The plan by the management of Seplat Petroleum Development Company to replace the outgoing Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Austin Avuru, with a Briton negates Section 30-36 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act and defeats the country’s Local Content (LC) policy.
Avuru, the pioneer MD/CEO of Seplat, is set to retire in July 2020 after leading the oil firm for 10 years. Following the development is a corporate disclosure at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) that Roger Brown, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer/Executive Director and a Briton, will succeed Avuru next year.
According to public affairs analyst, Aimhie Odin, considering his leadership at Seplat, Avuru, with over 38 years’ experience in the oil and gas sector, has done more for the sector as a Nigerian, which suggests that there are more Nigerians in the sector and company to continue from where he stops.
He said the NCDMB Act made it clear that “at the point where no Nigerian is fit to lead in the position for lack of training, the board should ensure effort is made with reasonable time for a Nigerian to be trained.” Odin noted that SEPLAT came into existence in June 2009 through the partnership of Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited and Platform Petroleum Joint Ventures Limited, specifically pursue upstream oil and gas opportunities in Nigeria, and in particular divestment opportunities arising out of the incumbent Major IOC’s portfolios.
Having Avuru lead Seplat over the years has demonstrated a strong commitment to developing local content. He said Seplat had the potential to support further local capacity expansion projects with the forthcoming Assa North-Ohaji South Project (ANOH), one of the largest greenfield gas condensate development projects being undertaken in Nigeria.
It involves the development of the Ohaji South gas and condensate field located within the licence block OML 53 and the Assa North field in license block OML 21. The project has significant gas supply for the local grid. The phase one development of ANOH midstream is expected to cost $700 million, of which the JV of Seplat and NGC will fund $420 million.
According to him, Seplat is also strategically positioned to provide a sustainable solution for the LPG shortages in the company. These represent strategic economic security projects, which cannot be entrusted to foreigners with no long term view.“Having a foreigner taking over from an indigene tend to is a set back of the growth of real income per capita and job creation in Nigeria which give the opportunity to reverse the population decrease trend.
“Amidst some pitfalls and risks accompanying the appointment of Brown, the transition if allowed to stand is significantly a set back for the gains of the local content program and rubbish all the progress maxed over the past five years.
“The LC policy since its establishment has played a key role in the advancement of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry, giving first consideration to Nigerian independent operators, creating a platform for the Nigerian firms to contribute immensely towards the growth of the Nigerian economy. The move in Seplat, giving out direct opportunities for employment to foreign nationals, shows a neglect of developing local skills and use of local manpower. The move provides a framework to support the expatriation of revenues that would otherwise have powered the Nigerian economy,” he stated.