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ThisDayOnline: Shell Appoints First Nigerian MD

ThisDayOnline: Shell Appoints First Nigerian MD

Moves African headquarters to Lagos

By Mike Oduniyi

20 July 2004

History was made yesterday when oil giant, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) announced the appointment of its first Nigerian Managing Director after over four decades of operating in the country. He is Mr. Basil Omiyi.

The appointment of Omiyi, 58, takes effect from September 1, 2004, and was yesterday described by the Federal Government as a major success in its drive to raise local inputs in the Nigerian upstream oil sector.

In a major re-organisation by the Anglo/Dutch oil firm, the African Headquarters of Shell was also transferred to Nigeria from The Hague, in The Netherlands.

Following the appointment of a Nigerian managing director, an expatriate will be appointed the deputy managing director of SPDC, to take over from the incumbent, Mr. Joshua Udofia.

Shell said in a statement that the current Managing Director of SPDC, Mr. Chris Finlayson, has been appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Shell Exploration and Production (Shell EP) in Africa, with effect from October 1, this year.

Finlayson was appointed SPDC managing director last November. “Mr. Finlayson, 48, will continue to be based in Lagos, Nigeria, and will retain the role of country chairman for Nigeria,” the statement said.

This development meant that Omiyi, along with the managing director of Shell Gabon and that of Shell Cameroon, will now be reporting to Finlayson.

It also ended nearly two years of crisis in SPDC, where the workers had been protesting against what they termed plans by Shell to reduce its Nigerian workforce by 20 percent and be replaced by expatriates under the re-organisation, which the company said was to reduce cost and reposition. The workers had staged warning strikes on two occasions since then.

Omiyi, the Edo State-born Petroleum Engineer, was until his new appointment, SPDC’s Production Director. It was during his tenure that Shell’ production hit the 1.0 million barrels per day (bpd) mark last October.

He joined Shell in 1970 after graduating from the University of Ibadan. In 1988, Omiyi was at Shell International offices, The Hague, on cross posting, and returned to Nigeria in 1993 to assume the position of Operations Manager of Shell’s western division based in Warri, Delta State.

He was appointed into the board of SPDC in 1996 when he took up the position of General Manager, Relations and Environment. This was at the time Shell was under fire after the Ogoni crisis. He was appointed External Affairs Director in 1999 before assuming the post of production director in 2002.

The Shell statement quoted Omiyi as saying: “I am delighted to be appointed Managing Director of SPDC and I am honoured to be the first of what I expect will be many Nigerians to hold the post.”

The statement also quoted Finlayson as saying that “Africa is an important area of focus for Shell EP and I look forward to working with our thousands of employees across the continent as we further develop our business in this exiting and challenging region.”

Shell is Nigeria’s biggest crude oil and gas producer, accounting for more than 40 percent of the country’s crude output. It operates a joint venture with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which holds on behalf of the Federal Government, 55 percent equity in the venture.

The joint venture’s oil production hit 1.08 million barrels per day as at the end of June this year. Its output had averaged 910,000 bpd of crude last year.

Speaking to THISDAY on the development, the deputy director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Dr. Kayode Oloketuyi, said the Federal Government had always been pressing for Nigerians to be at the helm of affairs of multinational oil joint venture firms.

This, according to Oloketuyi, was to ensure that government’s goal of substantially raising local input in the oil sector, was achieved in record time.

“We have always believed that no foreigner will have the commitment to achieving that goal more than a Nigerian. The Shell appointment is a good development and I hope other oil majors will take a queue from what Shell has done,” he added.

The Federal Government is into joint venture partnerships with six multinational firms. The others are Mobil, Chevron, Agip, Elf and Texaco.

Shell’s two key subsidiaries, the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCO), in charge of its deep offshore projects, and Shell Nigeria Gas (SNG) in charge of gas distribution to the domestic market, are currently headed by Nigerians.

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