Kayode Thomas is not your everyday Chief Executive Officer. He is young and very intelligent. He does not leave you in doubt after an encounter that he knows where he is coming from, what he is engaged in now, and by design, what he expects the future to offer in his chosen field. You will also glean from encounter that our Kayode is an advocate of technology transfer.

Recently, the CE of Bell Oil & Gas Limited, whose company is barely ten [10] years old had a chat with SWEETCRUDE in his Lagos office . Excerpts:

When SWEETCRUDE wanted to know how it has been , doing business in Nigeria, considering the tough operating environment, Mr. Thomas’ answer was in very brief but describable words-TOUGH, EXCITING, CHALLENGING, and added that there are lots of “pot holes to maneuver”, opting to continue the learning process.

Naturally, you will want him to enumerate the ‘pot holes’, so, he mentions the many vendors who offer competition, the initial acceptance from the International Oil Companies [IOCs], ability to prove oneself, financing, [knowing that banks/other financial institutions do not support unknown entities], dearth of technical partnerships, stigmatization of the country by outsiders regarding perception, unrest.

His opinion is that the odds are against the new comer, since there are no shortcuts, only for an entrant to prove itself, once the opportunity emerges. Kayode, as he introduced himself, commended the coming of the NIGERIAN CONTENT ACT, which encouraged his company to participate in the oil and gas sub-sector of the economy.

SWEETCRUDE, took the bait on NIGERIAN CONTENT ACT and requested to know whether the signing of the Nigerian CONTENT Bill into law has benefited his company.

The NC Law demands the involvement of indigenous companies and manpower, the use of locally produced goods and services in all areas of the petroleum industry in accordance with existing laws and policies.

Mr. Thomas’ expectation is that, the coming of the NC Law will be of great benefit to the industry. He esteems the Obasanjo government for that lofty step it took, confessing that it encouraged his company to begin business in earnest.

But, he wants Government and stakeholders to be realistic in its implementation, knowing that in the long run, the benefits will be visible, positing that presently, ‘things are changing’.

He warns that there are major challenges, like trying to produce every thing needed. His submission is that no country can be self-sustaining [producing every of their needs], that even China gets some of their needs from outside their shores.

Expanding the discourse on LOCAL CONTENT, SWEETCRUDE asked to be let in on some of NIGERIAN CONTENTS accomplishments of BELL OIL & GAS LTD in terms of personnel training and work done in-country.

Mr. Thomas’ face lit up with a smile, looked into the reporter’s eyes and answered, “ we are 100% indigenous, no expatriate from top, down to bottom”. Continuing, he said it was easy to distinguish their company.

The company is not an agent, since that is possible to be done from his home [fronting for foreign companies]. The philosophy of the company lies in the transfer of knowledge.

Mr. Thomas cited the fibreglass technology, where their capability/experience in production/deployment of composite pipes is unequaled. The company brought in the manufacturers from abroad, who trained their Nigerian employees, who are now good enough to train others.

Added to this, once in a year, these Nigerians are sent overseas on refresher courses. In the area of Rotating equipment [ supply, installations, maintenance, repair] are handled by Nigerians.

The company prides itself as No.1 in well-testing purposes, by deploying its multi-faced technology. Mr. Thomas is adamant that any foreign company that expects him to be an agent will lose his friendship, opting for technology transfer.

He also added that his company provides services with 20 staff on the behalf of Julius Berger Nigeria, 24/7 at the very busy ATLAS COVE, a PPMC facility. Additional services to the industry include metering services and cal-liberation.

Noting that Bell Oil & Gas Limited has various relationships with Overseas Equipment Manufacturers [OEM], we asked to know when the company hopes to begin the manufacture of some the equipment.

“Last year, we spent 200,000 dollars to do feasibility studies by commissioning KPMG. But you know that several issues come into play here, chiefly power. To achieve the aspect of power, you have to set aside at least 35 million dollars. Already, that has pushed up the cost of the proposed factory.

Other factors like location, raw materials, guaranty of business etc. The numbers must rule your head. It is purely business, no emotions. Manufacturing is a big thing. Timing is also important. It is not if, but when?” And warns that one must be careful not to start running before walking.

SWEETCRUDE sought to know what our subject thought about the real intentions of PETROLEUM INDUSTRY BILL [PIB], where one commentator had described the Bill as the Federal Government’s attempt to increase its revenue with minimal or no extra expenditure.

Answering with a tinge of seriousness in his voice, Mr. Thomas believes that the International Oil Companies [IOC] have not been fair in their dealings [ you can define what fairness means here], and his believe/understanding of PIB is that, the Government wants to ensure responsibility on players in the oil and gas industry.

The Government is interested in technology transfer. He allays any fears on the part of stakeholders, submitting that, ‘PIB cannot be skewed in favour of indigenous companies. We all need IOCs, we need each other.

There’s got to be a balance’. He summarized his understanding of what the Government needs to do as, “putting more weight on the side that is deficient”.

In an answer to a question on whether there are enough jobs to drive the expectations of the NIGERIAN CONTENTS Act in the oil and gas industry, Kayode Thomas answered in the affirmative.

“There are jobs, but, we need to create more jobs, transfer knowledge, seek for a conducive environment, because, this is crucial. Infact, a lot more jobs have to be created”.

Last word? Mr. Thomas requests that stakeholders should persevere and be determined. For some one who has no Engineering background, you want to know what the attraction was, and how he has been able to ‘breakthrough’? “ This industry is not a myth.

I thought so before I got in. It’s not rocket science. A lot has to be done. There should be a benchmark. Anyone can succeed here, it is not unattainable, but it is a funny industry. For me, I am permanently in school, always learning.”With an ISO certification, Kayode Thomas is poised to lead Bell Oil & Gas Limited into another decade

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.