OpinionNigerian Oil Investment And Irresponsible Comment of TotalEnergies CEO

Nigerian Oil Investment And Irresponsible Comment of TotalEnergies CEO

June 3, (THEWILL)- How else do you describe the comment attributed to the Chief Executive Officer of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanne, on why the company is investing a whopping sum of $6 billion in energy projects in Angola over Nigeria, if not to say that it was uncharitable at best and at worst, very unfortunate?

That we are angry with our leaders over the manner they are misruling the country does not mean we hate our country or can tolerate racist demeaning of our dear nation by foreigners who in real terms collaborate with our people in power to do the wrong things. This is an obvious caveat.

Pouyanne, who was said to have spoken with panellists of the Africa CEO in Kigali, Rwanda, was quoted as saying, “The inconsistency in policymaking decisions led to the diversion of the project from Nigeria to Angola, a country with a more stable policy framework.” The Frenchman stated, “Although the Niger Delta is the most productive region in West Africa, the erratic policy environment has made investment untenable.

“Nigeria loves to open topics without closing them. You love to debate. There is always a new legislature in Nigeria about a new petroleum law. When you have such permanent debates, it’s difficult for investors looking for long-term structure to know what direction to go.

“In reality, the Niger Delta is the most prolific part of West Africa. But if you look at what happened, because of these debates, there has not been a single exploration in Nigeria for 12 years.

“It’s important to have a debate and then settle it and put a framework on the table that investors can trust. “We have countries that have perfectly integrated policies like Angola. So, we went to Angola and announced a very large $6 billion project at the beginning of the week because their framework is stable. So, we know where we go.”

In addition, Pouyanne listed insecurity and “untrainable and talentless” human capital as two of the other main reasons his company is taking investment in the country away to other places. Someone should tell Pouyanne that his company, TotalEnergies, which formerly operated in Nigeria as Elf Petroleum, was a major part of the problem of corruption and opaque business transactions in Nigeria’s oil and gas arena. The company cheated the country blue black for some decades now. But because the cheating spree is being tackled by the letters and intent of the new legislation, the PIA, Nigeria has suddenly become a no-go area for oil investment.

When TotalEnergies (as Elf Petroleum) grabbed the lucrative and prolific deep and ultra-deep offshore acreages in Nigeria, starting with OML 100, 101, 102 and so on, the Nigerian authorities did not open discussions without closing them.

So, why did TotalEnergies choose Nigeria for Egina, instead of Angola or DR Congo if there were inbred inconsistencies in policy implementation discussions and even talent draught in the Nigerian arena?

Now, because you want to invest in Angola as you willingly chose, which is strictly your business, you start saying uncouth things about the country that you have been one of the privileged upstream players (onshore and offshore), not to mention your grossly irresponsible host communities’ relations in delivery of social welfare.

The Frenchman should have known that his comments were too harsh for a country that has harboured his company for decades with all its shortcomings in tax undercuts, expatriate quota manipulations and community development promise delivery in your operational areas, particularly in the OML 58 communities.

If not that a bunch of nitwits have been running our government, why should operators of the government allow TotalEnergies to get away with its citation that demolition in Lagos for the proposed Lagos-Calabar Coastal Highway was one of the many reasons why the company took its $6 billion investment to offshore Angola and another $600 million to offshore DR Congo?

The French company needs to explain what it meant by that, at least for an example to other foreign companies here that may want to be truant now or in the future.

The same Pouyanne had told President Bola Tinubu during a recent meeting in Abuja that the French company is in support of the current administration’s policies and push to resolve insecurity issues in the industry. So, how can this man be talking from the two sides of his mouth at the same time?

It is uncharitable to attribute the lack of qualified and well-equipped manpower in the Nigerian arena as one of the reasons the Total chief executive and his people decided to take the $6 billion investment to Angola and another $600 million to DR Congo instead of Nigeria.

Any operator saying that Nigeria lacks talents and qualified human capital in the oil and gas industry is either ignorant of what is obtained in the industry or outrightly racist. How could anybody who knows this country say it lacks competent human capital or talented manpower either as engineers/technologists or artisans/technicians in the oil and gas sector?

Nigerian engineers, technicians and geological scientists are the ones running the exploration and production operations of most of the multinationals in the oil and gas industry, not only in Nigeria but also across the African continent and parts of the Middle East.

Any Nigerian who clapped for the Frenchman for saying Nigeria lacks qualified/talented professionals should be ashamed of himself/herself. First for being a Nigerian and worse still being among the untrainable and talentless in the country.

I know my folks in SPE, NAPE and NMGS, amongst other oil and gas-related professional groups. It can be said without equivocation that Nigerian engineers, technologists, and technicians (artisans) run the show in the entire stretch of the Gulf of Guinea and beyond. I am a trained geologist (Sedimentology/Stratigraphy) so I know what I am saying and I stand to be corrected.

What TotalEnergies Chief Executive took as talentless and unqualified manpower in the Nigerian arena was criminally created by the dubious business practices of the International Oil Companies (IOCs).

Truth be told, Total and its likes want to continue to defraud Nigeria of its revenue shares in the joint ventures and taxes, they would rather prefer to employ Asian and Mexican roadside technicians who they bring into the country and call them engineers and technologists with huge expatriate salaries and other benefits ascribed to them but never gets to them aside the paltry sums given them as salaries/benefits. They use this means to repatriate huge amounts of dollars back to their home countries tax-free.

TotalEnergies is one of the worst culprits in expatriate quota burst in Nigeria in both their onshore and offshore facilities. Our Immigration services have been deliberately looking the other way for whatever reasons that may not be too far from corruption.

Pouyanne has the right to invest his company’s money anywhere he likes, but he should be doing that without mentioning Nigeria and worse still, trying very hard to demean the country that his company has grossly helped to milk for decades now. The Frenchman should have declined to make comments on Nigeria, especially as he knew it was going to be caustic. He should have concentrated on Total’s newfound love with Angola and DR Congo instead of expending his energy on demarketing Nigeria and its oil and gas industry. This is not acceptable no matter how anybody looks at it.

In April, TotalEnergies, through its subsidiary TotalEnergies EP Congo, signed an agreement to purchase a 10 percent stake in the Moho permit from Trident Energy.

Upon completion of this transaction, TotalEnergies will hold a 63.5 percent operating stake in the permit. Trident Energy will maintain a 21.5 percent share, and the Republic of Congo’s national oil company, Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC), will have a 15 percent stake.

Look at the stakeholding in the permit, for you to see why DR Congo and countries like Angola are becoming more attractive to the French interest.

Put your money where your mouth is and stop the unnecessary sleight talks. Period! That we are fiercely angry with governance in our country does not in any way diminish our love for the country itself and its hardworking and patriotic citizens who are in the majority. De your de make we de our de! God bless Nigeria!

Izeze writes from Abuja

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