“We are Proud Nigerian Content Players” – Chika Okoro

Chika Okoro is the Managing Director of Well Energy Limited, a 100% indigenous oilfield services company with vast experiences in Reservoir and Production Engineering Services. Known for proficiency with Slick line, Surface Well testing, and PDMS services ranging from 30 – 35 years, it is well supported by its technical partners: PPS, Calgary & WELLTEST INC., and Firstsource Integrated Energy Services Nig. Ltd.

What do you think of these opportunities the IOCs want to showcase at the coming NOGOF and how do you think it will benefit Well Energy and other service companies?

If the IOCs truthfully showcase the available projects, indigenous companies will certainly benefit from it. We are often found guessing, and trying to make one presentation or the other to these IOCs in hope that we could just be lucky. But if the IOCs walked up to us on their own accord to say “Gentlemen, this is actually what we want”, and “this is the way we want it provided and the way you should position yourself”, of course it will help the service providers. We will be better organized and positioned. In fact, we will have tailor-made services prepared for such projects. For these reasons, I’m in total agreement that NOGOF is a laudable venture and should be supported by all stake holders.

So what kind of opportunities will Well Energy be looking for, to channel investments?

Presently, we are into permanent down-hole Monitoring System installation and maintenance, wellhead maintenance, slick-line, and surface well testing. We are also trying to expand towards LWD/MWD. Though it’s a lot more costly, we are drifting towards LWD/MWD, which are electric line services. So, if the IOCs tell us what they want, we might just be able to tailor this along with our vision.

What is your take on project 100 recently launched by the NCDMB?

Wonderful idea, very wonderful! But I’m naturally sceptical about innovative ideas with government agencies these days. A fundamental role of the NCDMB is developmental which includes helping the oil industry build local capacity. With the clamour for inclusion of linkage industries, the scope becomes very large, though it should be seen as a welcome development; my concern is how they will manage supervision. Because presently, supervision can be better than what it is. here are too many paper works. A lot of these parameters are not well understood, and it appears that even the facilitating staff of the Board to even understand them. The man, who is the service provider, doesn’t understand the reporting parameters. So, at the end of the day everything is done on paper and they don’t translate to actual realities.  I advocate for workshops in this regard. Let’s have trainings and re-trainings. It has to be a continuous process and a forum where, quarterly the NCDMB and service providers meet to discuss vital feedback.
These meetings and workshops will spur growth. From the day a company registers with NCDMB there should be a growth plan documented and monitored by the Board. At the tenth year, a milestone review should probe the trajectory with clear reasons why these companies have fared the way they did and how they have been affected by the environment, policies and other factors. This isn’t about funds or contracts; it’s about understanding the NCDMB parameters. I know the authorities mean well, but the communication is incomplete.

Can you be a little more specific?

Ok. Here are specifics. NCDMB would ask you a question like: “what’s the value of the contract in pursuit?” And then want additional information of parameters hinged on that. You are not always privy to these numbers, so you can’t really give an answer. We pursue a lot of call-off contracts and the ceilings placed on them are unknown, yet you will be asked to give parameters based on that unknown value.
Eighty per cent of the services we render in the oil and gas industry are on call, yet we provide answers to questions on parameters. These are predominantly estimates and guess work. It means there is something fundamentally wrong and the data are unreliable. Why make projections on such? How do they convert them to actuals? What are the implications and the multiplier effect? However, when they realise the actual figures from NAPIMS and the IOCs on the different projects, are they able to tie them to the data we have provided? Do they reconcile these things and realise the assumptions and parameters we have provided are inadequate? How often do they go back to find out about these assumptions, that were made while we presented those documentations before and after contract award and execution.

You didn’t make the Project 100 list; what are your thoughts about the initiative?

I think it’s a great initiative. The Board selects and focuses on a 100 companies to which it provides institutional and financial support. Brilliant initiative; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Similar developmental initiatives happen all over the world. One can take what is called a specimen from a whole and when your experiment is finished, you can judge how the whole would react. However, the principle in statistics about obtaining samples is that these 100 companies should be a good representation of the entire industry. They should be careful to ensure the sample is drawn from every corner of the targeted industry(s), it should be even. I hear KPMG was involved in the selection process. Good move. If followed through, I don’t see why the initiative shouldn’t work. These selected ones can become giants tomorrow and even spur healthy competition among other service companies, while addressing real bottlenecks with institutions of government. If the selection sampling is properly done, and the Board follows the plan through, then we can achieve the development objectives other developed countries set out to achieve when the pursued the same initiatives.

What has been your recent experience as regards timing for contracting process?

Poor. It has always been poor and has not changed. Gestation period for contracts in Nigeria is too long and that is why it stifles companies and young companies die off. I bid for a contact in 2010 and it doesn’t see the light of the day until 2013 or 2015. Pre-qualification exercise comes up six years down the line when every variable has changed. How do you manage to break even if you are awarded such a contract? The gestation period is too long. We have cried about it but it doesn’t seem as if there is anything anybody can do about it.
What’s your overall assessment of local content drive in Nigeria?
Years ago, when PETAN agitated for participation in the industry, we called it Local Content. But when the Act was to be passed, law makers changed it to Nigerian Content. Now, the definition for the Nigerian Content became slightly different from our definition of Local Content. What should be the actual definition of a Nigerian company?
However, it’s the implementation that is the important thing. To be candid, the IOCs have done well. Don’t get me wrong, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. They have obeyed that law significantly. My worry is that Nigerian companies have not properly positioned themselves to take up what is theirs. They haven’t built enough capacity over the years.

What is your drive for training and how have you been able to transfer knowledge and skill-set acquired from these three multinationals where you worked before setting up Well Energy?

Members of my staff are always on training. I spend huge sums in training and honestly I don’t mind. One of my staff just left for Saudi Aramco in Abu Dhabi. I didn’t stop him from going. It was because of the training they poached him. He’s a very honest, young man. He told me he was leaving and I wished him well. So, we don’t joke with training. I benefited a lot via training from multinationals and I don’t see why people shouldn’t be trained when they work for you.

What’s the next big thing for well energy?

To build capacity. To be able to compete fairly with the multinationals. I worked for three multinationals in this country, so I long to see a day when indigenous service companies are not dependent on the CEOs. Let them run on auto pilot without a CEO. I want to sit at home, sipping coffee while Well Energy runs smoothly without interference from me; that’s my vision.

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