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Sarki, New DPR Director, Was Not on the Radar

By Fred Akanni, Editor in Chief

The appointment of Sarki Auwalu as the substantive Director of the Department Petroleum Resources (DPR) by President Muhammadu Buhari was far away from any calculation of most people close to the Nigerian Ministry of Petroleum.

It certainly had nothing to do with the recommendation of Timipre Sylva, the Minister of State for Petroleum, who supposedly runs the Ministry on a day to day basis, but is hardly consulted by President Buhari, the dejure minister, on petroleum affairs.

An Assistant Director at the regulatory body at the time of his appointment, Auwalu, with an engineering career spanning 21 years, is the lowest ranked officer to take the reins of the DPR in 30 years. But the regulatory agency officially dismisses this characterization. “His appointment was made by the President of Nigeria”, says a terse statement from the DPR’s Public Affairs Division, in response to our query, “and further, Assistant Director and Deputy Director positions in DPR are strictly by appointment”.

Previous DPR Directors of the last 30 years have included Ben Osuno, the first Nigerian geoscientist to be hired by Shell (1960), which was at the time the only producing company in the country. He left the DPR in 1989, succeeded by Jibril Oyekan, who was seconded from the Ministry. Oyekan was succeeded by Dublin Green, who was succeeded by Peter Achebe. Mac Ofurhie, Tony Chukwueke, Aliyu Sabonbimi, Billy Agha, Andrew Obaje, Osten Olorunshola, George Osahon, and Mordecai Ladan have been directors of the agency since.

It’s true that Auwalu’s predecessor, Ahmad Shakur, who stepped in as acting director last June, following the expiration of the tenure of Mordecai Ladan, was still knocking doors to have his acting appointment substantiated, when the news of his ouster came. But whereas Shakur’s critics were citing his credentials as disadvantaged because of his non-technical background, they weren’t exactly considering an assistant director shooting to the head of a management group consisting of eight Deputy Directors. Checks by Africa Oil+Gas Report indicate that all the Deputy Directors have taken Mr. Auwalu’s double promotion in good faith and are willing to work with him, but why did Abuja insist on picking an officer from below the ranks of Executive Management?

Here are some of  the feelers we got: (1)The appointment was recommended out of the ‘villa’ (as the office and Residence of the Nigerian President is called) by those who make the strategic appointments, (2) Sanni Hassan, Deputy Director and head of DPR’s influential Basin and Lease Administration, was considered for the job, but he happens to come from the same state and local government as Mele Kolo Kyari, Group Managing Director of the NNPC (3)President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet needed someone at the helm of the regulatory body, who would feel grateful to them,hence the decision to pick an Assistant Director.

As a rule, DPR directors are appointed from inside. But those who have come from outside, in the last 15 years, had been hired from positions at the summit of the industry. Ofurhie had been both Managing Director of Nigerian Gas Company and Managing Director of NPDC, both influential subsidiaries of the NNPC. Tony Chukwueke was Shell’s Corporate Geophysicist, an unusual title created for him and he took the DPR’s Directorship from the position of Technical Advisor to the Minister of State for Petroleum; Osten Olorunshola was Shell Africa’s Vice President Gas &Power and had briefly been Special Adviser to the Minister of State for Petroleum. George Osahon was Managing Director of NPDC and latterly Group General Manager NAPIMS, at the time the most influential position below that of Group Managing Director of NNPC.

Mr. Auwalu, who is stepping into these big shoes, is likely to superintend the country’s first licensing round in 12 years. For this he has the

opportunity to be as transparent as he possibly can. It is the one currency he badly needs to deliver on this important job and to shame those who are convinced he was handed the job in order to dispense patronage. A key challenge of regulatory agencies in Nigeria is the difficulty of civil servants to escape regulatory capture.And the DPR is not immune.

Alex Tarka Takes the Reins

By Joe Precocio

The Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Africa’s largest body of technical petroleum professionals, has elected Alex Nachi Tarka as its President for the next one year.

The 11,000+ strong group handed over the reins to the state employed Geoscientist at a lush ceremony rounding up its 37th Annual Conference in Lagos.

Tarka, Manager of the divested Shell JV assets at the Nigerian Petroleum Developmemt Company (NPDC), was decorated with the insignia of office by the outgoing President, Ajibola Oyebanji, on a glitzy night of awards that featured the induction of seven ranking members, including Mele Kolo Kyari, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, as distinguished fellows of the association.

The NAPE Presidency is, on the face of it, the most powerful advocacy role in the Nigerian segment of the global oil patch.

On his inauguration, Tarka had very few words: “I am confident that the industry and academia shall feel the positive impact of today’s event”.

NAPE was created in 1975 as the Lagos Society of Geologists and Geophysicists, a professional society to further both social and technical interaction among colleagues. The name later changed to the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), to accommodate colleagues in other parts of the country. By the mid -1980s, the association had broadened its scope from focus on its members, to advocating for value addition to the Nigerian oil industry. NAPE led the campaign for the country’s venture into deepwater terrain; called for more frequent licencing rounds, pushed the idea of encouraging the indigenous enterprise and championed the concessioning of Marginal Fields. These issues may appear “hot button” now, but they were very niche ideas 30 years ago, when the association started pushing for them.

Nachi Tarka has been part of the technical elite of the oil and gas industry since he served the Nigerian mandatory post graduate Youth Service as Trainee Well-site Geologist (NYSC) at TOTAL Exploration and Production Nigeria (then Elf Nigeria) in 1990.

In the 29 years since, he has risen through the ranks in the state hydrocarbon company, as Field Operations Production Geologist in NNPC’s Exploration Department, JV (1999), as Technical Assistant to General Manager, JV. Oil Operations Division (2002), as Deputy Manager, Exploration & Evaluation in Exploration Department, JV. Oil Operations Division (2013).

But his main claim to fame, as a technically honed earth scientist, is the job he did as Deputy Manager in the Frontier Exploration Services Division (October 2017-October 2018).

With the discovery of oil, gas and condensates in Kolmani River-2, a result that Mr. Kyari himself described as “significant”, Tarka should feel proud to have been the one who was asked to give the presentation “Nigerian Frontier Basins-The Journey So Far” at the NAPE Monthly Technical/Business Meeting in Lagos in April 2016. Three years before the well was spud, that paper laid out bare, the comprehensive technical work that NNPC had done to appraise the 1999 discovery made by Shell.

But Tarka, a humble civil servant, would not even comment on his role, let alone take credit.

In NAPE, he has held several positions in the executive council, including the Treasurer from 2014- 2016, Financial Secretary from 2016- 2018 and President-Elect, from 2018. He was made a Fellow of NAPE in 2018.

In the 12 short months he has as President, Mr. Tarka has enormous responsibility. In an increasingly uncertain oil and gas industry, in which the Nigerian government appears desperate to make the environment as unfriendly as it can, the onus is on professional bodies to amplify the advocacy and heighten their engagement with the authorities. The Buhari government is determined to listen only to its own voice and oil companies are struggling with the tools for a reasonable conversation. The poor conversational skills of the Oil Producers’ body, the OPTS, were starkly on display at the legislative hearings for the passage of the Deep Offshore And Inland Basin Production Sharing Bill, which resulted in high spikes to Royalties paid for Deepwater assets.

If the government doesn’t trust Oil Companies, perhaps they will listen to professional bodies?

Beyond the phantasmagoria of his election, Alex Nachi Tarka has a call to make tto his peers at the helm at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) and the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS). There is a lot of work to do.




Tullow Appoints Landsec Man to the Board

Martin Greenslade has been appointed a non-executive Director of Tullow Oil, the Africa focused, London headquartered explorer.

Mr. Greenslade, an accountant, is Chief Executive Officer of CFO of Land Securities Group plc, (Landsec), a large listed property development & investment company with more than $18Billion of assets, focused on evolving consumer, work, retail, leisure & tech trends. He has also been appointed as a member of the Audit Committee and will stand for election to the Board at the 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Greensdale who will be appointed Chair of the Audit Committee, effectively replaces, Steve Lucas, non-executive Director, who is expected to step down from the Board following the conclusion of the Group’s 2020 AGM, following eight years with Tullow.

“Martin brings extensive financial experience to Tullow from his current position as Chief Financial Officer and member of the Board of Land Securities Group plc which he has held since 2005”, says Dorothy Thompson, Chair of Tullow Oil plc..

TOTAL’s Zimbabwe Man Now Heads One of Africa’s Largest Projects

Ronan Bescond was moved in September 2019 from a lack lustre job in Harare in Zimbabwe to oversee one of TOTAL’s biggest projects in the world.

He is Vice President and Country Manager for the Mozambique LNG project, a 12.88Million Tonne Per Annum facility under construction for around $20Billion.

Mr. Bescond will be based in Maputo.

He is, in addition to overseeing Mozambique LNG, also Managing Director TOTAL Moçambique.

TOTAL took over all of Anadarko’s assets in Africa after the American independent sold its entire shares to Occidental. The biggest ticket part of the transaction is the Moza LNG.

Anadarko had, indeed, taken the Final Investment Decision on the project after nailing agreements with buyers taking up to 11MMTPA of the 12.88MMTPA project.

Mr Bescond, a French national, has worked for the French major for 20 years and in the process acquired experience across the country;s business – both upstream and downstream – including a long history with the company’s LNG projects in Australia, Angola, Nigeria and Oman.


Chikezie Nwosu To Take Charge as Chief Executive at Waltersmith

Walersmith Petroman has appointed Chikezie Nwosu as Chief Executive Officer.

He will be in total charge of running the assets of the company, including the 7,000BOPD Ibigwe field in Oil Mining Lease(OML) 16, onshore Eastern Nigeria, the 5,000BSPD refinery currently under construction, and the 8% equity that the company has in NDWestern, which itself holds 45% in OML 34.

Abdulrazaq Isa and Danjuma Saleh, the company’s co-founders and Executive Chairman and Executive Vice Chairman respectively, will transmute, in the next six months, to non –executive chairman and non-executive vice chairman respectively. They will move “upstairs” to run a holding company, which includes other investments the company currently has and will have in the future.

Nwosu’s appointment is the first of many such appointments of planned at Waltersmith, which, Mr. Isa says, “is moving to the next phase of evolution” where owner/founders no longer run the company on hands on basis.

“We’d have a brand new management, including a CFO and a General Counsel, taking office in our new headquarters on Glover Road in Ikoyi”, Isa says. They take over a debt free company and set new targets for growth”. Isa insists, repeatedly that, as an owner/founder who is still going to be very much around, he wouldn’t be looking over Nwosu’s shoulders.

Nwosu is a widely regarded technical operative in the Upstream sector of the industry in Nigeria.

Chairman of the Nigerian Council of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) for 2017/2018, he was, until December 2018, the executive director, technical at Addax Petroleum.

He, in fact, had been interviewed for Executive Director position at Seplat in 2017; with the potential to take over as CEO at some point in the next three years. But he didn’t take it.

Between his leaving Addax and taking the Waltersmith job, Nwosu was Executive Vice President at Tolea Energy in the Netherlands. He had spent 16 years with the AngloDutch major Shell before leaving as Regional Discipline Manager, Petrophysics, in 2012, when he joined Addax as General Manager, Development & Asset Management.


How We Arrived: From Osuno To Akinyanmi

When Ben Osuno was hired by ShellBP Upstream in Nigeria in September 1960, the company’s idea was to mix the expatriate white technical staff with some locals.

After 11 years and eight months in Shell(discounting the civil war period, May 1968-January 1970), the pioneering Nigerian petroleum geoscientist left for a government job and at some point became the Director of Department of Petroleum Resources, the country’s petroleum regulator.

Still, while there have been several generations of homegrown technical staff after Osuno, it took 42 years after 1960 to produce the first Nigerian managing director of a major multinational firm operating in the country.

Basil Omiyi’s appointment as Chief Executive of Shell Nigeria in 2002 was widely greeted as some form of validation of the capacity of the Nigerian to run a large industrial enterprise, but things have shaped up a little differently since then.

Today, it is less fashionable than it was 20 years ago to aspire to be a senior executive in a multinational company. Why not become a founder, co-owner and Chief Executive of an upstream resource company?

The careers that exemplify the new age include those of Layiwola Fatona, Austin Avuru, Emeka Okwuosa and Demola Adeyemi -Bero.

Twenty years after Osuno was hired by Shell, Avuru was a fresh graduate of geology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, serving his mandatory National Service at NNPC, the state hydrocarbon company; Fatona was returning home from Imperial with a PhD in Sedimentology; Okwuosa was two years away from a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Ife and Adeyemi-Bero was still in higher secondary school in the UK.

Today, Fatona is retiring from Niger Delta Exploration and Petroleum, an integrated company with majority holdings in three upstream acreages in Nigeria and footprints in South Sudan; Avuru is the chief executive of Seplat Petroleum, the only Nigerian firm listed on the main board of the iconic  London Stock Exchange; Okwuosa’s Oilserv operates an upstream acreage in the Republic of Benin and  is the busiest hydrocarbon pipeline construction company in Nigeria. These are some of the industry’s ranking businessmen whose start up stories are profiled in the September 2019 edition of Africa Oil+Gas Report.

Our inaugural PETROLEUM PEOPLE SPECIAL overviews the emerging local and international personnel taking charge of things in the African E&P space. It is part of making sense of the paradigm shift in the industry, for the benefit of our subscribers.

The Africa Oil+Gas Report is the primer of the hydrocarbon industry on the continent. It is the market leader in local contextualizing of global developments and policy issues and is the go-to medium for decision makers, whether they be international corporations or local entrepreneurs, technical enterprises or financing institutions, for useful analyses of Africa’s oil and gas industry. Published by the Festac News Press Limited since November 2001, AOGR is a monthly, 40 page e-copy and hardcopy publication delivered to subscribers around the world. Its website remains and the contact email address is Contact telephone numbers in our West African regional headquarters in Lagos are +2347062420127,+2348036525979 and +2348023902519.

Nabbanja Moves to the Corner Office at UNOC

Proscovia Nabbanja has been appointed interim Chief Executive Officer of The Uganda National Oil Company, the country’s state hydrocarbon firm.

The Imperial College trained 41 year old takes over from Josephine Wapakabulo, who handed in her resignation last May, three years into the job.

Nabbanja had spent her entire career working in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, unlike her predecessor who was hired from outside the sector. She joined the Petroleum Exploration and Production Department PEPD of the ministry in 2000, right out of Makerere University, where she grabbed a Bachelor of Science (chemistry, geology), the first female technical staff to be employed. She rose through the ranks to become Senior Geologist by May 2013, supervising a team of professionals who review the technical proposals from the oil companies, on all oil wells-related issues. The data that her team collected was used to estimate the country’s reserves, from the Government side. She was then promoted acting principal geologist in the PEPD, from where she moved to UNOC at the take-off of the company in 2016.

As COO at UNOC she ran the technical division, which reviews technical proposals especially field development plans and petroleum reservoir reports.

Nabbanja was essentially Wapakabulo’s deputy all through the three years the latter was in charge,.

Her degrees from Imperial College are a Master of Science in petroleum geoscience and an MBA.

UNOC was founded in 2015 to oversee the commercial interests of the state in the petroleum sector. It holds 10% in the $10Billion Albertine Basin wide oil development and is the parent company of the Uganda Refinery Holding Company.




Onichabor is the New CEO at West Africa E&P

Fidel Onichabor has taken over from James Golden as the Chief Executive Officer of the West African Exploration and Production, the upstream oil and gas subsidiary of the Dangote Group.

He was Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Seplat Petroleum until two years ago. In that role, he oversaw all Exploration, Asset Development & Drilling/Completions activities across Seplat’s four operated and two non-operated acreages. Prior to joining Seplat in 2010, Onichabor was, briefly, General Manager Exploration at Sahara Energy Fields, the E&P subsidiary of the Sahara Group.

But it was in the smithy of the exploration departments at Anglo Dutch Shell that his career was forged.

Onichabor had spent 28 years in that company, one of the largest publicly quoted enterprises in the world, which he joined in December 1980, rising from seismic interpreter through Specialist (Special Seismic Studies) and Team Leader- Onshore Eastern Niger Delta, to retire as Team Leader- Niger Delta Growth Team (charged with the responsibility of developing new exploration plays) in May 2008.

A turning point in his career was the role of Principal Seismologist at Sarawak Shell Berhad, in Malaysia, from 1997-2001

At WAEP, Mr.Onichabor will be seeing to the development of Oil Mining Leases (OML) 71 and 72 in shallow offshore, Central Niger Delta Basin, off Nigeria. WAEP purchased 45% of these two acreages from Shell, TOTAL and ENI for $300Million in March 2015, right in the thick of the crude oil price crash. Now is the time to monetise that investment.



South Africa Fires Its Head of IPP

By Toyin Akinosho, Publisher

The country’s energy sector is prone to haemorrhaging talent

Karen Breytenbach has been asked to vacate her position by South Africa’s Department of Energy (DoE) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

The 62 year old head of her country’s influential Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office had been on the job for more than eight years, but when her last contract expired in February, she was initially reappointed until the end of March and then until April 2020, so her receiving a letter on Monday July 22 indicating that she was no longer the head of the parastatal, was instructive, local media say. “She said no reason was given as to why she was being asked to leave”, Engineering News, an insightful business platform, reported. The medium also claimed that prior to her sacking, Ms. Breytenbach’s salary had been unpaid for five months.

Breytenbach’s exit from a parastatal in the troubled DoE conforms to a pattern.

South Africa’s energy sector has been haemorrhaging talent since the historic rolling blackouts of 2008, which led to a spat between Bobby Godsell, (then) chairman of the power utility Eskom and Jacob Maruga, its CEO. Maruga resigned and Godsell did. In the 11 years since, Eskom has had over six Chief Executives.

South Africa’s state hydrocarbon company, PetroSA has been run by an acting CEO for the last three years. The CEO of its parent company Central Energy Fund, the major parastatal in the DoE, was fired last March. There have been many resignations in the sector, most of which have had to do with alleged graft and underperformance.

In this muddied, chaotic environment, Breytenbach has created an oasis of excellence. Anton Eberhard, one of the country’s leading energy scholars and emeritus professor at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, tweeted that Breytenbach has overseen $16 Billion investment in 112 renewable-energy projects with “zero corruption”, since 2011.

Breytenbach is highly regarded in the global energy patch, largely because of her superintending the development and roll-out of South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, considered one of the best renewables competitive bidding programmes internationally.

The government of South Africa has recently admitted that the Energy Sector is the biggest drag on the economy of Africa’s most industrialised country. With this sacking, they are just reinforcing their own misgivings.


Yetunde Taiwo Is the CEO of AGPC

By Sully Manope, in Owerri

Feisty petroleum engineer takes charge of a $700Million Domestic Gas Project

Yetunde Taiwo has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the ANOH Gas Processing Company.

She takes the job three and half years after her appointment as Head of Gas Business at Seplat, the continent’s largest homegrown hydrocarbon producer, where she oversaw the development of one of the fastest growing domestic gas businesses in Nigeria.

On Mrs. Taiwo’s watch, Seplat grew its operated gas production capacity from 300Million standard cubic feet per day (300MMscf/d) to 525MMscf/d.

AGPC will manage a $700Million midstream development that will monetise 300Million standard cubic feet produced every day from the Assa North /Ohaji South fields, straddling Shell operated Oil Mining Lease(OML) 21 and Seplat operated OML 53, onshore eastern Nigeria.

Which means that in her new role, Taiwo takes hold of the biggest Domestic Gas project promoted by an Independent, indigenous Nigerian company. It’s firming up to be the biggest gas project delivered by a homegrown, African non-major oil company since Sasol inaugurated the 312MMscf/d transborder gas project between Mozambique and South Africa in 2004.

AGPC is something of a new NLNG Ltd, in that it is an Incorporated Joint Venture between a private hydrocarbon firm and a Nigerian state hydrocarbon company. In this case, Seplat and the Nigerian Gas Company are co-venturers.

Taiwo moved closer to her current position in January 2018, when she was appointed GM Commercial-ANOH. In that position, she was accountable for delivering all commercial agreements relating to the ANOH Gas Processing Company start-up. Those agreements include gas sales and purchase, gas marketing, condensate offtake, CHA (Crude Handling Agreements), LPG offtake and other commercial agreements with lenders and investors.

Taiwo was head of planning and economics at Seplat before she joined NNPC in 2013, as General Manager, Planning at NAPIMS, the Investment arm of Nigerian state hydrocarbon company. She was a member of the second-level management cadre that was retired as Ibe Kachikwu, swept into office as Group Managing Director of NNPC.

That forced retirement from NNPC, along with some of what oil industry watchers had come to see as “the selected tenth” of the NNPC, including Tim Okon-Group Coordinator, Corporate Planning & Strategy, David Ige- the nerdy, Group Executive Director in charge of Gas Power and Victor Briggs, also a former GM Planning at NAPIMS, cast a cloud of doubt on the quality of the mass retirement that Mr. Kachikwu executed at NNPC.

Taiwo started her career with Chevron Nigeria Limited in 1991, straight from National Youth Service, as a reservoir engineer. By the time she left the American major, for BG, in 2007, she was a planning advisor at the company’s Asset Management Division. She worked for BG as Economics manager before she showed up at Seplat in May 2011 as head of planning and economics.


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