By Akpelu Paul Kelechi in Lagos
Why would the Nigerian independent Niger Delta Exploration & Production (NDEP) change a name with such a direct connection with the heartland of hydrocarbon output in the country?
The answers to that question, which lingered in the minds of some of the over 2,000 participants at the recent, picturesque, name-change in Lagos, was provided by ‘Gbite Falade, the company’s CEO, when he narrated, in a typical African story telling fashion, the history and reasons behind the name Aradel.
“The name Aradel is not an existing word; it’s a creation of the stories that brought us to the point where we are today,” he began. The meaning behind Aradel can actually be interpreted from two verticals; all having a rich and dynamic synergy with the vision and aspirations of the company”.
The Founding Chairman, Godwin Aret Adams, a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and other respected professionals came together “to set up an indigenous publicly owned oil company on the premise that ordinary Nigerians should have the opportunity to invest in and benefit from the oil and gas sector”.
Aradel Holdings was incorporated on the 25th of March 1992 originally as the Midas Drilling Fund and Nigeria’s first integrated oil and gas investment company. It was changed to Niger Delta Exploration and Production Plc in November 1996 and assumed its current name, Aradel in May 2023.
The formal, public announcement of this new name was made on the 4th of August, 2023, in the form of a grand, coming out party, featuring a glitzy unveiling of the company’s new brand identity at the top convention centre in Lagos, Nigeria.
“One vertical of interpreting our name speaks to not just what we aspire to be in the future but also to where we’re coming from,” Falade continues. “ARADEL can be bifurcated into two and those two form essential pillars of where we have come from. The ARA in Aradel is pronounced, coined and created deliberately as a testament and recognition to the funding father who gathered everybody together some 31 years ago – Aret Adams.”
In his opening remarks, Aradel’s chairman, Ladi Jadesimi, described the company’s founding fathers as the “Eight Giants” under the distinguished leadership of late Aret Adams. They included Aret Adams himself, Edward Iyamu and Alex Okoli (both seasoned geoscientists), Sammy Olagbaju (investment banker and serial investor), David Richards (investment banker and accountant, who was the company’s Chief Finance Officer for about two decades) the and John Albert Jones (accountant and investor). These six ‘giants’ have since passed on. The remaining two of the eight founders include Imo Itsueli and Layi Fatona (the founding Chief Executive), are, in Mr. Jadesimi’s words, “very much still with us and they remain as vigorous and outstanding as ever”.
“The second part of “Ara-DEL” speaks to our unflinching pride in the place where we started our journey from in the Niger Delta,” Falade declared to the audience.
“So, each time we call Aradel, we are connecting the legacy of the pantheons led by Aret Adams to the place where we started from which is in the Delta region.”
Falade outlined a “second vertical from which we can look at Aradel is to ascribe each letter to the DNA of the company” as follows:
Accountability: “We are boldly putting forward our DNA of accountability,” Falade proclaims enthusiastically. We are accountable internally to our board and we are accountable to our shareholders. We are also accountable to the regulators and to our community. To a large extent, we are accountable to all critical stakeholders that are involved in the way we run our business.”
Resilience: “In Aradel, the R stands for how we have resiliently weathered different storms, twist and turns operationally and otherwise to be where we are today; and, it’s a promise that when you look into our future, you will continue to see a resilient company. You will continue to see a company that continues to adapt, a company that continues to reinvent itself in the midst of changing situations. Whether it be about energy transition or about the macro economy, we will continue to the adaptable. We are a company that is keenly interested in bringing to the fore affordable energy solutions; we consider ourselves a critical part of the energy security solution for our country and it is the reason why we have decided consciously and deliberately, to domesticate the consumption of the resources that we own. It is the reason why we went into refining. It is about energy access to everybody starting from our immediate community. It is about the domestication of our hydrocarbon resources and deliberately stimulating imports substitution in such a way that it will contribute to a reduction in the pressure on our currency by having to spend less in importing products.
Diversity: The D stands for our diversity; as has been mentioned, we are represented in ownership by various persons from Kano, Cross River, Lagos, Bayelsa, Rivers and that’s who we are. Even in our workforce, we have enshrined and we continue to promote diversity across ethnic tribes, across genders and across races.
Excellence: Our E stands for excellence and this will continue to shape and drive the way we continue to run this business; our pledge and our commitment which is reflected in this name is that you can continue to expect a sustained standard of excellence, a sustained standard of innovation and creativity.
Leadership: Finally, our L stands for our deliberate intention to continue to play the leadership role that we have played up until now. You can be assured that we will continue to play that role in a more deliberate fashion going into the future.
PEPPERING HIS REMARKS WITH A SERIES OF QUOTES taken from personae in American contemporary history, Falade quoted Eleanor Roosevelt, the former first lady of the United States as saying, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” and from Abraham Lincoln: “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”
“Today is the future that was dreamt 31 years ago and today, we start another dream that will become a reality in 10 years, 20 years and 30 years to come. In Aradel, we are deliberately creating the future that will translate this company into an energy giant not just in this country but in Africa”, Falade declared.
“In Aradel, the future we see is not just us operating a marginal field that is today producing some 13,000 barrels of oil; we’re going to see a company that will be producing much more multiples of that in the near future. We are going to see a company that will go from its current gas production potential of about 70MMScf/d day to multiples of that and we are on a journey to achieving that within the near term.
“We started off by pioneering the modular refinery concept with the 1,000 barrel AGO train and we’ve moved on to expand that to an 11,000BPSD. In the future, starting within less than 12 months from now, we are going to come on stream as the first privately owned modular refinery that will be refining PMS and the reticulation of that into the domestic economy. But we are going to go beyond that, as far as we are concerned, we’re still scratching the surface. It’s at the proof of concept stage that we are at right now and so, please expect a refinery that is going to be significantly larger in capacity than what we currently have.
“What more should you expect in the future? Today, we self-generate the power that we use in our premises. We generate about 4.6 megawatts of power today and we’re growing our power generation base deliberately as part of our energy transition plan making use of gas and making use of renewables. And, our near term targets within the next five years is to grow that initially to over 50 megawatts and then to scale that up serving not just our needs but also serving captive offtakers and even injecting it into the national grid.
“In the future and consistent with the trend that we have established over the last 17 years where we have consistently returned dividend payments to our shareholders, we pledge that we will continue to sustain that rich tradition to those who are current investors and to those who are yet to invest. You can expect a company that through thick and thin, will continue to deliver superior shareholders return in such a way that you will get value better than you would have gotten anywhere else.
“In terms of what we see in the future, our history have been dogged by direct operations from just one field but commencing from next year, we will start the journey across multiple field operations and we will move from marginal fields to directly operating mining leases that are bigger than what we are operating today; not just within Nigeria because we are on course of commencing exploration and production from mining leases even outside of the country. This is the future that we are creating and this is the future that we ask you to continue to watch out for and to expect to see.
“The dream of our founding fathers was that every Nigerian would have a stake in this business and by extension, in the ownership of our industry. Today we are traded on the NESD under the tracker NDEP; so what future are we asking you to watch out for? It is a future where our shares will be listed and traded not just on the Nigerian stock exchange but even on foreign burses and the ownership base of this company will stretch beyond racial boundaries to reflect the global giant that we are aspiring to be.
“Again, I will quote the words of Abraham Lincoln: “the best way to predict the future is to create it” and with Aradel, this is the future that we are creating and we thank you for being part of our past 31 years. We invite you to strengthen your resolve to be part of the next 31 years believing that it will be the best decision you would ever take”.