Nigeria 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Femi Akarakiri, Country Manager of Weatherford, on the company's strategy for Africa, its solutions to support clients, and its investment plans for the future.

Femi Akarakiri
Femi Akarakiri’s career started with Citibank Nigeria (formerly Nigeria International Bank) before moving into oilfield services with Schlumberger. With extensive oilfield experience, he is currently the Country Manager of Weatherford in Nigeria after a brief stint managing Welltec’s operations in Nigeria. In addition to holding country management positions, he is also an accomplished sales and marketing professional and provides leadership for a young and dynamic team on a highly successful business expansion in the nascent West Coast of Africa oil and gas market with both revenue growth and significant market share dominance.

What is the significance of Nigeria for the overall revenue and strategy of the company worldwide and in Africa?

Weatherford has been in the country since 1975. Globally, Nigeria is seen quite strategically because when you look at Africa, Nigeria is usually the highest producer of barrels on a daily basis, although Angola overtook temporarily. With any global company, if you are going to operate globally you have to ensure that your presence in Nigeria is strong. You cannot be a strong participant in the global hydrocarbon economy unless you are in the biggest markets, which makes Weatherford Nigeria strategic to Weatherford International's operations. We enjoy all the support that comes with that in terms of equipment, assets, expertise, and training, and in turn we are justifying that assistance with our business activities in Nigeria.

What are your investment and development plans in the country for the near future?

We continue to expand our portfolio. In 2015, we brought in additional business units, drilling services, managed pressure drilling (MPD), and drilling tools. We did this in a period of downturn, proving that we are not just looking at the short term but also further into the future, which goes a long way to support the strategic positioning of Weatherford in Nigeria.

What type of solutions can you offer to oil companies to help them become more efficient and reduce costs?

There are some costs that cannot be controled; for example, security, which we have to provide for our personnel and assets. That is an issue that is beyond our control. We talk to government and advise where this can be optimized to bring down those costs, but unfortunately the events of May 2016 imply that we cannot let our guard down. For our clients, we look at supporting them in lowering their costs by bringing out technology that can do more for less. We also integrated our different business units so that when clients need multiple operations done by Weatherford we look at how we can reduce the amount of people needed to do the job and we are able to offer it at a better rate. This is one of the things that we do in this period of industry downturn that actually builds up our inter-unit business capacity to integrate our projects.

What challenges and particularities with drilling does Nigeria face compared to other countries?

What makes the difference in Nigeria is local knowledge. We share the best practices with our clients to help them optimize their drilling plans. Technology is available globally and one of the things that I would love to look at in the future is to support educational institutions to develop local research centers. There are peculiar local issues that we can work together on to come up with technological solutions that will also have global impact. Nigeria is an exporter of talent and we are in the position to tap into those talents. This industry has been available locally for the last 50 years or more so the best practices are there and you have well trained people. Around 95% of the Weatherford Nigeria's workforce is actually Nigerian, and that is something that is important and significant.

How will the petroleum regulatory framework change the environment in this sector?

It will have a significant impact given that businesses do not like uncertainty. Once that petroleum regulatory framework is closed and everyone has clarity on what the government expects of them, then people can sit down and evaluate their business model and how that affects them. They can then start projecting returns and based on that, investment will come. It is critical that the PIB is finalized, even if it is imperfect, imperfection is far less of a problem than uncertainty. We have had uncertainty in the regulatory environment for nearly a decade and in such an industry as ours, the lack of a framework is quite disruptive.