Train 7 means everything to Nigeria, says Nigeria LNG MD

Tony Attah, the managing director and CEO of Nigeria LNG Limited, biggest sub-Sahara African single investment, speaks with BusinessWorld’s Nik Ogbulie on the expansion of Africa’s premier gas plant and a range of other issues

A few weeks ago some members of the European missions in Nigeria visited your company. What was the purpose?

My assumption is that you are referring to the last set of dignitaries from the diplomatic corps that visited us. Particularly we had the British high commissioner, the Turkish ambassador and the Portuguese ambassador. I don’t think it’s the first time diplomats have visited Nigeria LNG but perhaps it is the first time where we have them coming as a group, three of them at the same time. I think the most instructive bit is the fact that, save for the British high commissioner, the other two are representatives of countries where we have business, particularly the Turkish ambassador. We have a big relationship with Turkey, we also have big business in Portugal and prior to those three , we already hosted the Dutch ambassador and the Spanish ambassador. We also have very big business in Spain. So, essentially its really on the back of our growth agenda which is really the Train 7 project; trying to get them understand what it means ,that we want to grow capacity by additional 35 percent and believing that this will be a pathway to get the information to our customers in their respective countries. The British high commissioner, in particular, has been very helpful. He is a friend of the company and has helped us in times of needs. When we were dealing with quite a lot of legislative issues he was on hand to give his guidance and counsel and also to sort of intercede where necessary. So overall, it’s about the recognition of our brand as not just being a local brand, and that for me is consistent with our vision of being a global player and wanting to build a better Nigeria. So it’s that combination of global and local. They represent the global part of our brand and indeed of our business and it was quite positive in the press and even internationally they reported back home. So it is quite positive, not just for Nigeria LNG   but also for Nigeria as a country. There was something in the Times that sort of painted the country in better light, in more positive robes on the back of the success of the Nigerian election.

The long dialogue over Train 7 seems to have been won with the signing of the front end engineering design(FEED). I say congratulations, but then, what does this mean to the Nigerian economy?

Perhaps it means everything because I have been in the industry now for more than 27 years, so I am quite conversant with what goes on and what kind of projects are happening. At the moment, I am not sure that there is any project that is bigger, at least within the gas space. So this is really a very big opportunity for Nigeria on the back of the potential of the investment value. I mean, if you look at it we are talking about $7 billion dollars investment which you can link to foreign direct investment coming into the country. In the midstream we are looking to spend about five billion over the next five years building our Train 7, but we have also enabled the upstream to develop the gas that we will need to run Train Seven. In the end it’s really about that global play for us. So for a long time, we have been on just 22 million tons since 2007. It is worthy of note that between 1999 and 2006, we were actually the fastest growing LNG plant in the world. We built six trains and every 18 months we were adding a new train but since 2007 we have not made as much progress with our Train 7, but we believe that the time is right and the time is now. On the back of growing that capacity would come in my mind what I believe is one of the most important opportunities for the Niger Delta. It’s about employment and job creation. Easily, we see between the upstream and our own midstream project, more than ten thousand jobs and we believe 10,000 to 18,000 jobs in the time frame and for us that is a major opportunity for the Niger Delta and a major opportunity for Nigeria. It is about the balance and stability of the Niger Delta and I am a firm believer that the Niger Delta narrative can be reset on the back of unemployment because, haven being in the Delta for more than 25 years as I mentioned, the key fundamental root causes of the Niger Delta issues are really around poverty and unemployment, and  my professors would say that any one you can get rid of, will get rid of the other one. If you get rid of poverty, unemployment will disappear. If you get rid of unemployment, poverty will disappear because currently it is a vicious circle where they are feeding on each other. If you look at the amnesty programme, at least from the onset, it was just 35,000 people and it was that programme that brought the relative peace that we still enjoy today in the Niger Delta. So think about one project that is bringing about 18,000 job opportunities. On the back of those job opportunities will be skills acquisition, development for our people, increased local participation and local contents will spiral and grow. So, those are some of the additional benefits that we believe. More than that, there will be foreign direct investments into Nigeria over a six year window and that is very positive and we are quite proud of this project.

Being a new development, can you give us the anticipated cost of the Train 7 in contrast with initial investments in the company over the years?

Well, with a friction of time, I don’t think you can actually compare the projects. The market has moved and by the way, the first two trains are smaller trains, so, pound for pound comparison may not be what it is, but it is on record that this company started on the back of investments from both the shareholders and the government. Overall, about $3 billion for the first two trains but essentially on the back of loans it came to about $5.45 billion between the shareholders. So a little over $5 billion was what we deployed to build the six trains at the time. But as I said, the market has moved on and the cost of steel is in a completely different space today. But in terms of our own credibility as a company, we have made so much progress, so much so that whatever loans we have taken earlier on in the life of Nigeria LNG has been complete payoff, this is quite instructive as we celebrated this in London in July. So essentially you can almost say that Nigeria LNLG is debt-free, its zero, we paid off every loan that we took. And we paid it off without miss. We never missed one disbursement or one payment over the 18 to 20 years tenure. So for us we see ourselves as a borrower of choice and we believe that we are now much more credible in the market and that is what we are riding on, to go to the financial market to manage the investments for the new trains.

Considering the increasing cost of funds in the international market, what kind of funding applications are you anticipating, assuming your shareholders will demand the direct execution by you?

It is a combination. I am sure you are familiar with the financial market and finance in general for projects of this nature. You could either do corporate finance or project finance. In the end for us would be a mix of both but as you probably are aware, we have also recently just nominated a financial adviser. So a lot of the conclusion around what options we would choose will really depend on the work of the financial adviser, but I can say today that it will be a combination of both corporate financing for the upstream scope and project financing for the midstream. But either way, we would be looking for the best combination to be able to manage how this is funded, which is how we go.

What picture of LNLG do you have in your mind with special reference to what is already existing or happening in other plants across the world?

My vision for Nigeria LNLG is one that is bigger than what I can personally imagine. Like I said, we built trains 1 to 6 as the fastest growing LNLG trains in the world at the time and then we came to a halt. But 10 years later we are adding 35 percent capacity growing to 30 million tons. I see an opportunity for us to actually go to 15 trains and there is no reason why Nigeria LNLG cannot be a 100 million tons per annum plant, even though it sounds a bit daunting as we are going for 30 million tons with all the efforts. We have seen it on the back of countries like Qatar. Qatar started just 24 months apart from Nigeria but today Qatar is at 77 million tons per annum, three times what we are. And as we are growing to 30, they are going to 100. But I think the real point of interest for me is the fact that we were number three in the world, behind Qatar. But today we have slipped to number four just because we did not grow over a ten year window and indeed with the emergence of United states, which used to import  but now exporting, and Australia growing even bigger capacity plus Russia, the reality is that if we do nothing, we are going to continue to slip on the ladder of producing nations. So to have gone to number four from number three when we actually had about 10 per cent of market share, we were producing about 10 percent of market share in the world today we are less than seven. So you can just see that a do-nothing scenario is not acceptable, not to me, not to the company, not to the country. So for me the way forward and vision for Nigeria LNG has to be premised around growth. And that is why the starting point would be this 35 percent capacity increase to move us from 22 million tons to 30million and it is about value. So we need to continue to grow the value of the company. And seriously 15 trains is not a far fetch. We have seen other countries do it, like Qatar, so why not Nigeria? And I believe if it is going to be possible, it is going to be possible on the back of Nigeria LNG, because we know how to build the trains, we know how to operate them, we have now operated as an LNG company for 20 years. As we like to say in the company, we live in the blocks of 30. So our founding fathers spent about 30 years dreaming and thinking of a day when an LNG plant will be built in Nigeria.  But all through the sixties to 1989 there was no complain but since 1989 the company was incorporated, with the joint venture properly established and since then to next  year will be our 30thanniversary as a company, but it will also be 20 years of operation. So we have grown as a company, we have grown as a country and I believe that we can move in a quantum leap rather than the lineal add one add one and I believe it is possible.

Can you explain in absolute terms, what the country may have earned if the project had been on stream at least since the last 10 years. If Train Seven had been around at the beginning or soon after, what would have been the approximate size of the company in terms of revenue access and employment creation?

Well, the truth is if Train 7 had been done in 2007, that would have put us at about 30 million tons per annum which essentially means today’s discussion may have been talking about how we go to 50 million tons. What a dream that would have been? It is not a lineal relationship to establish in terms of revenue capacity for the country on the back of what we know today. But I think you can easily just take a view on the back of our current success. With 22 million tons we have returned more than a $100 billion dollars of which more than 15 billion dollars have gone as dividends to the country, more than 6.5 billion dollars in taxes, but we have also helped to reduce gas flaring by more than 65 percent in the country. So, just think about our capacity being 35 percent more over a 10 year horizon, it is just unimaginable what our company size would have been and perhaps what the potential, looking forward, should be today. But generally, I say to my colleagues that we are where we are and there is no point looking backwards, if anything, let us try and maintain a forward view, try and get this 35 per cent capacity in and then go to the next phase. But overall, it is just unimaginable what we could have done on the back of the achievement with 22 million tons. I just can’t imagine, because it definitely would be at least 50 per cent more and the market was great which we missed.

So, what is the future of the global gas market and where do you put the Nigerian economy in that perspective? You can look at it from the point of view of the development where your 22 year contract is already getting to the end and you are now looking at new contracts and in line with the developments globally, gas plants are all over the place, the markets are coming up, would you get that type of long term agreement, considering the new developments.

Let us start with your comments about the gas plants being all over the place. What we know, I like to refer to it as the’ trilemma’, which is the current reality of today’s energy globally. We know that, for instance, we are about 7 billion people today and by 2050, we will be 9 billion. So essentially that is like adding one new China and one new India to the world. So population is growing. Energy demand is growing on the back of improving fortune of people generally around the world. So more people require more energy but the difference is that the world requires cleaner energy. So population is growing, energy demand is growing, but a particular type of energy cleaner on the back of the global warming, climate change, the two degrees increase in temperature that the  arrangement in Paris talked about is what is needed. So there is huge scope for a change. In today’s reality, we believe that gas will continue to be relevant. Some will even say as against the current mix where gas is about 24 per cent, gas will grow to about 26 per cent in the energy mix, coal will go down because it is seen not as clean, gas is at least three times less to producing compared to coal and oil. So the relevance of gas will continue to grow, so much so that the EIA report will suggest that, in terms of world electricity generation by 2040, renewable energy would account for 21 per cent, which was not the case. So there is more and more desire to have energy that is clean and green. But all that is not enough to generate the kind of energy that I would say the world is looking for. But the fair balance, which is why gas is referred to as the bridging energy, is the bridge until we are able to find a technology to be able to resolve the clean supply, is gas. But for Nigeria, I believe that gas is the next big thing. Gas is the biggest opportunity and as we like to say in Nigeria LNG, it is time for gas. I think oil has taken us this far, but on the back of our reserves, knowing what I know that from the barrels of oil equivalent, we actually have by far more gas than oil. Which is why in some circles they like to see Nigeria as that gas nation that has some oil, which for a Nigerian may not be clear but the truth is that we have by far more gas than oil and if you know that most of the gas that we are talking about today are the 190 TCF of gas proven was not found from exploration. Most of it was found while exploring for oil. So Nigeria has to grow on the back of gas and the opportunity is just immense because we have seen countries like Qatar do it, where they have gone from GDPs of below $2005 to more than $150,000 per capital compared to Nigeria today. So it is essential to just realize that gas is the future, power is a major challenge for Nigeria, gas can resolve that, manufacturing is a big deal , gas can be a catalyst to that. So just think about gas to power, gas to transportation which we have seen, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, even in the agro industry, especially from a fertilizer point of view. You could almost conclude that gas is everything. So we like to see gas as the catalyst for the future and we believe that Nigeria’s industrialization and growth would have to be underpinned by gas and for us, it is time for gas. Gas is the future but that future is now.

So let us look at your immediate production environment, the Bonny Island. I am thinking that LNG has gone far with serious transformation agenda considering the level of social infrastructure in the Island or do you still want to do more?

It is not a matter of choice but it is quite credible that you say we have done a lot. But at Nigeria LNG we always know that we can do more. So it is not a question of whether we want to do more.  We feel the need to do more. We know we should do more because our existence is about the partnership with our communities. So, essentially we take sustainability very serious and that is what informs our corporate social responsibilities. But as you know sustainability is on a tripod of social environment and economics and that is how we look at how we get involved.  On the social side it is about the people and the environmental side I mentioned already by our presence we have helped to reduce gas flaring in the Niger Delta by more than 65 per cent and still going and when we bring additional 35 per cent capacity we can take more out of the Niger Delta. But the economic front is also quite important. Today too, we have spent more than $200 million in terms of our corporate social responsibilities on the island. A big chunk of it is what we referred to a partnership with the joint industry corporation but LNG was leading the way. But today we are redefining our CSR framework so that we are clear because the next level for us is a transition from Nigeria LNG doing things for the community versus helping the community to grow capacity, to do things for themselves. My greatest wish would be for them to be in partnership with the local government because until government steps up to take her responsibilities, development will be scarce. No one company can bring about development of society, it has to be in partnership. So for us we like to focus on education, which we currently run with the scholarship programme we have both for local Bonny kingdom and the wider Nigerian environs. We focus on health and that is a very important subject to us and to the extent that even today my colleagues are working on what we refer to as the Bonny community health insurance scheme. That is one that we expect to be up and running between now and mid next year. We are also looking at the island. My doctor tells me that the island is in a vantage position to be able to eradicate malaria and for us that would be quite instructive. So you can see that from the health point of view, we believe that with the community health insurance scheme, making primary health available to Bonny people and haven eliminated malaria which is really more than 70 percent of the illnesses in the place, you just enable the society to be more productive, to be more alive and that is part of what we want to do. We have done a lot on infrastructure. I wish you would visit the island to see for yourself. Today we provide 24 hours power for Bonny through what is a Bonny Utility Company (BUC) which is actually a corporate affairs registered company managed by the Bonny youths. That is in the area of building capacity. That is helping to upgrade capability. So, they run and manage the BUC, with our support, I think one of my colleagues on the board. Technically we are helping them . So just think about the quality of life in Bonny and I think we also focus on youth empowerment because there is a teeming and growing youth population in the area and for the youths, it is about capacity building, skills acquisition, employment and employability. Because we as a company employ very large volumes in a project phase, so the 10,000 to 18,000 people will always be in the project phase. Once the project is done, we drastically cannot really employ that many, but what then do the people do? So we empower them in terms of very varied and generic skills that are suitable for the industry and they can sort of migrate elsewhere. But today’s reality, we want to move gears by the recent MOU we have signed with the kingdom where we will commit to delivering N3 billion per year, for the next 25 years. To bring about that final leg of the up-scaling development for Bonny Kingdom which we like to see compared to Dubai. Dubai is the vision we have. Bonny becomes a mini Dubai both for tourism, infrastructure and industrialization because it is a vantage kingdom adjoining the Atlantic Ocean. It is endless what Bonny can achieve and we continue to work with the communities through the Bonny Kingdom Development Foundation which we are helping them to set up. So for us, this is really very positive in terms of our relationship with the community. It is a partnership, we live together and we are going to do that for a lifetime because we are not about to leave Bonny community, so you can see that it is in our interest for the community to grow. So when you ask if we still want to do more, it is not a question of do, we want. It is something that we believe is compelling and we will definitely do that.

Militancy in the Niger Delta is an activity that has almost ravaged the oil and gas sector in the area. The company as a major operator in the area has been free from this menace. How has your company been able to be free from militancy? The downtime in your production sometimes was not as a result of militancy most of the time but people would think so. So how did you do it?

 I am not sure it is because we are smart people or we are special, it is a combination for me. First of all we are not quite free from the vagaries of the militancy in the Niger Delta. We live in the Niger Delta so sometimes it is quite difficult to decouple yourself from the realities. But we enjoy very positive relationship with our community. Our community is a very friendly community. As I said in my last response to you, they are our partners and they are our partners in progress. But I think the biggest opportunity for us is that this is a Kingdom and the institutional and governance structures are there and they work. We have a king and the king has his chiefs in council and they work with the youths and the women. So you can see that the structure is standing and wherever a structure is standing by way of governance, there will be peace. So I would want to see that as what underpins what you say we have enjoyed in terms of that relative freedom. It is not that there is no militancy, there is militancy all around us but we have been opportune by the support we get from the kingdom and particularly from his majesty. So you cannot discount that relative peace from there. But overall, we also suffer from the vagaries of the militancy, especially in the weak links which is the pipelines because we don’t have our own gas, we are not a gas producing company, we buy gas so most of the gas is coming from upstream through pipeline to us, A lot of these pipes suffer from the menace of this militancy every now and then. But again, when you talk about militancy in the Niger Delta, my experience is that we need to start to decouple what is militancy in terms of the Niger Delta struggle and what is criminality. And seriously I think they are so interfused that perhaps the criminality is even more. Say we have a cut gas pipeline but we often hear that it is in error. They are actually looking for an oil line to tap and steal crude oil but this impacts us because if I don’t get gas supply from my suppliers, then my business suffers and for a greater part of this year, we were gas insufficient, partly because the lines bringing gas to us had been tampered with. So overall, I would say we have been lucky but we are not completely isolated from the issues of the Niger Delta especially by way of gas insufficiency and tampering with our gas line. But on balance I can say we operate in a very peaceful and safe environment on the back of the support we get from our communities, especially His Majesty the King of Grand Bonny Kingdom.   

So the local content policy is a discovery that was believed to have emerged from the innovative ideas of your company. Can you elaborate the reasons that gave rise to this?

We believe in this policy and we believe that the policy is good for Nigeria but if you look at Nigeria today and I have listened to a few debates where people have asked the question “what do you think is the greatest Nigerian resource?” A lot of people would say oil, some would say gas but some scholars have concluded that Nigeria’s greatest resource is its people. So there is no way you can have that quality of resource and not take deliberate steps to enhance the capacity of the resource to play in your most important industry. So it is about participation and enabling the human resource to work actively in the space. It is about talent development and talent growth. So we believe in the local content policy. My knowledge is that the Federal government, through NNPC, actually started this initiative even though there are pockets of similar kinds of initiatives across the industry, but it was pulled together on the back of NNPC’s drive which later became a law through the NOGIC 2010 law. But we are a living testament of the local content law. So if this was 20 years ago, you would not be speaking to a Nigerian as the Managing Director of this company but today I am a Nigerian, I am the Managing Director, I am the CEO. The last two Managing Directors before me were Nigerians. You can see that Nigerianization which is consistently the local content policy has really taken roots. Today I have 100% Nigerian leadership, there is no expatriate on my leadership team and I think my colleague here can confirm that to you. But also on the back of technology, 95% of the entire company is Nigerian, so we create that 5%  room for a cross change and cross postings between our shareholder companies and our own people, for diversity, diversification but also for knowledge sharing  and technology enhancement. But we certainly believe in this policy and you will see it at play in our Train 7 project, where we try to create as much opportunities for local Nigerian companies to participate.

Do you think there is a need to develop more gas plants? Last time, the minister of states for Petroleum mentioned something like asking you particularly to incubate some other gas projects  as a leader in the industry.  Is it that you are going to buy them over or that you will now be a training ground for other gas plants in the county?  

 Viability is about many other variables. First of all, it is about the investor’s appetiteit is also about market but more importantly I think it is about the competitiveness of how you are developing the project which actually is part of what we are contending with in the Train7 project. But the Minister asking us to incubate is not new.  As I said to you, my personal vision is that I see a company that easily can have 15 trains and I recall in the handover notes from my predecessor, when the President took office in 2015, Nigeria LNG went to visit him, we were proudly telling him that we had 22 million tons and 6 Trains, oblivious of the fact that he was actually part of those who instituted the company in the 80s. He remembered and he sought of said to them “hold on, are you telling me you have only six trains?; whereas we were quite proud of having 6 Trains.  And he said “ I thought by now you should have 10 trains or even 12”. So you can see that there is unison in the vision of where we should be or can be. I think it is just a premonition of that positive future, but in what guise will it come? I don’t know because he sort of suggested some form of acquisition or takeover of an existing project, we are not part of that project today but our focus remains Train 7 at the first instance and then we grow more on the back of Train 7. When you talk about gas development in Nigeria, as a whole, I am a firm believer as I mentioned that Nigeria Nigeria can fly on the wings of gas. We have seen Qatar do it. There is absolutely no reason why not and for us part of our vision to help build a better Nigeria is doing everything possible to contribute to the development of gas overall, even though a few people will criticize us by saying we export everything. It is not quite true. In 2007, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo invited us to help the country in the LPG space. At that time the total capacity and consumption of LPG in Nigeria was about 50,000 tons and as we got involved, we actually scaled that. Today the country is at about 650,000 tons of LPG and we produce more than 40 per cent of that. In fact the capacity approved for us to produce by our shareholders is 350,000 tons. It is just that we had some issues in Apapa which we are now resolving and you will see that scale. But beyond that ,we believe that Nigeria’s capacity for growth would be on the back of domestic gas and we know that Nigeria’s capacity starting point is about 5 BCF a day, not the less than 2 BCF consumed today. So we are working with the office of the Vice President and the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum to scale LPG as an energy source for Nigeria and we had a study done by one of our consultants which absolutely demonstrated that the capacity and scope for LPG in Nigeria is almost 3 million tons per annum. Think about where we started from as 50,000 tons.  With our help the country has gone to 650,000 but the consultant is saying, for the population, Nigeria should not be at anything less than 3 million tons per annum over the next 10 years. And for us that is positive because today we are too far behind.  On a per capital basis we are about two tons whereas countries like Ghana are much more than 2 million. I think Moroco and Senegal are between 16 and 60 million .

So what do you see as the greatest challenges to your company now and in the nearest future and what are your suggestions for their resolution?

There are quite a few challenges in Nigeria. I think first of all, being able to exist as a micro company in a macro like Nigeria and be isolated or insulated from the national issues is a key challenge.  Like it or not, we are part of Nigeria, so sometimes it is quite difficult to separate yourself from the vagaries of the society, either underpinned by the extant economic realities or the social situation, we live in society and we exist in society, so we are part and parcel of Nigeria and we cannot separate ourselves from some of the socio political issues so essentially it is tough but mostly for us directly would be around regulations, sanctity of contracts, sanctity of agreements, confidence to market, security and when I say security it is two folds. There is the security of gas supply, which is actually tied to actual security of properties and life but its more confident to market our buyers, mostly offshore buyers being confident to send their ships to Bonny, to Nigeria to load because you always run the risk of your port being declared unsafe and that for me is a major risk. But aside from that, you also have the regulatory bit which largely is impacting more on the upstream and that is the PIB. More recently the President took a resolution on the PIB even though it has been broken into four. So like it or not, the incentive to develop more gas which is the security that I need , is a challenge. As I said, people represent the biggest resource, but even at that you would be looking for talents but today’s philosophy for Nigeria LNG is that we would grow our own talents, we would develop our own talents . For me the biggest one is the security of supply and the security of infrastructure and of course, being able to find the right people for the business.

So the domestic gas market is huge. Can we have your exclusive plan and maybe master plan for the Nigerian domestic market?

Gas is the future but as I said, that future is here. And I mentioned that we are an enabler and a catalyst for gas development because we are ready to take whatever gas is developed and I told you what we currently do in terms of LPG, which is domestic really. But I really feel a sense of joy when I talk about our contribution to LPG in the country and it is multi dimensional , starting with the fact that it is providing energy source, a clean and affordable energy source to people, to families, but more on the back of the information we have that about four million people die from smoke inhalation, while trying to cook using other energy sources, and in Nigeria that is about 100,000 that consists of mostly women and children trying to put food on the table, inhaling smoke and ultimately dying as a result of complications from that.  We believe making LPG available actually helps to save lives but beyond that, it also helps to clean the environment because not much of pollution would happen. It protects the environment. If you look further north there is quite a lot of desertification happening. Some of it is from deforestation and most of the deforestation beyond the business and some of it go into deployment for energy, so all that would reduce that, even the forex. Today we are spending a lot of money importing kerosene, actually there is no need importing kerosene when you have gas, so LPG for domestic use is quite crucial but as I mentioned, on the back of LPG you can have development, LPG for transport, for power, domestic use, industrialization, most of the oxy-acetylin welding work, you can do a lot with LPG. I believe that we are vantage in terms of our position as a catalyst to help Nigeria to scale up and domestic gas is about Nigeria’s development. If you do not develop domestic gas for Nigeria then we will be losing quite a lot of opportunities, but the capacity is there. As I said, for at least 5 billion score of gas consumption in Nigeria has to be taken, we can’t afford to miss that.

Can you at any point of this growth agenda thinker the listing of Nigerian LNG in the Nigerian stock exchange or any other exchange?

It is a very interesting question, I would say. One that is actually exciting. Much as I don’t believe that the word impossible exists, impossible doesn’t exist in my lexicon, so I am not quick to say impossible but the truth is that this is a private company with four shareholders, three IOCs and government. We have Shell, Total and ENI and of course, NNPC. Being a private company and one of the best run companies in Africa, returning great dividends to the shareholders, I just can’t visualize how they will open it up. It is like having the best party and saying you want more people in the party, you guard it jealously. But overall it is a shareholder decision . If you have an opportunity to speak to any of them, you can ask them if they are willing to open up list and go public, but I can assure you that if this company goes public I will sell my properties to buy because I know the value of the company underpinned by a very solid balance-sheet more than $11 billion and returning more than a billion dollars dividends year on year. There are not that many companies in the world and we even say if this was a private company, it will be too big for a local. This will be one of the fortune 500 types of companies.

On a typical day as the Managing Director/CEO of LNG what really bothers you?

Safety! Safety is everything for us at Nigeria LNG. And it is interesting that yesterday we had a conference on safety and a similar question was asked. Why is safety important? For me as the Chief executive, the safety of our people, our assets and our environment is paramount .We have presence in about five locations. Bonny, which is where the main operations happen, most people are in Bonny, our headquarters is in Port Harcourt, we have presence in Abuja, we have presence in Lagos a little bit and London. So I have people moving every day. I have projects happening every day. Our corporate head office is being built in Port Harcourt. I have work going on. I have thousands of workers, our own people are about 1,250, but about three times that, so I feel a sense of accountability for them. So it is always on my mind. Are they safe? Can I do more to keep them safe? Can I do more to make them want to be safe, and do the right thing at the right time, but more importantly we have 23 ships which really if you think about it closely, are LNG plants in motion because they take LNG, and the smallest parcel is about 145,000 cubic metres of LNG traversing the whole world. So I am not there with them so you can just imagine that it is always on my mind. Are they safe? Are they doing the right thing? What more can I do to ensure that they are safe?  Because at Nigeria LNG, our major objective is to ensure that all who work for us, not just our own staff, our contract staff, direct contractor personnel and anybody who has anything to do with Nigeria LNG must go back home safely because that is the only way they can come back the next day to work for us. So safety is the biggest thing on my mind but we are making very positive progress on safety. We recently launched safety leadership agenda towards a declared future, making Nigeria LNG an incident and injury-free company, one to be very proud of.