Salient issues in Houston launching of Bayelsa/Oloibiri roundtable

By Daniel Iworiso-Markson

The recently concluded Oil and Gas Trade Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas, United States of America was an exciting engagement with industry tradition of regularly reviewing and enhancing operational standards and development. For the Nigerian delegation consisting of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu and top government officials, CEOs of multinational oil companies, including the Managing Director and Country Chairman of all Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor as well as the spirited presence of the governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seriake Dickson, among others, it was a time for reawakening, coming to see and learn about latest developments in the industry. It also provided opportunity for securing investment deals to harness the vast oil and gas resources at home.

The OTC, founded in 1969, is the offshore oil and gas industry’s foremost event for the development of hydrocarbon resources in the areas of drilling, environmental protection, exploration, production development, innovation and technology. It is sponsored by 13 nonprofit organizations in the energy industry, thus affording professionals in the industry to interface annually to exchange ideas and opinions to advance scientific and technical knowledge. It attracts over 100,000 industry leaders and 2,700 exhibitors from around the world each year. The conference was organized by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

This year’s edition of the conference which held between May 1 and 4 was the 18th and truly inspiring to industry watchers and professionals alike. The daily technical programme of presentations and the innovative breakfast and lunch sessions provide a dynamic forum for discussing the technical challenges facing the offshore oil and gas industry.

Although it was the first time Governor Dickson would be attending the conference but a good forum to rekindle the state government’s burning desire to industrialize Bayelsa, taking note of the vast oil and gas resources back home as real impetus to achieve this ambition. So attending the OTC in Houston was germane and why Governor Dickson in particular was deeply involved in all the sessions. He sat in all the sessions like a student and listened attentively to all the papers that were delivered by various experts. He took notes in most cases and participated actively in the discussions. Many of the dignitaries from Nigeria particularly the MDs of multinational oil companies and journalists were full of commendations for the governor for sitting in all through most of the sessions and attending the various sideline events for the whole four days that the OTC lasted. It was strictly business and this understanding was not lost on those present.

Of course, the governor also spent considerable time during the event to hold crucial meetings with prospective investors. Such meetings were held at the corporate headquarters of the companies concerned, including tour of company facilities and long hours of slide presentations in boardrooms. At other instances, meetings took place at the governor’s hotel conference room. It was palpable to see how the governor felt after each meeting as his focus was on how to secure the best deal for the state.

Dickson said that the participation of his state at the OTC was strategic as it afforded it the opportunity to meet and leverage prospective investors on various opportunities provided by his government.

In a more substantive evaluation of the issues in the industry and inherent business correlation at home, Governor Dickson was heard everywhere telling every listening ear that “If Houston is the world capital of oil and gas, so also Bayelsa is the capital of oil and gas in Nigeria and indeed, Africa’.

It was a catchphrase which often drew applauses and laughter from the audience but to all intents and purposes, he was very serious. Perhaps to give backing and stout seriousness it deserves to this saying, the governor moved to recommending the hosting of Bayelsa/Oloibiri Roundtable, which, he said, will be an annual feature of the OTC and to be held back home in Nigeria, precisely in Yenagoa.

According to the governor, the aim is to replicate the Nigerian version of the OTC in Bayelsa being the oil and gas capital of Nigeria and indeed in Africa. The move will also help to develop the industry with a lot of benefits to the stare especially in the area of investment as it will attract international attention and offer strategic exposure. It was an idea largely supported by the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, who commended the governor for the initiative and promised that the Federal Government will throw its weight behind it. “There is absolutely every need to domesticate the concept of the OTC”, the minister stated.

Thus the first Bayelsa/Oloibiri Roundtable was launched in Houston, Texas organized by the Bayelsa State Government and it was in the form of a dinner event which drew an impressive audience of global players in oil and gas. Besides the usual government delegation, others present at the Roundtable were CEOs of multinational oil companies, Managing Director and Country Chairman of all Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor, Country Chairman of Daewoo, Joe Pinawe, Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote, former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, Rueben Okoya, Managing Director of the multiple billion dollars Brass Fertilizer Company, Ben Okoye, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Senator Foster Ogola, Senator Dino Melaye and Hon. Fred Agbedi, Chairman, House Committee on Gas along with six other high ranking members of the Federal House of Representatives. Others in the governor’s delegation present were the Secretary to the State Government, Barr. Serena Dokubo-Spiff, Commissioner for Investment, Trade, Commerce and Industries, Barr. Kemela Okara, Chief Economic Adviser, Duate Iyabe, Special Adviser on Investment, Cyril Akika, Ebizi Ndiomu-Brown and Funkazi Koroye-Crooks, among other top government functionaries.

The governor, in his remarks on various perspectives of the respective speakers at the Roundtable, espoused on the vision of his administration to drive investment and support the growth of the state’s economy through active engagement of the private sector.

Dickson praised the Federal Government over the recent decision to allow private investors to operate modular refineries, noting that his government will build three of such modular refineries in each senatorial zone in the state. For this purpose, he said the state government had already set up the Bayelsa petrochemical Refinery Company Limited and that the board and management of the company will be constituted upon his return to Bayelsa.

According to him, the company will engage and partner with investors to ensure that work on the establishment of the modular refineries starts in earnest and assured his audience that the state would provide the necessary institutional backing, including the enabling environment to ensure that the project succeed.

Still on investment drive, he provided further insight, stating that, “Part of what we are doing as a government to further indicate our seriousness to would-be investors is to provide land for their investment and to fast-track all titles and documents relating to the acquisition of the land with a signed C of O within a month. This is in addition to the Industrial Park for which we have acquired the land measuring over 213 hectres in size and as we speak clearing is going on and the dredging of the land will commence soon. We will provide 24 hours power to the industrial park and so investors should be rest assured of their power needs round the clock”.

The governor had earlier stated his convictions on the prospects of the modular refineries at the sideline engagement of the conference, stating that the decision of the Federal Government to set up modular refineries was a brilliant idea that will not only create jobs but would also increase the economic fortunes of Nigeria.

“ The refineries when fully on stream will also curb the illegal refining of petroleum products which has been on for years and reduce casualties associated with it”.

Dickson, who reiterated that Bayelsa has in abundance gas feedstock to power the modular refineries said, ”It is interesting to note that we already have more than enough gas in abundance to deliver the three modular refineries so we are good to go”.

While emphasizing the issue of security, the governor assured prospective investors that all investments would be fully secured and allayed fears expressed on threats to destruction of pipelines.

“To a large extent, as a state government, given our strategic and massive investment in security over the last five years, we make bold to say that our state is one of the safest in the Niger Delta and Nigeria. So would-be investors have nothing to worry about”, he stressed.

The governor used the conference to announce that the Kolo creek Gas plant in Bayelsa State was the first independent power plant in the country and had been running for years as he further listed opportunities available in the state to drive investments in modular refineries, power plants and allied petrochemical industries.

Dickson was also a guest at the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCCDMB) strategic stakeholders ‘event as part of the OTC roundtable side meetings, where the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu and other key players in the oil and gas sector were present. At this forum, Dickson further called on major players in the industry to partner with the state on a number of opportunities in driving investment in the state.

He lauded the recent Federal Government policy directing oil companies to relocate to the oil producing states. To this, he asserted that Bayelsa had already provided enabling environment to make the relocation of the oil companies easy and seamless. He talked about the 3.5 kilometres runway international airport which the state is presently constructing andat almost 90 per cent completion level.

He, however, stated that anyone who is opposed to the relocation of the oil companies to the Niger Delta as directed by the Federal Government was against the peace and stability of the region.

“The airport from serving the cargo needs of importers and exporters, will also enable the oil companies’ executives to fly in and out of the state without the stress of travel time from Port Harcourt to Yenagoa and the completion of the new heliport will serve the purpose of helicopter shuttles. In addition to that, the ambitious infrastructural projects provided by the present government to facilitate businesses to the state has made Bayelsa fully ready and open for business”, he further stated.

Dickson also used the occasion of the conference to speak extensively on some other steps taken by his administration in the last five years to put in place the required critical infrastructure needed to drive industrialization and enhance a conducive business atmosphere.

He stated,” We have in the last five years invested massively in virtually all the critical sectors of our state economy, like in the area of security which many would readily attest has earned us numerous awards, where the state is now rated as one of the safest in the Niger Delta region and indeed the country as a whole. Our government’s huge investment in security, which is by deliberate and determined deployment of combination of legislation, policy, decisive and clear-headed leadership, has within a given space of time made the state one of the safest places to live and do business in the country”.

In his remarks at the event, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, commended Governor Dickson for all the initiatives and efforts put in place to attract investments to the state, particularly the move by the state government to set up modular refineries.

On his part, a former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Chief Timi Alaibe, poured encomiums on Governor Dickson for his massive investment in education, especially in the award of scholarships and the provision of modern schools with compulsory boarding facilities across the state, which, he said, will go a long way to chart a road map for the future.

“We must put politics aside and commend Governor Dickson for providing leadership where it matters most. The education of our children is key and what the governor is doing will go a long way to help our educated youths to achieve success in the future”, Alaibe stated.

Both NCDMB’s Engr. Simbi Wabote and Shell’s OsagieOkunbor also commended the governor for his visionary leadership and his quest at industrializing the state. They noted that his approach was on point and promised to support the government to achieve its desired goal.

According to the SPDC chief, “Bayelsa is the present and the future and we at SPDC will partner with the government of Bayelsa State to drive this process to bring about the desired development for the benefit of the people of the state”.
Also the Country Chairman of Daewoo, Joe Pinawe, praised Dickson for his developmental strides, noting that none of his men working in Bayelsa had experienced kidnapping.

The governor had earlier visited the headquarters of oil giant, Schlumberger in Houston, to hold talks on how the company can partner with government to train and mentor Bayelsan youths to acquire their latest technical skills and manpower. He and his delegation also visited Lee Engineering, also in Houston, for similar technical assistance to the state government.

Clearly the governor’s presence at this year’s OTC was an eye opener and one strategic step that could be the beginning of a major industrial bounce in Bayelsa State considering the wide business and technical relationships created and their possible effect particularly on the future of the modular refineries to be established in the state. Of course, there are other associated industrial concerns which could spring up from such beautifulrelationship, especially looking at the effective takeoff of the industrial park in the state.

Iworiso-Markson is the Chief Press Secretary to Bayelsa State Governor