Vanguard awards

April 27, 2024

Vanguard Personality of the Year: Avuru, Boardroom hero

Vanguard Personality of the Year: Avuru, Boardroom hero

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor

When Austin Avuru, currently the Founder/Executive Chairman of A.A. Holdings Limited, Vice chairman of Platform Petroleum and former Managing Director/CEO of Seplat Energy, graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a second class upper division in 1980, there were no clear indications that he would rise to his current position in Nigeria and indeed Africa’s oil and gas industry for some reasons. 

First, Avuru comes from a very humble background. His father – Stephen Chukwusa Avuru – was a cocoa farmer in Ipeju Ijesa in the present Osun State while his mother – Cecilia Avuru – was a business woman. Second, he had no godfather in politics and business to hold his hands. 

But through hard work, determination, resilience, focus and the special grace of God, the young Avuru, who graduated top of his Geology class found himself at the headquarters of NNPC Limited as a corps member in Lagos, a rare privilege that enabled him to kick start a promising career as a well site geologist, working onshore and offshore with experienced technocrats. 

As a well-site geologist, Avuru participated in much training, including the mandatory training at the Petroleum Training Institute in Warri, Chevron’s training in San Ramon, further education in Petroleum Engineering (University of Ibadan), before resigning from NNPC to join Mr. Kase Lawal’s Allied Energy Resources, an indigenous deep-water operator in 1992 as Exploration Manager, rising to the position of Deputy Chief Operating Officer, COO. 

Ten years later, Avuru mobilised a team of competent industry professionals to establish Platform Petroleum Limited, a Marginal Field Development Company, where he was the Pioneer Managing Director/CEO. Under his watch, Platform Petroleum Limited soon evolved into ‘an indigenous Independent with a consistently strong balance sheet and good returns to all stakeholders.

The company is the Operator of Egbaoma field in Oil Mining Lease, OML 38 located in Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State. It is also one of the 24 marginal fields farmed out to indigenous oil companies during the 2004 Marginal field bid round.

Avuru and others moved on to establish Seplat Energy Plc, a leading Nigerian independent energy company listed on the Nigerian Exchange Limited and the London Stock Exchange on June 17, 2009 in order to bid for OML 4, 38 and 41, previously Shell’s assets in the Niger Delta. 

As its pioneer Managing Director/CEO, Avuru led the company to execute major flagship projects and programmes, thus creating operational excellence and sustainable value for stakeholders. Besides Shell, available records have it that his efforts also culminated in the successful acquisition of CNL divested assets and appointment as Operators; Operated nine (9) drilling rigs (2 swamp drilling barges and 7 land drilling rigs) and attained peak activity of eight (8) drilling rigs concurrently in 2014 – highest in the industry/Africa by an operator at the time; increased average daily Crude Oil production from approximately 14,000bopd in 2010 to a current level of about 60,000bopd within the first three years and sustained the average production. 

Seplat, a leading gas supplier to the domestic market with about 350mmscfd supplied to the domestic market daily also increased Oben gas plant processing capacity from 90mmscfd to 465mmscfd, thus enhancing the government gas-to-power programme.

Avuru also established AA Holdings, a proprietary investment company; to intentionally drive operations in key areas, especially Energy, Agriculture, Real Estate and Equity Investing while upholding strong values of integrity and discipline, and commitment to excellence for the benefit of multiple generations and other stakeholders.

At AA Holdings, Avuru gives priority to investing in enterprises that are not only value accretive to the broader economy but also have a positive impact on the development of communities. 

However, he has directly made many social investments through the Austin Avuru Foundation, the philanthropic arm of AA Holdings Limited. For instance, on September 17, 2023, the Foundation announced the successful opening of Arrupe Jesuit College, Abbi which seeks to provide top-tier educational opportunities to children in Abbi, Delta State, and beyond. 

The idea to build a top-class secondary school that would be run to international standards was conceived in 2018. Arrupe Jesuit College is a non-profit coeducational boarding Catholic and Jesuit secondary school for young men and women of diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. 

Before then, he had established boreholes to provide potable water to Abbi, his community. He also donated a purpose-built Geo-Sciences complex to the University of Nsukka in 2017 and a well-equipped hospital to his Abbi community in 2016. 

Avuru, who believes that ‘the basic foundation for entrepreneur is a clear vision, where purpose, objectives and destination are unambiguous’ is also involved in the mentoring of students and young persons to invest in different sectors, especially energy.

Avuru has continued to harp on a wellarticulated strategy, robust and execution strategy, best-in-class corporate governance, talented and motivated workforce, teamoriented work culture, zero tolerance for corruption and unethical practices, robust succession planning, continuous risk assessment and mitigation as well as value creation as essentials for business success. 

These and others make him our Private Sector Icon of the Year.