By Akpelu Paul Kelechi
Gbite Falade, Chief Executive of Niger Delta Exploration & Production (NDEP), has considered the possibility of a divine hand guiding his choice of careers in a way that led to his current role.
“I told the interviewers I was born to do this job”, says Falade, whose first-year anniversary in the saddle of Nigeria’s most diversified, private energy producer, comes up on Thursday February 10, 2022.
“I said it not out of pride. I took a review of all the roles I have done prior to coming in here and it was as if there was a divine hand guiding the choices and selection of the experiences that I have picked up in preparation of an NDEP that is an integrated energy company”, he explains, in a wide-ranging interview on the goals of the company’s near-term future, in terms of strategy, deliverables and the energy transition.
NDEP produces and sells kerosine, diesel and aviation fuel from its own refinery; supplies natural gas from a processing plant sited on its lone producing field: Ogbele, to a local manufacturing firm as well as the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited. It produces and exports crude oil. And, in Falade’s telling, in the next nine months, “the naphtha that is coming out from (the refinery) Trains 2 and 3 right now would be the feedstock for the production of LPG and PMS (gasoline) which are two vital refined products that we need as a country”.
Falade narrates that he “started off in the IOCs and then I moved on to an African Independent from there”. He was the commercial executive of the Gas & Power division. “At the IOC, where I started from, I was in E&P but I ended up being a commercial executive there as well. From there, I was the pioneer Chief Operating Officer for that African Independent for their upstream acquisition. Then I left that role to become the Managing Director of the biggest indigenous service company that is into project management and all of that”.
Falade says the sum total of his experience is relevant across all the various sectors that NDEP has footprint “and so, this is not a job that I came into with an apprehension of a knowledge gap or a blind spot in a particular sector, I feel very much at home. I was excited that I was the guy that the company was going to entrust itself in his hand to lead it into what I call the next phase”.
He admits that his predecessor, Layiwola Fatona, has a huge name in the industry. “I knew that I was always going to have a backdrop to my performance on the job. I knew I was coming in after Dr. Fatona, which was going to be a difficult task because he personally embodied and typified what this organization is and with this organization, he is a leading light; a foremost practitioner in the industry so following such a person who has such a pedigree and who has also performed so well in nurturing this enterprise to this point was always going to be a difficult task.
“But I was clear in my mind that my mission is not to step into Dr. Fatona’s boots but to bring my own shoes. And that is what I have done and my intention is that, it is horses for courses. The company is set on a different path going forward and I believe that I am the right candidate to take it through that path and not necessarily as a like-for-like replacement for Dr. Fatona but as a complimentary bolt on the foundation that he and others have laid”.
This is the second in a four-part series of published interviews with Mr. Falade.