Nigerian business tycoon eyes Ghana’s oil blocs

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

A Nigerian global business mogul, Kola Aluko, has expressed the hope that his company will start operations in the country this year as part of the company’s global expansion drive.

Mr Aluko, who was in the country as part of a team to introduce VistaJet, a luxury business airline, said he was hopeful to return to Ghana to firm up business relations by the end of the year. 

He told the GRAPHC BUSINESS that his company, Seven Energy, which was into development of wells, would apply for an oil bloc in Ghana’s oil fields and prospect for oil and develop the wells themselves.

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“We are looking at potential partnerships in 2013 across the world. But certainly in 2013 we want to start operations in Ghana, developing offshore oil wells,” he said.

In 2001, following a directorship at the Nigerian crude oil trading firm Besse Oil & Services, Kola founded Fossil Resources Ltd, an indigenous downstream oil and gas company of which he was chief executive until 2004 before moving into exploration as CEO of Exoro Energy International, another Nigerian oil and gas business.

In 2007, Exoro Energy merged with Seven Energy and Mr Aluko became the deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Seven Energy International, an independent oil and gas development company with interests in three onshore fields in the Niger Delta.

Aluko is also deputy CEO of Septa Energy Nigeria Ltd and a director at Seven Energy (UK) Ltd – both wholly-owned subsidiaries of Seven Energy International.

Last November, the Forbes Magazine named him as one of the top ten African millionaires that people did not know about.

He told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that Ghana needed to strongly implement its local content in the participation of the petroleum sector policy and enforce every bit of it, saying it was only when Ghanaians participated in their own industry that the required jobs could be created.

“Rather than Ghanaians just sitting back and taking commissions, they should rather participate and build skills and capacity to go global,” he stressed.

He said there were several oil services such as providing support vessels, offshore drilling vessels, drilling services and logging services, to the oil companies that Ghanaians could venture into.

“The key thing is for the government to promote and support indigenous growth in these areas, because without this the benefits created at the high levels isn’t direct and you are not creating your own indigenous oil companies,” he stressed.

Mr Aluko added that when Ghanaians and Ghanaian companies were able to participate in the oil and gas industry and development their expertise, they could also step out in the global market place and bid for blocks in Brazil, Malaysia, Norway or any part of the world.

He said Ghana had taken a good step by thinking about local content compared to Nigeria where it took a long time to be implemented.

“Out of its 20-year history of oil production, it was only in the last 10 years that the Nigeria firmed up its local content laws. Under this regime, they have forced the foreign companies to involve the locals, as opposed to the situation where they only awarded contracts to Americans, Dutch, Europeans since it benefits their economies,” Mr Aluko alluded.

Recounting the Nigeria experience, he said, that country learned from Saudi Arabia and Qatar which did not allow foreign companies to award contracts to their own people, adding “so Nigeria put in place mechanisms to enforce the rules.”

Another challenge Nigeria had was that its local companies were not ready, but were only interested and focused on taking commissions, explaining that “not knowing that not engaging directly limits the capacity to create employment. So the Nigerian companies started pushing for the rules.”

Today, the energy and aviation business tycoon insists that “the know-how can be learnt. The local companies should begin to partner with the foreign ones, not as agents but as joint partners, but the one in which they raise funds together.”

He also cited Norway and Malaysia are good examples of countries that had applied local content in petroleum activities to the letter, saying Petronas of Malaysia and Petrobraz of Brazil, which were all doing well internationally, were all products created out of local content rules.

The Nigerian international businessman has interests in several business ventures across the world, having started his business in his home-country, Nigeria.

Most recently, Kola Aluko became a partner of the Swiss luxury aviation company Vistajet, driving its expansion into the growing West African market.

As part of that drive, Mr Aluko and his VistaJet partner visited Ghana to introduce their services and announce their presence.

A passionate car racing enthusiast, Aluko has competed in major European races with the Swiss team Kessel racing. 

Story by Samuel Doe Ablordeppey/Graphic Business