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Femi Akarakiri

NIGERIA - Energy & Mining

Making the Difference

Country Manager, Weatherford

Bio

Femi Akarakiri’s career started with Citibank Nigeria (formerly Nigeria International Bank) before moving to oilfield services with Schlumberger. With extensive oilfield experience, he is currently the Country Manager of Weatherford Companies 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 but 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. He possesses a keen understanding of the importance of the service quality and organization skills required for sustainable growth, while creating a vision that drives a team with passion to succeed.

"What makes the difference in Nigeria is local knowledge."

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 help the oil companies become more efficient and reduce costs?

There are some costs that you cannot control; 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 late May imply that we cannot let our guards down. For our clients, we look at supporting them in lowering their costs by bringing out technology that can do more for less. If it takes about 18 hours to make up pipes and if you bring out technology that can reduce that to half the time then you will save them a significant amount of money. 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 are doing during this period of industry downturn that is actually building 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 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 workforce is actually Nigerian, and that is something that is very important.

How do you think the petroleum regulatory framework changes the environment in this sector?

It will have a significant impact given that businesses do not like uncertainty. You cannot really plan how things are going to grow and this is one of the problems that we have had in the country and it has stalled investment. 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.

What is your opinion on Nigeria’s refined fuel scarcity?

The past government attempted to do what needed to be done and the current government has truly taken the bull by the horns. The country is broke, and we can no longer subsidize refined fuels. Today, imports of refined products come from Europe and the US; however, refineries based in Nigeria can supply a lot of what Africa needs. We are gradually on the right path; the crude oil is nearby and, if the security is there, then people can invest. Nigeria has the capability to refine products and export to countries across Africa and beyond.

What role do you see the finance sector playing in supporting the oil industry?

The issues that the sector is going through are temporary. This is why we brought new services last year as part of our long-term strategy. During a downturn, our clients are cash strapped; many people want to do things but they do not have the finances. The people who have the money need to be more efficient, but there are many that cannot raise the funds and, therefore, activities shrink in downturns. Banks, therefore, will play a major role in this environment., We hope that this government will close on the PIB and, when that is done, this country will experience a big boom. New licenses will come, funding will come, and Weatherford will be ready.

What are your goals and expectations for the rest of 2016?

We do not see things changing from what we are experiencing now. Many organizations are already cutting back significantly on projects. So even though the oil price seems to be moving up, militancy in Nigeria is part of the reason why it is moving up so we are not a beneficiary of that rise. Given the fact that many clients have set budgets for 2016 based on the pessimistic oil price levels we do not see much activity changing from where they are now. We just need to see the year out. We believe 2017 will be better and by October or November 2016 we will start seeing what companies are planning for next year.

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