“We’d set up a consulate service in Lagos”-Ambassador
“If I need to be introduced to a Norwegian businessman, I go to Taofik”.
So says Jens-Petter Kjemprud, the Ambassador of Norway to Nigeria, speaking at a reception organised around the investiture of Taofik Adegbite as Honorary Consul of Norway in Nigeria.
He said it in a way that provoked laughter around the room. But the comment was more of a high praise than a joke, coming from someone who was awarded the Ambassador of the Year prize for 2017 by the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO). Translation: Jens-Petter Kjemprud was regarded the most business-friendly Norwegian envoy anywhere in the world.
“We decided on Taofik Adegbite, (among a few very good candidates), as a prominent Nigerian businessman because of him doing his trade in sectors important for Nigeria and Norway namely oil and gas industry, his broad network of business partners in Norway, his innovative skills, his prominence in promoting local content and his personality and determination”, declared the envoy.
Adegbite is Chief Executive of Marine Platforms, an oil service company which owns two large Multi-Purpose Support Vessels, used for work in deep water oil fields, located off Nigeria.
Kjemprud is something of an African expert. He has served as his country’s representative on the continent since 2006; as Ambassador or special envoy in four African countries (Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria), a 13 year stretch punctuated by just two years as Ambassador to Iran. In his 30 months in Nigeria he has witnessed Adegbite, running “a well-established company which could serve Norwegian interests in Nigeria well”.
The primary connection between Marine Platforms and Norway was through construction of the $130Million African Inspiration, the newer and bigger of the company’s two vessels. Commissioned in February 2015, African Inspiration was built in Havyard Shipyard, located in the maritime cluster in the north west of Norway. The vessel deploys Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and associated equipment to water depths that divers can’t reach. The ROVs perform tasks on equipment and structures on the seabed and return to the vessel.
But the relationship between the Nigerian company and the Norwegian business sector goes farther back. Marine Platforms started dealing with Norwegian companies when it chartered its first vessel: African Vision, in 2008. Business dealings with Norway, however spiked with the African Inspiration project, which brought in the Guarantee Institute of Export Credits (GIEC), the Norwegian export credit agency, to guarantee the debt incurred in the construction of the vessel.
Post the vessel’s commissioning, Marine Platforms has, in the last three years, done over $500Million worth of business with both Norwegian companies and Nigerian firms with which it has served as links to Norwegian companies, according to Adegbite.
“Since we have had an Embassy here since 1962 my predecessors have not seen the need for an honorary consul”, Kjemprud says. “On my arrival, being based in Abuja, I decided that we needed a more solid, visible and permanent presence in Lagos since most of the approximately 70 Norwegian companies operating in Nigeria are based there, and thus started the process of identifying candidates. Usually we have Norwegians as honorary consuls but we decided to go for Taofik. We would also like to have an honorary consul in Port Harcourt but Nigerian policy does not allow more than one.
“The Honorary Consul mandate is to serve Norwegian residents and interests generally, but we also see the opportunity in him promoting bilateral relations and trade in cooperation with the Embassy. The consulate will be in charge of consular services apart from visa applications which is handled by VFS”