BUILDING CAPACITY

Nigeria 2018 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, Executive Chairman of Obijackson Group, on the various activities within the group, the need to encourage more investment in Nigeria, and his outlook for the future.

Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi
BIOGRAPHY
Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi obtained his BS degree in accountancy from the University of Benin and his doctorate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in business administration. He founded Obijackson West Africa Limited of which he is CEO and Group Managing Director. He is also a Non-Executive Director and stakeholder in Julius Berger Nigeria PLC and Chairman of the board of Neconde Energy Limited and Smile Communications Nigeria Limited.

Obijackson Group is currently one of the leading conglomerates in Nigeria. What advice would you give to your peers and investors looking to enter the country?

It was important to us to look at areas of the economy that were emerging or where opportunities existed at the time. We focused our attention on those areas and developed our business from there. We saw opportunities for Nigerians to enter the oil business and participated by developing a company to provide oil and gas services: this is how Obijackson Group started. From the services business, we progressed into the oil production business. We have other companies within the group that were created as a result of the opportunities that arose at the time we were doing projects for major oil companies. Hence, Obijackson Group has a portfolio of diverse companies covering different aspects of oil and gas. Because we have a production company as well, we are more or less doing the same work as international oil companies (IOC) such as Shell, Total, and ExxonMobil. The difference is that we are 100% local and use local Nigerians to grow the country's production. This is extremely important because we want to continue to build capacity in Nigerians. Over time, Nigeria has started doing this work well.

Three of Obijackson Group's subsidiaries were included in the LSE's Companies to Inspire Africa report. What does this mean for the group and Nigeria?

This was a great result for the Obijackson Group. It was a sign that we are moving closer toward going public, both in Nigeria and London. More importantly, these businesses that are being talked about in London are businesses that we need to develop a succession plan for. We need to remain focused on getting these companies into the market. Also for Nigeria, this is the beginning of transformation for certain indigenous companies that aspire to be listed. Other companies will look at this acknowledgment and realize what we have done is a great way to go about growing their businesses as well. For us, the next challenge is looking at coming to the market as soon as everything is ready.

What should the government and the private sector in Nigeria do to send a more positive message to the international investor community?

Nigeria has more to do to send the right message to the international community in terms of attracting investment into the country. The regulatory authorities need to ensure that all the legal bottlenecks that affect and make doing business difficult in Nigeria are addressed; there are too many regulatory bodies involved in the process. The government needs to align all these to encourage more foreign investors. Nigeria's currency also needs to be stabilized with a mechanism to cushion and guide it, similar to most currencies around the world. The government has to monitor the economy in such a way that it becomes more investment friendly.

What is your outlook at Obijackson Group for 2018?

2018 is a promising year because we expect to consolidate on the gains we have achieved over the years. Nigeria has just emerged from a recession and we are beginning to show signs of growth. Most of our companies' projections for 2018 are promising because we have a stable economy and foreign exchange rates have stabilized somewhat. With this, most of the losses and pains from the recession are behind us, and we will now build and make our mark. It is a promising year for the group in oil production, construction, and more. The price of oil has stabilized somewhat. Most of our major income in the group comes from our exploration and production (E&P) business and in 2018 we want to ramp up our production by at least an additional 30-40%. Oil and gas is still our dominant business.