With more than 35 years in the oil and gas industry, Emeka Okwuosa is the founder of Oilserv Limited, the leading gas pipeline engineering and construction company involved in the construction of the $2.8 billion, 614kilometer Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano gas pipeline that is expected to be the game changer in Nigeria’s gas infrastructural development. In this feature, The Top10 Magazine brings to you how he is showing the way in local capacity in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
Nigeria has taken a giant leap on the march towards harnessing the huge natural gas resources with which it is endowed for what is potentially a turnaround that is expected to herald a new era of economic prosperity for the country. The historic step was taken on Tuesday, June 30, 2020, when President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off construction of the $2.8 billion, 614kilometer Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) natural gas pipeline – the biggest in Nigeria’s history – which will boost the country’s power generation capacity, aid industrialization efforts and significantly improve domestic gas consumption.
While Nigerians celebrate the milestone, not many know the level at which indigenous companies are going to be involved in the huge task of delivering the ambitious project. Ordinarily, and going by precedence, a project of this magnitude would be expected to be solely handled by a foreign company, especially since it is the first of its kind in Nigeria. The reason would be that Nigerians do not have the expertise and technical know-how to execute such a project.
But times have changed. Nigerians have come a long way. Ability to handle highly technical projects that require technological expertise is no longer the exclusive preserve of foreign companies. A Nigerian, Emeka Okwuosa, is leading an indigenous consortium to prove this point with AKK.
Okwuosa is the Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Oilserv Limited, the company that is leading the consortium for the building the AKK gas pipeline. It would be an understatement to say that the challenge of delivering the project is quite enormous, considering its size and amount involved. It is, however, possible Okwuosa does not see it in that light. He has many reasons to see the project differently. His pedigree in pipeline engineering and virtually everything that is associated with the oil and gas industry would support this position.
Okwuosa, the founder of the Oilserv conglomerate with interests in engineering, agriculture, etc, is bringing more than 35 years’ experience in various aspects of engineering in the oil and gas industry to bear on the AKK project, the reason expectations are high about his ability to deliver. Talk of a round peg being fitted into a round whole!
His name may not be household in Nigeria commensurate with his achievements, especially in the oil and gas industry. But that is because his field of businesses covers mostly activities that many Nigerians do not pay much attention to, even though they affect the economic life of the country and, by extension, their own lives. Many are hearing about him and Oilserv now because the AKK project is probably the biggest he has been involved in and, most especially, its strategic importance to the country.
Okwuosa has been around. He knows the oil and gas terrain as much as he knows the contour of his palm. The list of his areas of specialty is endless – pipeline engineering, procurement and construction, project management, seismic acquisition, drilling services, wire long logging and interpretation, maintenance and operations, etc. A man with fingers in many pies, he has also been a teacher, perhaps the only odd job on his profile.
It must be noted that Okwuosa did not garner his vast experiences working only in Nigeria. He has traversed the world; he has worked in the best environments, in such far flung places as Scotland, France and Indonesia, as well as many African countries such as Libya, Mauritania, Gabon, Congo, Angola and Cameroun. Others are Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Benin Republic. This is the rich pedigree he brought into the operations of Oilserv, making it the service provider of choice and one of the most sought after by operators in the nation’s oil and gas industry. Little wonder the company is the flagship of his businesses.
Oilserv is a leading provider of integrated engineering, construction, installation and commissioning (EPCIC) services in the country. The company provides complimentary solutions covering the entire life cycle of assets in the onshore, offshore and subsea market segments of the oil and gas industry.
Over the years, Okwuosa, a man imbued with the uncanny ability to recognize excellence in human capital (himself being a man of excellence), has been able to galvanize the expertise of highly qualified and exceptionally talented engineers to execute projects with quality that compare with the best in the world. He leads a team of experts that provides Total Quality Services (TQS) to multinational and indigenous oil and gas companies, as well as industrial establishments within and outside the country.
The company operates on the strategies of using its own resources and also forming alliances and partnerships with organizations with similar level of expertise to execute some of the high profile projects it is associated with. The AKK gas pipeline, on which it is working with Oando as a consortium, is one of such projects.
The AKK Pipeline
The AKK project, covering a distance of 614 kilometers of 40-inch pipeline, runs from Ajaokuta in Kogi, through Abuja and Kaduna, terminating in Kano. The entire project involves procurement, engineering, construction, installation, testing and commissioning of the pipeline, with valve stations, as well as intermediate and terminal gas facilities. The Oilserv/Oando Consortium is to handle the Lot 1 Section covering 200 kilometers, from Ajaokuta to Abuja.
The pipeline, arguably the biggest infrastructural development project in Nigeria’s recent history, is expected to bring to fruition the country’s dream of having a domestic gas transmission infrastructure that would meet its demand in the areas of power generation, provision of cleaner energy for industrial and domestic use, boosting of the domestic gas market and commercialization of its abundant natural gas resources. When completed, it would significantly curb gas flaring that has remained an intractable problem for decades. The pipeline is designed to connect gas supply from the southern part of the country to demand in the northern part.
Buhari said at the flag-off of construction of the AKK pipeline, which he did virtually from the council chambers of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, that the project would bring about revival of moribund industries along transit towns in Kogi State, the Federal Capital Territory, Niger, Kaduna and Kano states, with multiplier effects on the standard of living of people in those areas. ‘‘It has significant job creation potential both direct and indirect, while fostering the development and utilization of local skills and manpower, technology transfer and promotion of local manufacturing’’, he said.
Okwuosa describes the AKK project as a gas infrastructure revolution that has never been witnessed in the country. “This is a cause to believe that the nation is on the cusp of a major economic revolution”, he had said, at the signing ceremony for the project with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in Abuja on April 5, 2018. “This is indeed a landmark achievement in Nigeria and the project, which is part of the Nigerian Gas Masterplan, will ensure adequate supply of gas to the North, improve the gas infrastructure within the domestic market and boost power generation in the region”.
Safety is a cardinal policy of Oilserv. It is the reason all the projects executed by the company pass the safety test, meeting international standards. For the AKK project, the company is deploying automated machines for the welding components of the pipeline, to ensure the highest standard of quality and safety.
Oilserv has a knack for meeting or surpassing deadlines. Okwuosa alluded to this fact when he pledged, after the flag-off ceremony, to deliver the Lot 1 Section of the project before the 24 months’ timeline given by the government. The company plans to engage about 3, 000 workers on the project. This is expected to significantly boost employment generation during the period.
The AKK project is a section of an ambitious pipeline project that will deliver gas to Europe through the proposed Trans Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) and the Nigeria-Morocco Gas Pipeline.
Oilserv’s leadership position
Oilserv Limited occupies a leadership position in the pipeline facilities business in the nation’s oil and gas industry. Okwuosa says the company did not find itself in that position by happenstance, as it has a history of ‘firsts’ in the industry. “The journey of Oilserv as the leading indigenous EPCIC Company in this sector has its roots in a number of many first achievements”.
He said Oilserv was the first indigenous company to construct and commission the single longest pipeline – a 128-kilometer, 18-inch gas transmission system for Oando Gas and Power, which traverses Akwa Ibom and Cross River states. He mentioned the 16-kilometer Obiafu/Obrikom-Oben (OB3) 48-inch gas transmission pipeline project as another ‘first’ on the list of projects executed by Oilserv. The OB3 is one of the 17 high profile octane the company has successfully delivered.
The company executed the 27-kilometer natural gas pipeline and provision of metering facilities from the oil producing community of Owaza in Ukwa West Local Government Area of Abia State to the industrial area of Osisioma, near Aba, for Geometric Power, owned by Professor Bart Nnaji, minister or power in the Goodluck Jonathan administration. Its record of performance with multinational oil companies like Shell, Total, Agip, as well as NNPC, Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) recommended it for the Geometric gas pipeline project.
The fame and expertise of Oilserv go beyond the shores of Nigeria. The company is a household name in Sierra Leone, Benin Republic, Togo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, where it has operations.
Oilserv is an octopus with several legs that end with companies that are doing very well, keeping in the tradition of the main organization. They include the following:
Frazimex Engineering Limited
Frazimex is an engineering design company involved in front end and detail engineering, with activities covering pipelines, facilities, civil engineering, instruments and electricals.
Frazoil Exploration and Production (E & P) Limited
This is an exploration and production (E & P) that owns and operates Block 3 offshore Benin Republic
Frazpower is a gas development company (gas-to-power), whose strategic vision is to deliver at least 10 TCF of gas in the next 10 years, leveraging sources at various levels of go-to-market readiness.
Excel Farms Limited
Okwuosa is not only an engineer involved in the construction of high-tech industrial facilities. He is also a farmer, with deep-seated concern for provision of food.
The company, Excel Farms Limited, is involved in innovative agricultural projects that incorporate cassava and tomato farming, complete with full industrial processing facilities. The project, which is to cover a farmland of 5, 000 hectares, has 2, 700 hectares already allocated, with phase one estimated to cost $150 million (excluding cost of land).
The initiative, for which the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Anambra State, will provide employment for over 2, 000 persons.
Excel Farms Limited has technical partners in Europe and Canada. The company has developed a blueprint that will contribute significantly to agricultural development in the state, create employment and help in poverty reduction.
Crown Energy Resources Limited
Crown Energy Resources Limited is into solid minerals extraction. The company is executing a quarry project at Old Netim, in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State. It is involved in the promotion of quality production output, building of local capacity and consolidation on the Oilserv Group’s overall investment strategy initiatives.
Who is Emeka Okwuosa?
Emeka Okwuosa was born 59 years ago in Oraifite, in Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State. He attended the Community Boys Secondary School in the same town, before proceeding to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering in1982.
He worked for many years at Schlumberger, the international oil servicing company with headquarters in the United States, rising to the position of an engineering field manager, before resigning in 1993 to set up Oilserv.
Over the years, he as built Oilserv into a multibillion dollar conglomerate, employing over 500 engineers, technicians and operators to handle high profile engineering and construction works in different parts of the world.
Okwuosa is very highly committed to the Nigerian Project, as exemplified by the fact that was one of those in the forefront of the development of local content in the country’s oil and gas industry, and was partly instrumental to the enactment of the Local Content Act. The involvement of his company in the AKK pipeline project is practical proof of that commitment.
Emeka Okwuosa is a man with a large heart that could be described as made of gold. His involvement in philanthropy is as multi-faceted as is his foray into business. He is the founder of Sir Chukwuemeka Okwuosa Foundation, the charitable organization that handles his contributions in the areas of education, road construction, erosion control, provision of water, electricity and health. The foundation built the Dame Nneka Okwuosa Medical Centre, a N1 billion health facility in his home town of Oraifite.
Okwuosa has committed over N100 million into educational development in his home state of Anambra. He sponsors the biannual international workshops on science development, and has plans to build the first-of-its-kind science park in Africa. He also sponsors the PETAN Roundtable at the annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas, United States.
His involvement in agriculture is not solely for monetary benefits, but majorly for the purpose of contributing to the drive for food sufficiency in Nigeria, as well as job creation.
Awards and honours
It would require a book to document the list of awards and honours that have come Okwuosa’s way, in the course of his business and philanthropic pursuits. However, a few are worth mentioning.
He is a member of several professional bodies and associations, including the Council for the Regulation of Engineering of Nigeria (COREN); Society of Professional Well Log Analysts (SPWLA); Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) and the Pipeline Professionals Association of Nigeria (PLAN). Others are the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE); Nigerian Gas Association (NGA) and Institute of Directors (IoD).
Okwuosa received the OTC/PETAN Award of Excellence every year from 2009 to 2017 in Houston; US Africa International Oil & Gas Leadership Award (Best of Africa) in 2013; Lifetime Achievement Award by PETAN in 2015; Award of Excellence by the Nanotechnology Research Group of the Physics Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2014 and 2016, as well as the Nigeria Advancement Award for Creativity and Enterprise in 2016.
He received the Industrialist of the Year Award in 2016; International Socrates Award in 2016, while Oilserv received the Oil & Gas Organization Award by African Entrepreneurs Foundation in 2017. He is a recipient of the National Productive Order of Merit Award by President Buhari.