By Onome Amawhe
Big name celebrities are known to slap their names on a brand, give it their blessings, then sit back and rake in the royalties.But for some, that’s not enough. These are the few famous faces that have entrepreneurial spirits – seeing past the careers that made them famous; venturing into the business world to develop some successful business interests.
Nigerian flutist with cross cultural Itsekiri and Swiss roots, Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli is one such. An investor in a number of businesses totally unrelated to his original career in classical music composition and concert performance, Iseli’s business stakes spans oil and gas, solid minerals and mega entertainment projects. He is also the West African Representative of Daewoo and Hemla Norway Oil and Gas solutions, with substantial shares in the Nigerian arm of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Company; James Bay Energy Limited. Amongst much active participation in the Nigerian/international arts and culture sectors, he recently established and Chairs the Nigerian Entertainment Foundation. He lets us into his business world.
You’re the Chairman of Tee Mac Petroleum Ltd, a company you established more than 30 years ago. How did that start?
In the mid-80s, when I was working as a composer for Universal Studios in LA I meet the oil billionaire Mickey Hajecate, owner of the Falcon Refining Company and he had a contract in Nigeria to lift 980,000 barrels of Brass River Light Crude Oil a month. He invested into a movie whose soundtrack I was contracted to write. He made me a director of the company and I flew regularly to Nigeria on behalf of his company. That’s when I had my first experiences with crude Oil. I registered Tee Mac Petroleum Ltd in the early 90s and exported LPFO to Spain. In 2007, I became a director in Daewoo/Hemla (D&H Gas and Oil Solution) and Tee Mac Petroleum Ltd became a local content partner.
Can you give us a brief about the company and its activities?
At the moment there is not much going on because the Gas and Oil business in Nigeria is in a kind of slumber. We are waiting for the extension on one marginal field and to farm-in in a major off shore Oil block.
What were your first impressions when you started Tee Mac Petroleum?
In the 90s business in Nigeria was OK and much more straight forward than now. I have experienced that the Oil and Gas business is for the sharks and high rollers and that have made me lost interest in it. I only do follow ups as representative of HEMLA Gas in their Nigeria business and I’m still trying to make a success out of it.
What is your “bird’s eye view” of the Oil and Gas industry as a whole?
From what you’ve seen, what aspects of could be improved? I don’t want to be rude in this interview but I do not have much respect for Oil and Gas companies, NNPC and DPR. Especially the major companies. I am suing SHELL at the moment on behalf of the communities of the Bonga Oil spill with my Lawyer Awosika in Nigeria, Holland and the United Kingdom. There is a lot wrong with SHELL! In the civilized world SHELL cannot operate and behave as they do in Nigeria. I shall write a book about my experience with Shell and the case we took to the National Assembly!
The oil industry’s deep spending cuts, analysts say, could crimp global crude production and cause oil prices to spike toward the end of the decade. Are you counting on it?
There is enough profit in the Oil and Gas business for them to comfortably survive. Major Oil companies are big spenders and their Chief Executives are having ridiculous high salaries and enumerations. As is stated it is a Shark business and Sharks like big chunks of everything. Over invoicing, falls declarations to NNPC are the norm.
Can you talk about the Nigeria’s future energy mix?
I am going to build a Solar panel manufacturing company in Delta State, not assembly but real manufacturing. The Norwegian Government will fund 70% with EU funding and I will put in the balance of 30%. I believe in clean and alternative energy. The project has started, feasibility studies done and in principle the funding is available.
You’re also a big player in the Mining field through your Allied Minerals Limited. What are your main activities here?
In the early 90s a former Minister of Mines told me that the future of Nigeria is in mining and I started with a Quarry business in Abeokuta. I had a very dishonest Managing director who stole and mismanaged the Quarry and in 1999 I had to sell it to pay Naira 120 million back to the bank on moneys he borrowed on behalf of the company. This was my sad experience with Quarry business which cost me around 60 Million Naira (remember exchange rates in the mid-90s was 4 Naira to 1 USD).
How would you summarize the investment opportunities that mining presents and the business model of Allied Minerals?
I started Allied Minerals to explore mine and process Zinc, Lead, Copper and Gold in 8 states. After investing an initial 20 million USD (having a processing plant in Jos and Bwari) Obasanjo revoked everybody’s license and for 2 years until the new mining act came out, nobody was able to mine. Most of my equipment got spoiled. When I got my entire license re-instated I made a deal with Sterlington Israel for them to invest USD 120 million against 61% shares in Allied Minerals Ltd. They started a small investment in Bwari (FCT) to mine Tin and we were core drilling for Cooper in Wase Plateau State when opposite WaseBoko Haram started to kill people in Langtang. My partners packed their bags, sneaked out of Plateau State and left Nigeria through Abuja and never came back. It cost me a lot of money and efforts to get them out of the Allied Minerals Ltd shareholding because they never paid up. My mining experience has been very costly, frustrating. No infrastructure (roads) to evacuate the mined minerals, horrible conditions in the Apapa port and I think I know now why the Mining Industry has not taken off. Banks have Oil and Gas desks, and apart from Sterling Bank no one is interesting in mining. That brings me to the conclusion that t we do not have BANKS in Nigeria! We have money warehouses, foreign exchange and ATM companies. I declare most banks as fraud companies. Excessive charges, incredible interest rates have killed the Nigeria Industries. Until we have serious banks who do not borrow money abroad cheaply and sell expensive in Nigeria, there will be no development.
What is your competitive advantage to other companies in the field? Do you have any direct competitors?
There are competitors and everybody is going through the same problems. As long the Ministry of mines is asleep, not much will happen. As long as banks do not believe in Mining and make serious money available, development will be slow. We have the best minerals in the world, Zinc Concentrate 65%, Lead Concentrates up to 70% out of the earth. Tin 85%, Copper up to 50%. In Canada my partner company mines Cupper at 18%.
What is your outlook for the mining sector as a whole for the long term?
It could be bright if there are joint venture funding and bank facilities. The Government has to build roads for trailers to comfortably evacuate the minerals. In the 90s there was a rail link from Jos to Apapa which has died a natural death of incompetence.
You recently founded the Nigerian Entertainment Foundation. What is the mission?
To assist the development of the Entertainment Industry in Nigeria, to take care and assist old and sick Artists and to educate young ones in Music, acting and dancing to lift up the bar of our talents.
How did it get started?
There was a need to put up a structure and when President Goodluck Jonathan met with the Industry he promised to assist financially. It never happened because the people under him did not execute his wishes.
What inspired you to start the foundation?
To lay the foundation for a solid structure. In the mean time I have also registered and started the Entertainment Data Base Nigeria, the Entertainment Cooperative Multipurpose Society of Nigeria and the Entertainment Products Distribution Network. The other Director and Executive Secretary is Mr Cletus George, a seasoned Entertainment Expert.
In what ways does the Nigerian Entertainment Foundation engage with and on behalf of its stakeholders?
We have a board with the Presidents of the most important Entertainment Industry Associations, we meet and take decision. As the Chairman of the Entertainment Foundation of Nigeria I am chairing the meetings. It has been a big challenge to raise funds, Nigerians have not yet understood the value of the Entertainment Industry and most expenditure (including the registration) is carried by me.
What has been the most fundamental change in Nigerian entertainment in the last 20 years?
Some good but mostly negative. Nigerians have accepted Nigeria music more than in the 80s but the quality has dropped drastically. There is too much trash being produced and very few good songs hit the radio stations. This means the young ones grow up listening to meaning less, badly produced songs and are bombarded with obscene videos.
How much recognition are policy makers in Nigerian giving to entertainment in general?
Nothing at all! This Government seems to have no respect for the arts. We don’t even have a minister of culture. Everything is done by the artists, even the corporate support has shrunken to the usual corporate fraud, this means an event is being organized and the board approves hundreds of millions and a fraction is used for the project, the rest shared by the organizers, directors and whoever approves the funds.
What unique advantages does Nigerian entertainment’s long history provide for its future and to its practitioners?
The Entertainment Industry has to develop to add to the GDP of a country. It has to create jobs and assist the Tourist Industry. It should feed thousands of Practitioners and their families so that they can grow and become good to compete in the world of Entertainment
Why do you think it has taken so long for a foundation like this to be established?
I guess nobody wanted to go through a 2 years process to get the name Nigeria approved, to take the National character into consideration, to convince all major associations to be part of it. It costs million and countless trips to Abuja, to the Corporate Affairs Commission, the presidency, the Ministry of Culture. It was a big, stressful Job!
We heard that you’re building an Entertainment Dome in Dubai? What is that all about?
I raised USD 1.6 billion to build an Entertainment Mega Dome for Lagos, but decided to move the project to Dubai. We cannot run Mega Dome on Generators. When I was negotiating the Investment I was assured that the electricity situation will improve and we will have 24/7 within one year of APC taking over. A Mega Dome is a big convention Centre, concert halls and shopping malls all under an acclimatized Mega Dome.
What insights and experience does your history in the industry bring to Nigerian Entertainment Foundation?
Having been a part of the Nigeria Entertainment Industry since 1970, having managed clubs and as the PMAN President the Union for a few years I was able to meet who ever matters, all artist with repute and created a credible name for investors.
How has your experience of the industry shaped your perspective?
Yes I have learned a lot, I have studied the positive and negative aspect of our industry. There are some great talents and a lot of fraudulent imposters who have nothing to offer. There are some hard working students working 6 hours a day to master their instrument and there is the majority of jokers who have no voice, use auto tune on their songs to cover up and they have no idea about music.