Umana Okon Umana and his Dream Team driving the turnaround at OGFZA

Umana Okon Umana: Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer

One good term deserves another. This statement has come to be accepted as a fact in the public service of Nigeria. The statement has become a regular feature in the country’s political discourse, especially in offices that have fixed tenures, whether elective or appointive. If an elected public official performs creditably in his first term, the belief is that the performance should qualify him for another term. We see it in the offices of president and governors that have constitutional provision for two terms, as well as legislative positions that have no limit in terms of dispensations.

The statement applies to appointive offices as well, in which a government appointee performs so well in his first tenure it becomes a matter for consensus that his first-term stewardship should recommend him for another term. This has been the case with Umana Okon Umana, who was re-appointed for a second term of three years as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority (OGFZA) by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, 2019, after proving to be the right man for the job in his first term that began in 2016.

The OGFZA is one of the agencies of the Federal Government that are expected to play the strategic role of attracting investments into the country and spur the much neededeconomic growth. In the last four years, the agency has left Nigerians in no doubt about its capacity and capability to achieve this objective.

Nothing best gives this assurance than the milestones Umana and his management team have recorded during the period. It has been possible to record significant achievements because all the members of the team have been on the same page from day one in terms of a shared dream for OGFZA.

The commonality of the vision of the management team of the agency was succinctly captured in the speech Umana delivered at the unveiling of a new roadmap shortly on assumption of office in 2016. “The roadmap is a product of our vision to be the premier investment promotion agency of government by facilitating the establishment of businesses in the oil and gas free zones with the creation of an enabling environment for investment”, Umana had said.

“We at OGFZA wish to assure all federal agencies operating within the various oil and gas zones of our preparedness to pursue constructive dialogue and partnerships that will deliver fruitful and win-win collaboration”, he assured. “This is the course we intend to pursue”.

The roadmap was designed to usher in a new era in the oil and gas industry that would be characterized by ease of doing business using international best practices for service delivery. This was to be achieved using a system of management that is anchored on transparency, accountability and corporate governance as some of its core values. Umana listed other values of OGFZA as integrity, passion, creativity, professionalism and respect for self, clients and time.

In his first tenure, Umana and his formidable team of seasoned managers designed a new path at OGFZA that is bound to lead to the realization of one of the cardinal objectives for its establishment, namely, acting as a catalyst for attraction of investment into the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Perhaps the most significant milestone recorded during that period by the agency was the reduction of the maximum time for licensing of operators from 30 to 21 days, while renewal of license now takes a maximum of three days. It is part of efforts aimed at making Nigeria the first port of call for investors looking for opportunities in Africa, for expansion of existing businesses or start-ups.

Browsing through the OGFZA marketing brochure, one is left convinced of the team’s readiness to raise the bar of whatever had been the achievements at the agency before now. For instance, there is promise of round-the-clock operation that provides a central location for holding of duty-free stocks in sub-Saharan Africa. This would enable the agency to provide streamlined procurement logistics with computerized free zones inventory management system, as well as reduced inventory requirement.

The system at OGFZA now permits direct access to sea that allows for same-day turnaround of supply vessels operation. There is, in addition, single-point responsibility in operations and facility sharing that allows for increased efficiency in exploration and production activities. Worthy of mention also is the introduction of a 75 per cent duty rebate, as well as generous tax incentives.

Because of the exceptionally high team spirit that prevails at OGFZA, Umana has been able to get his management team to buy into his concept of driving employment creation that is brought about by a sustained inflow of foreign direct investment. The team is also of one mind on the concept of achieving stimulatory effect on the economy through injection of investments into other sectors.

Technology and skills transfer is not a slogan at OGFZA; it is a reality. To this end, the agency is working closely with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board to ensure strict compliance with the local content Act by all the companies operating in the free zone.

Umana and his team are intent on taking advantage of the unique position of Onne as not just the biggest oil and gas free zone in Nigeria, but also the largest oil and gas service centre in the world (according to the Financial Times of London) to attract into the country the volume of investments that has never been witnessed in the country.

Having realized the benefits of the free zone concept and what it has so far achieved for the country, OGFZA has been working to expand its operations to enable the country to maximize those benefits to the fullest. Plans are therefore in the pipeline for the establishment of three new free zones at Ibaka, Ibeno and Ikot Abasi, all in Akwa Ibom State, to bring to six the number of free zones in the country – in addition to existing ones in Onne, Warri and the newly licensed zone at Brass.

Before the recession of 2016, there were 200 companies operating in the country’s free zones. The figure dropped to 134 in the wake of the recession. As a result of the robust strategies put in place by Umana and is team, there has been remarkable increase in interest shown by organizations desirous of opening shops in the zones. This is evident in the number of license applications OGFZA has had to process since the current management took office. There is reason to believe that more companies will take advantage of the new atmosphere at the agency to set up shop in the zones.

Umana and his team set the very ambitious target of a 50 per cent growth rate for OGFZA by the end of 2019. Statistics are not readily available. But there are indications that the agency may have at least come close to achieving this target. “We are going to be visible globally and we are determined to ensure that Nigeria would benefit maximally from it”, Umana had assured from inception of the current dispensation at the agency. The agency is on the path to fulfilling that promise, especially with Umana still in the saddle for a second term.

The Dream Team

Umana Okon Umana: Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer

The dream team driving the turnaround process at OGFZA is headed by Umana Okon Umana as managing director and chief executive officer.

A graduate of Economics from the University of Calabar and holder of an MBA in Finance from the University of Port Harcourt, Umana has an extensive background in public service spanning 32 years and dating back to his days as permanent secretary in charge of budget in the service of the Akwa Ibom State Government.

Three specific interests have characterised Umana’s career path, namely, rapid rise to the top that is based on merit, holding of positions that are strategic to execution of public policies and programmes, as well as sterling records of performance wherever he has had the opportunity to serve. He is generally referred to as technocrat par excellence.

Umana served the administration of Governor Victor Attah as commissioner for finance for eight years, and later became the secretary to the state government in the administration of Governor Godswill Akpabio. He was chairman of the Steering Committee of the Akwa Ibom State/World Bank Community-based Urban Development Project, and also served as Chairman of the State Programme Coordinating Committee of the United Nations Development Programme from 1997 to 2003.

Umana has received leadership training in some of the best institutions around the world, including the London Business School and the Columbia Graduate School of Business in New York. He has brought to bear on his assignment at OGFZA the outstanding leadership qualities for which he is well known, which have born fruits in the last four years.

He is a member of the Nigerian Economic Society and a Fellow of the Institute of Taxation of Nigeria.

Adekunle Ajayi; FCA, FCTI: HOD, Operations and Technical Department

Adekunle Ajayi is the head of the Operations and Technical Department of OGFZA. A holder of the Higher National Diploma from the Polytechnic, Ibadan and an MBA in Management form the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt, Ajayi became a chartered accountant (ACA) in 1995 and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria in 2007.

He became a chartered professional in in 2003 and a Fellow, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria in 2011. He worked at various times with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, Sunray Publications Limited, Akintola Williams, AdetonaIsichei& Company, a firm of chartered accountants; SJA & Company, also a firm of chartered accountants and Prodeco Nigeria Limited,

Ajayi joined IGFZA in 2001.

AbdulwasiuSule: HOD, Legal Services

AbdulwasiuSule, Esq, head of legal services and company secretary, holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Maiduguri. He attended the Nigerian Law School and was called to the bar in 1991. He was engaged in private practice from 1991 to 2001 when he joined OGFZA as a legal adviser and officer, and was later appointed head of the legal department and company secretary.

Sule served as acting managing director of OGFZA from June 7, 2016 to September of that year when the current managing director was appointed. He is a member of many professional associations that include Chartered Institute of Strategic Management, Chartered Institute of Arbitration (UK), Nigerian Chapter and the Nigerian Institute of Management.

AlenjuNgofa: HOD, Administration

AlenjuNgofa, head of administration at OGFZA, holds a post graduate diploma in Business Studies from the Rivers University of Science and Technology, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology and diploma in Personnel Management/Industrial Relations from the University of Port Harcourt.

He served at different times as head of department, Planning, Research and Statistics; acting head of department, Technical Services; unit head, Monitoring and Evaluation; head, Lagos Regional Office; unit head, Human Resources and unit head, Operations. He worked at the defunct National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria.

Adamu Mamman Kontagor: HOD, Trade and Investment

Adamu Mamman Kontagora, head of Trade and Investment, is a graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He worked in the public service for six years before joining OGFZA.

Kontagora has attended and presented papers in many local and international conferences and exhibitions, as well as trade and investment seminars. Some of the notable events include International Trade and Investment Forum Achi, Nagoya, Japan; Gulf of Guinea Oil and Gas Conference, London; Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, Texas, United States and Offshore Technology Conference, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Others are Nigeria-Canada Trade and Investment Forum, Toronto, Canada; Investment Opportunity in the Oil and Gas Free Zones in Nigeria and the Oil and Gas Free Zones as Catalyst for Economic Growth.

He was part of the effort that brought the International Conference on Practical Content by CWC, the United Kingdom Group, to Onne, Rivers State, in 2010.

Simon Ovbe Akpadaka: HOD, Finance and Accounts

Simon Akpadaka, head of Finance and Accounts, holds an HND in Accountancy from the Lagos State Polytechnic and a Master’s degree in International Finance and Accounts from the University of Liverpool.

A chartered accountant (ACA), he worked as accountant at different times at Betaview Systems Limited, Smart Mark Limited and Tomez Nigeria Limited before joining OGFZA as an assistant manager, finance. He was once the head of the Lagos Regional Office, and was also the pioneer manager, internal audit unit of the Warri Free Zone.

Monday Gbenekori: Head of Procurement

Monday Gbenekori is the head of Procurement at OGFZA. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and an MBA in Management, both from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt.

Gbenekori has attended several local and international conferences, seminars and trainings. He once served as personal assistant to the managing director of OGFZA.