By Yinka Ajayi
Oando PLC, Nigeria’s leading indigenous oil and gas company, held a two-day knowledge transfer session with Master’s of Oil and Gas Law (LL.M) students from the Strathmore University Law School, Nairobi, Kenya at its head office in Victoria Island, Lagos.
Today’s reality is that the African oil and gas sector is still playing catch up with the rest of the world; whilst at home International Oil Companies (IOCs) are still seen by employees as the ideal environment to put theory into practice and gain first hand practical knowledge. The Nigerian oil and gas sector suffers from a skills shortage that is compounded by a small pool of homegrown talent, as a result of poor educational infrastructure and facilities.
This challenge is not peculiar to Nigeria and can be felt across the region. In order to bridge this gap educational institutions and corporates are facilitating programmes to support the development of actors in the sector. To this end Strathmore University, Kenya organised a knowledge transfer academia visit for its Masters of Oil and Gas Law (LL.M) students to Africa’s largest oil producing nation, Nigeria and inevitably to the country’s leading indigenous oil company, Oando.
The company was selected by the University as the preferred indigenous sector leader for the academia visit on the basis of its knowledge pool gained from operational experience across the full energy value chain, success stories of pioneering initiatives within the sector, a diverse and local workforce and finally its impact on both the local and African oil and gas industry.
The students whose visit was grounded in the words of former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, “The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do”, said they wanted to acquire firsthand knowledge of the Nigerian oil and gas sector and take practical learning to apply to the nascent Kenyan oil sector on conclusion of their studies.
In recent times, the most significant growth in oil and gas investment on the continent has occurred in East Africa with discoveries in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania. In 2012, the Kenyan Government announced the discovery of commercially viable oil reserves at the Ngamia-1 well, in its Turkana province.
The find was the culmination of exploration efforts that began in the 1950s when British Petroleum and Shell drilled several wells in the coastal Lamu Basin. However, the country’s nascent oil and gas industry faces several challenges including a lack of institutional capacity, infrastructure, finance, legal and regulatory framework amongst others.
Oando gave the students the indigenous perspective, specifically the process of building an indigenous company to international standards in a dynamic environment as well as a 360 degree session on the company’s operations in the full energy value chain. On day one, the students were opportune to learn the intricacies and the importance of Environment, Health, Safety, Security and Quality (EHSSQ) in the oil sector facilitated by Kayode Boladale General Manager, Operations Integrity, Oando Energy Resources, the upstream subsidiary of Oando PLC.
Oando’s commercial team led by Akinbambo Ibidapo-Obe, General Manager, Commercial, took the students on a virtual tour of the company’s assets, current and future production capabilities and prospects for the future. Following in quick succession was a session by the Legal department, which the students were very keen on, being Masters of Oil and Gas Law (LL.M) students. The facilitator, Efuntomi Akpeneye, Senior Legal Advisor, talked about the difference between in-house and public lawyers. She also explained the various legal regulations guiding the industry and how these have evolved over time.
Speaking on her experience at the training session, Faith Waigwa, a student from the university said “Oil and gas experience from an African company done by Africans was the kind of knowledge we sought, and our expectations for this visit have been surpassed. We have a proper benchmark in Nigeria. We are so grateful for the fact that we’ve had insight fromknowledgeable individuals from a cross section ofdepartments on various aspects of the business and sector. It has truly been a robust learning experience”
The highlight of the day was their session with the Group Chief Executive, Oando PLC, Adewale Tinubu who shared his experience as a trained lawyer who from a young age realized his passion, strength and future lay in entrepreneurship, the building of an indigenous oil and gas company and his aspirations for the sector. Purity Wangigi, another student said she was in awe of Mr. Tinubu and all that he had achieved at such a young age. She further said: “Oando is an easy search anywhere in the world. Oando for us is a proper learning experience. The employees are young, vibrant and literally bursting with knowledge”
The students were then educated on the intricacies of the downstream trading business via a session led by Effanga Effanga, Head, Business Development, Oando Trading a subsidiary of Oando PLC. The concluding session for the day was from Oando’s gas affiliate Axxela who spoke about the challenges and opportunities that exist within the Nigerian gas sector.
On the second day, the students were invited to a tour of the company’s downstream affiliate OVH Energy in Apapa. On conclusion of the tour, Micheal Horeria another student said: “This visit to Nigeria, to spend time with both the private sector and Government will save Kenya from potential pitfalls. What you are doing here at Oando can be replicated across Africa. The leadership, the quality of work, the talent pool, their in-depth knowledge is evidence of great investment and real added value to both the business and the sector.”
Speaking on the overall experience, Mohammed Ruwange, a lecturer from the university said “Besides the substantive oil and gas practice, the visit demonstrated what I can safely term as the Oando culture! A culture that opens its doors to students and most importantly, a culture that embraces and embodies local / national content.
It was encouraging to see young, enthusiastic, vibrant and highly qualified Nigerians, as the face of the Company. Oando PLC is evidence that Africans can do it for Africa….that local content can positively redefine industry and a country.”
As part of their academia visit to Nigeria, the students also had a session at the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources where they hoped to gain a better understanding of how the Ministry manages the industry as a Government enterprise, regulatory issues and sector learnings to enable Kenya fully exploit and reap the benefits of the industry. At the Ministry, they also hoped to learn what to do to maximize benefits for the Government and the people of Kenya