Thursday, December 3, 2020
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The 17th Annual Aret Adams Memorial Lecture for 2020 was held recently in Lagos, and the yearly event attracted oil industry operators, who were in attendance to deliberate on a topical issue. Aret Adams was the first Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the nation’s Oil Company.

In his opening remark, the Chairman of the lecture, Chief Don Obot Etiebet, former Minister of Petroleum, thanked “the Board of Trustees of the Aret Adams Foundation for keeping the name and vision of our referred icon in the Oil and Gas Industry alive, whose unblemished record had laid the solid foundation for NNPC, as its first GMD, to grow to an enviable position amongst its peers around the world.”

Speaking further, Etiebet noted that he first met the late Adams in 1972 when he came back to Nigeria, equipped with a M.Sc. degree in Applied Geophysics from the University of Western Ontario Canada, and a B.Sc. degree in Technology of Oil, from Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, England.

The Chairman said when he enquired about the Oil and Gas industry in Nigeria, he was referred to the Nigerian National Oil Company (NNOC), as it was known then, headquartered at the UBA building by the junction of Broad Street and Kingsway Building. The person he met there as the head of Oil Exploration was the late Aret Adams. Since then they both became friends and was very fond of each other, till his demise in 2002.

In his words, “One thing many did not know is that Aret Adams was my unknown and unseen personal adviser, when I was Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources from day one of my appointment. One advice amongst others he instantly gave me was to ensure I worked to preserve my integrity and name in an industry beset with deals. I must tell you that, that advice had done me a lot of good to stay out of trouble in the ever-troubled industry. Aret Adams was a very selfless patriotic technocrat of high integrity, who loved his country more than himself.”

The former Minister of Petroleum described Aret Adams as “a builder of men, who developed and deployed young managers, who became leaders across the Nigerian energy industry”.

“No other statement can best describe Aret Adams more than that, for if you look at the list of the members of the Board of Trustees of his Foundation, you will notice that almost all of them are Aret Adams Proteges, who have succeeded exceedingly well in their endeavours in the industry, Aret Adams was never corrupt, never abused his office, and was not partial in his administrative duties” Etiebet enthused.

The Chairman disclosed that Adams was always smiling and involved in jokes. Adams exhibited the highest level of integrity in his dealings, and lived a very simple life with his delectable wife, despite holding very high offices in the industry and in politics.

The topic of the 2020 Lecture was “NIGERIA ECONOMY AFTER OIL: HOW PREPARED ARE WE”. According to Etiebet, in this era of e-World, e-Nigeria, e-Governance, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Clean fuel and Climate Change, the industry is confronted with problems.

Therefore, the topic was apt for deliberation with a cornucopia speaker, Olabode Augusto, former Director General (DG) of Budget.

Augusto, in his paper explained that Nigeria needs to brace up to the challenges it will face in case oil becomes irrelevant, especially with the advent of electric cars. The country has to give utmost priority to its agricultural sector, as it did in the past before the discovery of oil.

There is need for options to “survive in this emerging jungle of the new industrial revolution, and digital technologies with or without oil.”  

Reacting to fears about the future of crude oil owing to technological advancement across the globe, Etiebet said he didn’t believe Nigeria’s oil will “dry off very quickly” but if it dries off what should be done to address the situation.

But the economic angle should be taken into consideration because of external factors that will render crude oil useless. Some of the things done with oil are going to be replaced with technology. “If all the cars in Nigerian roads are replaced with electric cars, what will the country do?” This is a possibility since Nigeria depends largely on imports. What will Nigeria do in a situation where there is no more oil, if technology takes over the application of the use of oil?

Buttressing his point on the issue, former GMD of NNPC, Chief Chambers Oyibo was of the view that as a geologist, Nigeria oil will not dry up because the country has not discovered most of the oil in its disposal. The country has so much to do with its oil, since it has almost 200 million population. The oil could be used locally to develop the country like America attaining self-sufficiency without importing. It should be used to develop the country.

A maritime and shipping expert, Greg Ogbeifun, pointed out that before the advent of oil how was Nigeria surviving? The country should revisit the agricultural sector and whatever it did to survive then should be put in place. To get out of economic woes, taxation has to be improved in the country with emphasis on job creation.  

A former president of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) Chief Jim Orife, said Nigeria needs mental and material overhaul. According to him nothing was done to the Ajaokuta Rolling Mill and it has remained redundant for many years. The country’s mining industry is in a sordid state. He enjoined Nigerians to brace up to the challenge and move the country forward.

As part of the solution, Augusto revealed that Nigeria after oil means much lower oil revenues, although the oil will not dry up but income from it will be less. Therefore, it is important for the country to deploy its gas for domestic use particularly for power generation. But the question is that, “what did the country do before oil?” Taxes were paid in the past and a farmer cannot even have access to his farm if he has not paid tax or evidence to prove tax payment. Job creation and diversification of the economy is paramount.

Augusto explained about the refineries in the country, “and if we fixed a number of things, we are going to boost those areas.” But “it will be very difficult for anybody to go and invest in a country, when someone else controls the price of the commodity that you want to sell. It is going to be tough except you are very brace.” Nigeria needs to invest also to expand its educational infrastructure. 

Nigeria’s economy without oil is in two areas and it will stay for some time without getting dried in the nearest future, in few generations to come. There are so many discoveries offshore. The country’s oil being replaced by new technologies for example, since Nigeria is dependent on importing cars, automobiles, machinery, while the manufactures abroad have engineered new materials to power them other than oil.

What will Nigeria do, and where does it get the money? For example, if cars imported into the country are using electricity, does the country have electricity to charge the cars? The answer is no.

As a matter of fact, what confronts the country is how to develop it indigenous technologies with advance researches. There are many countries without oil such as Japan and Korea, these countries are surviving through the means of technology. South Africa survived during the apartheid; coal was used to convert many sources of applications.

There is need for development with indigenous expertise to produce alternative means of surviving without oil. The country cannot be depending on foreign technology alone which will be difficult with the current state of affairs. Education and human capital development will be the way out.

Before the advent of oil, what does the country depend upon? Nigeria had a boost in agriculture, it has to return to it as a succour and last resort. It is a fundamental area where the country can apply any level of knowledge from the illiterate farmer to the educated person who will manage the resources.

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