Has the current oil price environment affected your appetite for assets?
I would like to expand my purchase program to take advantage of the current low prices. The unfortunate part of the divestment strategy was that it was not coordinated. We observed a large-scale dumping of assets in the market, but stiff competition among local firms drove up prices. I would argue that the banks need to show more patience and realize that assets were purchased at $110, while today oil is much less, whereby companies will require more time to repay the banks. I see the IOCs that are present now are coming down, and then hopefully by 2016, we will have a reasonable pricing regime on this last wave of divestments.
You are also the President of the Nigerian Association of Indigenous Petroleum Explorers and Producers. How is that association impacting indigenous companies here?
It is having an impact, but not as considerable a one as I would wish for. This association is not competing with the IOCs, which in any case enjoy a closer dialogue with the government than we do. We seem to be taking care of our issues on a one-on-one basis, while the IOCs approach as one voice, which seems to carry further than ours. The members of the Association are currently producing 10-15% of Nigerian crude oil. As our importance grows and as we unite our voices, our position will also grow and strengthen. With a growth in political relevance comes advance knowledge of government policies enabling us to grasp in a timely manner the potential impact of those policies on our businesses.
What is your outlook for the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)?
I expect it to be ratified. As things stand, we are losing investments into other environments and our slogan of 10 years ago of 40 million barrels is nowhere near to being realized. Those with the financial resources on hand are not going to invest here unless they know the terms to be enacted. In that light, I believe it to be in our best interest to forget political partisanship, because the draft bill is better than no bill at all. I expect the new congress to pass the bill.
Will your activities to create an association of indigenous producers have a wider impact and provide a stronger voice for future policy decisions?
As indigenous companies grow stronger, they are more confident in seeking government attention. Today, we are unfortunately rather more like servants telling their boss what they require. Yet, when our feet are under the same table we are more confidence of voicing our ideas. In short, as we grow in scale, we will be able to have more of an impact on policy making.
What is Amni's outlook for the year ahead?
This will be a year of assessment in terms of what we have on hand, and how we can increase its value. I do not foresee oil prices rising above $65 a barrel this year, but in terms of managing this portfolio, it is not that a bad price. We will pursue two projects this year. We will try and conclude the Okoro developments and also try and get going on the IMA.