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Osagie Okunbor (right) has worked for Shell for nearly three decades across various HR roles

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 16.29.29By Zik Gbemre


We still consider it necessary to write again, considering the sensitivity of the subject, so as to clear the air, put things in their right perspective and reiterate our stand.

As we stated in our last letters dated April 29, 2014 and May 21, 2014, and June 16, 2014, the whole point of our write ups is that Mr. Osagie Okunbor is not qualified to occupy the position of Shell (SPDC) MD/Country, based on his ‘malnourished background’. For emphasis, Shell is a ‘technically-oriented’ International Oil Company (IOC) and as such, if we check all past Shell (SPDC) Managing Directors (MDs) there is no one that does not have an experience background in Exploration, Production and Engineering. Even the present Shell (SPDC) MD/Country Chair, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, was one time the Asset Manager of Area C West in Warri and later General Manager Production East in Port Harcourt before his elevation to a Director in Shell (SPDC).

Even Royal Dutch Shell past Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are mostly Engineers with technically sound expertise in Exploration and Production and Engineering-related fields as well. Some of them include: Jeroen Van Der Veer, a Dutch, took over as Shell CEO in 2004 from Sir Philip Beverly Watts, a British, who was actually a former MD of Shell Nigeria (from 1991 to 1994), Sir Philip (Phil) Beverly Watts succeeded Sir Mark Moody-Stuart in 2001; Peter Voser, a Swiss national, took over as Royal Dutch Shell CEO in 2009 from Jeroen Van Der Veer; then more recently, we have the present Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben Van Beurden, a Dutch, who took over from Peter Voser in January 2014. All of these Shell CEOs have good technical backgrounds in Engineering and other related technical field like Geophysics. This is because the business of Exploration and Production of oil and gas is a highly technical one that requires not just anyone. So how come a ‘novice’ in these areas should be projected and appointed by Shell Management as the next MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC) Nigeria?

We consider it a very unwise move by Shell that Mr. Osagie Okunbor, who was said to be the former Vice President (VP) Human Resources, Shell (SPDC), is currently being considered/prepared to assume the position of the Managing Director (MD) and Country Chair of Shell (SPDC) Nigeria. We strongly advise that relevant authorities of Royal Dutch Shell and Shell (SPDC) Nigeria should give this issue raised the needed attention.

Mr. Osagie Okunbor is said to be on cross-posting to The Hague, in other for him to be ‘groomed’ to occupy the said exalted position and take over from Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, who will soon go on retirement.

Again, without being prejudice or biased, we strongly fault this move/arrangement being planned by Shell Management to make Mr. Osagie Okunbor, the next MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC) Nigeria. Our reason for faulting this move and the candidacy of Mr. Osagie Okunbor for the said position in Shell (SPDC) is not on any ‘driven or sponsored agenda’ but strictly hinged on a number of undeniable facts that we can reliably attest to. But most importantly, our reason for faulting Mr. Osagie Okunbor candidacy is for the existing operations of Shell (SPDC) and its admired reputation in Nigeria, not to be rubbished in the mud.

Like we said in previous letters, Mr. Osagie Okunbor is not a ‘technical’ person, neither is he an ‘operational’ person nor does he have the ‘corporate wisdom’ and ‘professional skills’ to manage/carry out the overwhelming demands of the office of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. This is no exaggeration or are we trying to ridicule someone, but we are stating the obvious fact. Mr. Osagie Okunbor does not have the necessary “technical background experience” that makes one to be qualified or considered for the position of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. He has not worked in any of the Shell (SPDC) Asset Teams or even in any Production, Well Engineering and Surface Engineering Departments.

In other words, Mr. Osagie Okunbor does not have the capacity, capability, wealth of technical background experience or the leadership prowess that are necessary traits/qualities that anyone being considered for the position of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), should have. Aside the complete lack of necessary technical, operational and leadership qualities, Mr. Osagie Okunbor is known to be a chronic ‘tribalist’ from a Edo State who does not have the qualities and ‘relationship-building’ skills to manage the socio-political and ‘inter-relations’ demands of the position of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. Mr. Osagie Okunbor is known to be an ‘arrogant’ person that is also pompous and evidently ‘unintelligent’ in the management of people and assets. In fact, Mr. Osagie Okunbor can best be described as an ‘opportunist’ who does not have the ‘human face’ to relate with and manage Shell (SPDC) host communities and relevant stakeholders in Nigeria.

To put it bluntly, Mr. Osagie Okunbor does not have the ‘community clout’ and the leadership qualities to even be considered for the position of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. He does not have the capacity to carry relevant stakeholders along or manage Shell (SPDC) operations in Nigeria. Without mincing words, making Mr. Osagie Okunbor the next MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria, to take over from Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, will be the ‘biggest’ mistake and a ‘corporate blunder’ Shell will ever make. It will be like Shell using its own hands to ‘destroy’ the company’s operations in Nigeria. Again, this is no exaggeration, but stating the bitter truth and the undeniable fact as we see it.

Some persons in the Shell system have claimed that “Mr. Osagie Okunbor worked very hard at different levels of leadership”, but this is pointless because we know that it is Mr. Basil Omiyi and the Edo State connections in Shell (SPDC) that projected Mr. Osagie Okunbor to the position of the VP Human Resources. He did not attain to that position on merit or hard work, as they are trying to make us believe. The question is what job was he doing or has he done to be considered for the said position?

This is Nigeria, where the oil, gas and condensate explorations and productions are not like what we find in other nations that Shell is operating in. The complexities, challenges and demands of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria are quite overwhelming; hence it requires a well-grounded technical and operational person with the leadership qualities and professionalism to adequately manage Shell (SPDC) operations in the country. This becomes necessary when we consider the fact that Shell (SPDC) is still the pioneers and the biggest International Oil Company (IOC) in Nigeria. Therefore, Shell should have someone that is well-grounded in the Nigerian oil and gas industry who completely understands the working/operational environment and can fully represent the interest of Shell in Nigeria as well as that of relevant host communities’ stakeholders.

The Mr. Osagie Okunbor we know does not have what it takes to be MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria neither can he project Shell and its operations in Nigeria in good light. The Mr. Osagie Okunbor we know cannot make a ‘technical presentation’ on Shell operations in Nigeria to the satisfaction of relevant stakeholders. Even a technical presentation that is already prepared, we are sure Mr. Osagie Okunbor cannot present it. That is, if an already prepared technical presentation is given to Mr. Osagie Okunbor to present, he will not be able to defend such a presentation during question and answer sessions. He is a complete novice in this area. We also believe Mr. Osagie Okunbor will not be able to identify or differentiate between crude oil and condensate if presented with same. He cannot differentiate an oil/gas Well-Head from an ordinary Water bore hole. He does not have an idea of what a Gas Plant looks like; he does not have an idea of what a Rig Platform/Terminal looks like; he does not know what a Flow Line looks like, neither does he have an idea of what oil and gas facilities look like.

Mr. Osagie Okunbor cannot, or even know how to manage/relate with host community stakeholders in the volatile Niger Delta region of Nigeria. He is also a very ‘unpopular’ Shell (SPDC) staff within and without host communities of the Niger Delta region. In fact, Mr. Osagie Okunbor’s inability to relate with people is also seen in the ‘cold’ relationship he has with and amongst his colleagues in Shell (SPDC) Nigeria. He is simply an ‘introvert’ who cannot relate well with people. Hence, he does not have the capacity to manage people. Mr. Osagie Okunbor will not be able to relate with and defend Shell policies and practices before the Nigerian National Assembly members like the Senate or anywhere else for that matter. He does not have the capacity as an individual, to defend and project Shell in good light before Nigerian law makers and policy implementers. A snub like Mr. Osagie Okunbor will only kill Shell (SPDC) business in Nigeria.

Is this the kind of person Shell would want to handover its enormous oil, gas and condensate explorations and productions in Nigeria to? What happened to the admirable ‘high standard’ of Shell when it comes to the appointment of its personnel into ‘sensitive’ Management leadership positions in the company? Why is Shell trying to rubbish all the operational efforts the company has attained in the last couple of years, with this ill-advised appointment? Even if Mr. Osagie Okunbor is made to spend ten years in ‘training’ to prepare him for the post of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), he will still not be ready or make any difference. An African proverb says: “No matter how hard you wash a tiger’s skin, you will not be able to wash off its spots”. And “No matter how hard you bath a dog and wash its nose, the nose will remain black.” So, no matter the level of management training/preparedness given to Mr. Osagie Okunbor, he will never be ready or be able to fit into the position of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. It will be like fitting a square peg into a round hole. Besides, at his age, Mr. Osagie Okunbor cannot be able to adequately learn and assimilate new things.

Nigeria is a place where ‘crazy standard’ often unheard of in other countries, are set for ‘personal reasons.’ The Nigerian we have today is what it is because those in authorities encourage the appointment of the ‘wrong persons’ into “sensitive positions”. When the wrong persons are placed in sensitive positions, we should not be surprised when things start going drastically wrong. Appointments in Nigeria in virtually all the sectors are usually based on sentiments, political affiliations, and nepotism and ethnic tendencies. The Shell system is not immune to this. In fact, there are abound several ‘cliques’ and ‘cults’ in the country (Nigeria) that one has to associate/belong to, to be able to climb the corporate ladder in the system. This is why there is so much ‘sycophancy’ and ‘praise singers’ in Nigeria who celebrate corruption and titles that are bought.

As expected, our write ups on the above subject elicited some defensive responses from some quarters, which we believe were sponsored by Mr. Osagie Okunbor to justify his ill-advised consideration for the exalted position in Shell (SPDC). But we are not deterred by this, as all of our write ups/letters over the years are built on the foundations of what we stand and believe, and that is: To be the voice of the voiceless through our advocacy by praising that which is worthy of emulation and for the general good of the common masses, and to condemn (without fear or favour) that which is bad and not in the interest of the general masses no matter who or what is involved. But there are those who find it extremely difficult to ‘accept the TRUTH’ when presented with it.

Agreed that some of the recipients of our write ups in our distribution list are no longer in the Shell system, as some persons have pointed out, but that does not mean they are no longer relevant nor have nothing to say/contribute to the progress of the Shell system and the development of our society at large. If anything, those outside the Shell system can ‘see well’ and be able to advise better on what will help the system. Just like somebody who is dancing cannot easily assess his/her dance steps, so also is an organization with its activities. And as long as Shell is still operating in Nigeria (be it onshore or deep-offshore), those (especially Nigerians) within and outside the Shell system still have a role to play towards the progress of the company and how their exploration/production activities affect us.

It is people like Mr. Osagie Okunbor that are the reason why Warri and the Nigerian entity is what it is today. It is the Edo-connection in the system that is bent on acting out an evil-script to deprive Delta State of what is rightfully ours. For instance, how do we explain the fact that despite Shell (SPDC) divestment of their assets in its Western operations in Nigeria, the NPDC that took over these assets has remained in Benin, Edo State? Virtually all the operations (99.5%) of NPDC today are in Delta State, yet they want to operate from their Benin Head Office in Edo State; practically collecting and leaving what belongs to Warri, Delta State to Benin, Edo State. They cannot use Delta State resources to develop Edo State or make it look economically vibrant. What is Edo State contributing to the Niger Delta economy when compared to Delta State? These are some of the ‘injustices’ and anomalies that we are fighting to ‘correct’ in the polity.

The position of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria, is one that is quite demanding and challenging and not meant for the lily-livered. As the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria, one is expected amongst the mirage of other things; to manage host communities and its people/stakeholders, Colleagues, Shell Assets/facilities/Structures, the Nigerian Government at the Federal, State and Local Government levels, Relevant Government Agencies and government officials, etc. Mr. Osagie Okunbor does not have the relationship-building prowess to excel in these areas. He can only best occupy the position of one who pushes work-files from table-to-table but not the position of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC). Throughout all his stay in Shell (SPDC) Nigeria, Mr. Osagie Okunbor has been doing ‘clerical jobs’ and administration.

However, there are very good Nigerian Shell personnel that can adequately fit in better and excel as the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria, by virtue of their capacities, capabilities, leadership qualities and wealth of background experiences in technical and operational fields of the oil and gas industry. This is the reason we do not understand why Shell(SPDC) should consider ‘a technical novice’ like Mr. Osagie Okunbor for the position of the company’s MD/Country Chair. When you have “highly technical and well-experienced” staff in Shell (SPDC) Nigeria, what then is the rationale behind the selection and consideration of Mr. Osagie Okunbor as the next Shell (SPDC) MD/Country Chair? It simply does not make sense. It shows that there is an element of ‘god-fatherism’ playing out in the selection/appointment of Mr. Osagie Okunbor as the possible next MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC).

From what we can deduce, it is obvious that Mr. Osagie Okunbor is being projected for the position of Shell (SPDC) MD/Country Chair for ‘selfish’ interests of some individuals in the system.

There are Nigerian Shell (SPDC) Personnel like Mr. Simbi Wabote, Mr. Boma Brown, Mr. Tony Attah, Mr. Vincent Osifeso, Mr. Obi Akosa and many others, who are very ‘resourceful’ Shell personnel that can adequately play the role of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. These Nigerian Shell (SPDC) personnel have proven to have the ‘community clout’, humility, brilliance, technical and wealth of professional experience to handle the position of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria, very well. And most importantly, they are very familiar with the intricacies and complexities of the Nigerian oil and gas industry. Any of them can adequately represent the interest of Shell (SPDC) Nigeria in a good light. Such position as Shell (SPDC) MD/Country Chair should be given ‘strictly’ on merit and not for any hidden ‘interests’ of a godfather or any highly-exalted individual for that matter.

It is on the above premise that we once again ask that Mr. Osagie Okunbor should not be considered in any way for the position of the MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC), Nigeria. Mr. Osagie Okunbor is not qualified to be made or even considered for the position of MD/Country Chair of Shell (SPDC). There are far better Nigerian Shell (SPDC) personnel that can fit in very well into the said position to continue the good works that will be left behind by Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu when he retires. We ask that this issue should be given the needed attention as requested. It is a worthy advice that should not be neglected.

Zik Gbemre, JP
National Coordinator

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