Recently, SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc emerged as the Most Profitable Company (Oil & Gas: Exploration and Production), while its Chairman, Dr. ABC Orjiako, was named the Board Chairman of the Year at the Nigerian Investor Value Award (NIVA) organised by BusinessDay Media Limited, in conjunction with the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX).
In this interview with select Business Editors, Dr Orjiako speaks on the feat and other salient issues about the company going forward, including the national gas industrialisation revolution policy of the Federal Government.
Congratulations Mr Chairman on your recent award as board chairman of the year. However, one is excited that in just a few years of going public, you have won several awards, how do you feel as the Board Chairman and what do you think this latest recognition mean to the company?
Thank you very much. For me, I must say that I am very delighted and happy that SEPLAT won this award as the most profitable oil and gas company. It is indeed very gratifying. I would like to give a lot of credit to the management team. We have always prided ourselves as having one of the best most experienced, most hard-working, and most focused management team and staff.
The credit goes a lot to them. Another thing we are happy about is the way our company is governed. Once you have the right governance in place, a lot of things will then definitely fall in place. So what we’ve done is to make sure that when we speak about corporate governance; it is not just about ticking the boxes. It is in our DNA and everything we do in making sure that company is properly governed. This has manifested itself in the way and manner with the profitability of the company and how it has continued to grow upwards despite the challenges in the way.
Can you take us through the company’s clear performance that has informed this major recognition by the Nigerian Exchange Limited?
First of all, one of the things we have always said in SEPLAT is that from inception, we have been very clear, and have well defined who we are as a company, where we are going with a defined roadmap. That is what we have been following and that is why within four years of existence, you found us listing on the London Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Stock Exchange. In doing that, we were very clear that to start with, we needed a very strong Board, a board that is studded with people with the right expertise, the right diversity, the right experience, both in the business we do and also in the financial world. So our Board does not just have quite a lot of experienced people, but also members with diversity across geographies. With that and supported by a strong management team and professional staff, we then hit the ground running focusing on our vision. Our vision to build a world-class company that focuses on stakeholders values. The company obviously from its oil and gas business is now translating to the energy business. We immediately championed acquisitions of international oil companies. We saw that as the future of the indigenous growth in the oil and gas business, we championed that and we are happy to say that we have led from the front in that regard. But of course to grow the kind of independent company that is a leader in the sector, we felt that it is important to situate the company where you have the wider global scrutiny from the investor community. And following our listing in the two exchanges, which of course you recall, was the biggest IPO in sub-Saharan Africa in oil and gas. And ever since then, what we have done is to deliver on the promises we have made.
We have also since our existence distinguished ourselves from peers, in terms of the kind of corporate governance that we have put in place. We have also distinguished ourselves from the level of efficiency we brought to bear in our project delivery system, by making sure that our unit operating cost remains one of the lowest in the industry, if not the lowest. So, in every regard, we ensured that we grew revenue year-on-year, we grew profitability year-on-year and at the same time we ensured that total shareholder return was guaranteed. Initially when we started, we were focusing also on capital appreciation for shareholders until the Capital Market took a dive southwards. But in compensating for that, we maintained regularity and consistency in paying dividends to our shareholders and that has paid off because we promised them that we are going to continue to give returns to them every year.
And we have also made sure that the management staff are well looked after so that we can retain the best talents in the organisation to continue to deliver on what we set out to do. So overall, its been a combination of hard work, it’s been a combination of following focused vision and mission of the company. Maintaining very high level of integrity and ethical practices is our core values. So all of these put together is what has sustained the profitability we have maintained over the years and also the good returns we made to not just the shareholders, but all the stakeholders.
Our corporate social responsibility footprints
I am sure you are all familiar with what we have done in communities where we operate. We make sure that we engender mutual respect for these host communities and we have enjoyed win-win situations with them in everything that we do. So our corporate social responsibility programme is one of the best you can find in the industry and in every business.
Therefore, all these, put together, have given rise to the profitability that we have enjoyed over the years. And of course, has now culminated in the BusinessDay/Nigeria Exchange Limited award that you are seeing today.
You spoke about the input your strong management and board made in all these. We would like to know what has been your guidelines for leading an effective board which resulted in some of these awards?
I spoke about this earlier on, I think everything revolves around strong corporate governance, if you set out with the policies. In SEPLAT, one of the things that we emphasize always is that it is not just enough to comply to rules and regulations, we go over and above that and set, very high standards around what we do. And we do this through the right policy framework. So we set up our board dynamics, and gear it towards high performance board. And that starts from the constitution of the board, if you take time and look at the people who make up the board of directors of SEPLAT, you find that these are talents that are very difficult to replicate. And, of course, if you have also followed what we have done over the years, our board starts with very experienced people, but from time to time, we also refresh this board. As you may have seen, we refreshed the Board recently, where both the independent non-executive directors are being replaced. The very strong hands we had in the persons of Mr. Michael Alexander, who was a senior independent director, got replaced by Mr. Xavier Rolet, a former CEO of the London Stock Exchange. It is not easy to attract these kind of people to the Board. But they have confidence in what we are doing. You also would have seen Arunmah Oteh who joined us, she is very well respected lady globally in the marketplace as well as in the regulatory space and sustainability world.
So to attract people like those I mentioned means that there is quite some confidence in the company. And once you do this, we make sure that the Board continues to have the right policies around it, and we empower the Independent non-executive directors to actually be the true representatives of the shareholders in the company such that the majority shareholders do not lord it over everyone else. We also make sure that there is proper separation of duties between the board and the management, between the chairman and the CEO. We make sure that as a non-executive chairman, we have oversight functions, but we do not do the company running day-to-day. All of these bring healthy checks and balances in the way the company operates. And in doing that we provide the required support for management to deliver on the promises we made to the shareholders and stakeholders.
And of course, going forward, we are properly in tune with what is happening globally.
In our industry today, it becomes clear that the industry is shifting from just pure oil and gas company, to being an energy company.
In SEPLAT, we are always proactive. Today, we speak about an energy company that provides energy solutions and going forward, we will make sure that we are completely aligned with what the global environment is looking at with respect to climate change, ESG and the rest of them.
Coming back home, we know that providing Energy Solutions means making sure that we play our role in closing the energy gap. That is why when you hear today, that SEPLAT provides 30percent of gas to power in Nigeria, it is because of the deliberate effort we have made to align ourselves with the Gas Revolution that the government has been pursuing.
That is because we strongly believe that once we provide the power infrastructure, it then becomes the platform for diversification of the economy which the government is also talking about. So all of these put together are what propel our success.
Credit: Daily Sun