Dr. Imo Itsueli
The Petroleum Club (PC), is an association meant to provide and inject certain level of petroleum intellectualism into Nigeria’s oil industry and national discuss. The ideology is centred on how to grow it, preserving it and its leadership to render service, which is pertinent with emphasis on the petroleum industry in the country.
Recently, at its change of baton ceremony to pave way for a new president to chat the way forward, the pioneer Chairman, Imo Itsueli, made it known to members of PC that the Club has some achievements to its credit. But, it still has a long way to go, when compared to much older Petroleum Clubs like those of Houston, Tulsa, Calgary, London, Singapore, and Dallas among others.
According to the former Chairman of PC, “With a lack of leadership, intellectual discuss, innovation, integrity and tolerance of diverse or contrarian opinion, we regressed, embraced corruption, and ethnicity.” These have made the petroleum industry not to grow at the expected required pace. There are virtually no serious petroleum related research or innovations in the country’s universities. He stated further “Our brilliant ones seem to perform better outside the country than inside. Yet, it is the same blood that still runs in their veins – in or out of Nigeria.” Many impediments have been introduced to innovation, research and ways of doing business in the country.
Itsueli dissected issues surrounding Nigeria’s oil industry that series of military coups, counter coups, botched coups and phantom coups derailed the country. Intellectual discuss has failed while innovation and integrity were at best relegated to the background and corruption took central stage. But the same time, the likes of Lee Kwan Yew, Deng Tsao Ping rose in the East to create a new renaissance for the East. At present; Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and India, all have virile economic systems compared to Nigeria.
He mentioned some notable achievements of PC such as: Petroleum Policy Advocacy in Nigeria – involvement and contribution to Executive and Legislative Branches’ Policy initiatives; participating in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Trinidad & Tobago in 2009 and the Petroleum Industry Bills (PIB). Although, the PIB which have four elements are yet to be fully passed in the National Assembly or have president assent to them. This is particularly so in an age seeming to demonstrate an abhorrence to such intellectualism. He added “As we continue to contribute to National Policy Advocacy, in the Petroleum Sector, we must grow and strengthen the Petroleum Club, as an institution.”
He enjoined members to ensure that they abide by PC’s constitution and international best practices, “Hence, our succession planning and execution of succession must be smooth and seamless.” As the Club grows in stature, it must seek how to add essential components to growing it as an institution.
Itsueli recalled that the first generation of indigenous operators in Nigeria oil industry were mainly bureaucrats, policy makers, administrators, though no less professionals. They played their part in the 60s and early 70s. This generation is now in “sunset mode”, as quite a number of them have died. The second generation of which he belongs including the retired president of the Club, Dr. G.S. Ihetu, expanded the envelope beyond administration, policy and bureaucracy to production and operatorship, albeit small volumes below 10,000 barrels per day (bpd). Most of those in the second generation are in the “mid-day”, with a few already exiting, while the second generation is obviously handing over to the third generation; – a very active and empowered generation.
He observed that Dr. Ihetu, a distinguished member of the second generation, is handing over to a well acclaimed and accomplished member of the first to third generation. He enjoined Nigeria to learn from PC whose handing-over have been smooth and seamless.
The former Chairman of PC implored those few left in the first generation and many in the second generation to chronicle the happenings in the oil industry, especially since the 1960s to date. This is imperative as the rate of attrition is on the increase given those in their sunsets and number of those that have past their ‘mid-day’, “We must chronicle this growth, this evolution, even though we are still growing and evolving.”
According to Itsueli, there seems to be a lack of intellectual discussions, interrogation of ideas and opinions as operators approach the end of the second decade of the millennium. Lack of intellectualism worries Itsueli, because it has slowed down development of new thoughts, growth and locally generated innovations. Operators need to stimulate discussions and interrogate concepts. This is what will ensure that the Nigerian petroleum space becomes the petroleum hub for African petroleum space or a new petroleum oasis of growth and innovation. “If we do not, we would be overtaken and emasculated by other African nations more serious and innovative. Watch Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa”, Itsueli decried.
He noted that at the time of the first generation of heavy weights in the oil industry, in the 1950s, 60s and early 1970s, Nigeria was a place of great hope and potential for Africa because of oil discovery in the country. China was not being mentioned then, despite its rich history and enormous potentials. These three countries seemed to be the beacons of hope. South Africa was in the thralls of Apartheid, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia were back waters. South Korea was not on the radar.
Itsueli encouraged stakeholders to rejuvenate themselves, their businesses, and the oil sector. This will spur growth. Spurring of growth will move the industry to the next stage, expanding within Nigeria as well as growing into the rest of the African Continent. The industry needs a paradigm shift for growth and consolidation through mergers and acquisitions.
The indigenous operator in Nigeria’s oil exploration space gave a ray of hope for the industry. Itsueli pointed out clearly that globalization of business and finance in the past fifty years has opened up opportunities and fast growing business and emerging economies. Nigeria, a nation of just under two hundred million people, has a GDP of about $500 billion, with a GDP per capita of about $4000.
Emphasizing on the Malabu oil scandal in Nigeria, Itsueli explained further on the investigation that it is getting international attention. There is now a new regulation in the United Kingdom known as UWO (unexplained wealth order), requiring “You to explain the source of your wealth if you suddenly go on a splash.” Nigeria needs such policy.
He stated further that such policies as: new anti-money laundering laws, press freedom and freedom of information laws, international cooperation and transparency laws among others with pressure from the US, have all made previous questionable routes to acquiring or growing wealth undesirable. If anyone wants to preserve assets and maintain integrity, he should avoid “Get Rich Quick” routes.
Itsueli advised PC to search for innovative leadership, capable of intellectual discuss, imagination with a large dose of integrity. Meanwhile, Dr. Godswill Ihetu handed over the reins of leadership to Chief Dr. Tunde Afolabi who is now the President of PC.