, we have built compressed natural gas mother stations in strategic locations in Nigeria and daughter stations that enable us to transport gas through skids in the form of a virtual pipeline to industries and power plants. This way, we have reduced the cost of power generation and reduced carbon emissions, which is in line with my goal for environmental and business sustainability. ”

Ashiru started his career at ABB Lummus Global as a pipeline engineer, where he designed for both onshore and offshore pipeline engineering. At one point, he led the team of disciplined engineers on different gas gathering projects, which contributed immensely to the success of the LNG projects.

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On the issue of gender disparity in the industry, Ashiru said it can be traced to university enrollment. He explained that there’s a myth that engineering is difficult and meant for physically strong people. Citing research by the Harvard Business Review, female students are often treated differently in lectures and group projects, both by their peers and professors, which is often reflected in either the tasks they are given, or the reactions one gets for an outstanding performance.

On the way out of the challenges facing the sector, he said, “In order to solve the future challenges in engineering, we have to ensure that a range of problem-solving abilities are brought to bear. This variety of approaches needs a diversity of minds, and women have to play major roles.

” In addition to the statistics, it has been proven by the Harvard Business Review and McKinsey that both gender and racial diversity improve the financial performance of companies. When looking at a field that’s focused on problem solving, diversity plays an even greater part in a company’s productivity.

When thinking about the law of the instrument, the phrase “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” provides another argument as to why diversity should matter. Generally, if problems are solved by people of one gender who also come from similar socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the solutions are likely not to consider all aspects of the problem.”

Ashiru said he studied mechanical engineering because of his love for mathematics and because he wanted his work to produce something tangible, have outcomes that could be observed, and help solve problems.

“I loved mathematics, and while maintaining a firm grasp on reality and real-life solutions, I have always wanted to have some sort of impact on the world, and mechanical engineering seems like the best tool with which I could effect genuine change in people’s lives.”

Upon graduation from the university, he worked for a multinational engineering firm, ABB Lummus Global, on a variety of oil and gas subsea and pipeline projects.

His outstanding performance as a young professional did not escape the notice of his superior managers, and in 2001 he was appointed the senior pipeline engineer and project manager. Between 2002 and 2003, he worked at Oando Gas and Power as a senior consultant, where he was responsible for the development of topnotch strategies to improve the efficiency and quality of work, the coordination of the engineering design office, and project management. Later in 2003, he was appointed Principal Consultant at Bolivia Gas Energy Technology Limited and was appointed MD/CEO in 2008.

“The political will to solve the problem is very key on the part of the government at all levels. This is the first step to achieving any meaningful impact in the country.”

Since assuming the position of MD/CEO, he has been instrumental in the growth of the firm, bringing it from its previous level of bankruptcy to well above the profitable margin it currently enjoys.

Dwelling a bit on his background, he said the training he received from Harvard Business School and the London Graduate School had been phenomenal. He said he went for the programmes expecting to gain new insights and tools around performance-based management but was incredibly surprised by the value he derived from them.

“I was able to not only rethink my organisation’s methods for performance-based management but also re-imagine a community-wide approach to collective impact strategies. We live in a society where there are vast problems. To address those challenges, we need solutions that are equally comprehensive. It made me, among other things, dive deeper into what I’ll call a “question zero” leadership approach. Whatever happens to come at us, we start with the ultimate question: What are we trying to achieve? We must make sure that our answer to “question zero” aligns with our mission and vision. This has helped me build a sustainable business.”

Elucidating more on his role as board advisor for Metropolitan School of Business and Management (MSBM), he said, “I give advice on issues of concern and develop strategies to address these concerns by making Metropolitan School of Business and Management one of the most notable educational providers in the online and virtual space.”

Ashiru was also a principal consultant on the gas delivery for the construction of the Dangote Refinery and the Dangote Fertilizer Plant, the largest single refinery and fertilizer plant in the world.

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