Awwal Garba A. D. is a Nigerian and British trained Economist of a rare breed. He attended the Bayero University Kano, Nigeria and the City University, London, United Kingdom, from which institutions he meritoriously obtained his first and second university degrees.
Awwal is a major player in the global oil and gas sector. With particular interest in Nigeria, he has developed a proclivity for discovering untapped resources within the sector and has over the years, successfully built his chain of business interests under the Magma Group, nationally and globally.
He is also the Deputy Chairman, APC Progressives Network and Chairman, Game Changers Media.
In this interview, Awwal Garba bares his mind on the nitty- gritty of oil and gas business in Nigeria, the APC Government and the political terrain, as well as other sundry issues.
You are an economist into oil and gas operations, what informed your foray into the terrain?
Apart from the motive of making money, I have an affinity with the oil and gas sector of the economy; I look at there as where I belong, although I come from a family where the stock in trade was commodity. My father was an importer and exporter of commodity products.
I was motivated into the sector by the desire to make a change, especially in the upstream sector of the industry where it is believed that it is only the oyibos (foreigners) that hold sway therein.
Of course also in that direction would be the desire to contribute one’s quota to the national economy, in terms of creating jobs, which of course would help in giving the youths a sense of worth and direction.
Which is your core area of expertise and what are you doing at the moment?
I am into exploration with almost eight assets so far. I am building a 100 thousand barrel refinery in Akwa Ibom State at the moment, on a hundred hectare land, close to Exxon Mobil. I also have negotiations on-going with 3 marginal oilfields from oil mill 370 with Exxon Mobil. In the gas area of the sector, we have made proposals with respect to the Brass LNG, into which my partners and myself are ready to commit $1bn. This would cut the issue of oil importation and also 300,000 jobs for skilled and unskilled workers in Akwa Ibom.
Do you readily have a count of the stock of your entire companies? Which of these companies can be singled out as leading in aiding the growth of the economy in terms of investment?
We have Magma Petroleum Investment Limited; Magma Exploration Production Limited; Magma Agro-Allied Limited; Magma Logistics Limited; Magma Gas and Power Spectrum Limited; Magma Pipe and Coating Limited, Rhone Petroleum Limited; and H. Oil Limited, among others.
Almost all of them aid in the growth of the economy in terms of the investment. We have Magma Exploration which is working on a JVU with Total Upstream, and also working with MPDC. We have Magma Gas and Power Spectrum working on acquiring the Brass LNG. It is a $1bn project, and already the funds are available.
We have H-Oil Limited which has assets in Angola as well as South Sudan and Liberia, with offices in Paris and headquarters in Madrid, Spain. Magma Logistics works with the Department of Petroleum Resources. We also have Magma Petroleum Investment in the downstream sector with our downstream partners, having facility in Amsterdam and distributing finished products all over the world.
What is the policy thrust of your operations in Nigeria which continues to see you achieving successful operations?
The challenge of prospecting for and then drilling of oil is something we enjoy doing. On the exploration side especially, we want to expand and never get tired, that is why we are on the brink of acquiring more assets every day. We love the challenge, get in there, prospect and drill the oil is something we just enjoy doing.
What synergies do you have in place that gives you an edge in your operations?
We are realistic, we spread forward and we are not greedy. That’s the most important. Today, what kills the exploration business is greed. You want to have everything and there’s no way you could do that when it comes to exploration. We engage partners from all over the world and our logic is that ‘half bread is better than none’. We can give out an asset with 5%, an asset with 2%, it does not matter. What matters is that when you multiply the 2% x 10, you get 20%. This is our logic.
What have been your peculiar challenges?
The challenges are more in the downstream whereby you cannot control the price of petroleum products. You can import today and the next thing you know is that NNPC also imports and when that happens, the market gets flooded with the product and you tend to lose. By the way, we do have Cybernatic oil and gas for which we have tank farms in Ogara, that is a border town between Delta and Edo States.
Tell us about the APC Progressives Network, which you chair
The network has an endorsement from the All Progressives Congress to promote the president and contribute with ideas. Of course, you would agree that in campaigning you need ideas. Politics is all about people, followers; people who can bring in value. In the same vein, the network tries to reach the grassroots and places the party has not touched, bringing in more value.
Does he deserve a second term and why?
Yes, he deserves a second term. First of all, we need a leader who is clean because when the head is clean, the middle and bottom will also be because they would be put in a position where they are wary. But if the top is rotten, then it is corruption galore. We need a leader like Buhari whom money does not mean anything to. A president who is so humble, he can even stand with cows. He is simple, not extravagant, qualities he has officially demonstrated which can be widely attested to. I believe that with him coming back, God sparing his life, he will achieve a lot.
As Deputy Chairman of Game Changers Media, what is its unique selling point?
The Game Changer was established to highlight the differences and show that the Muhammadu Buhari administration continues to change the whole game; from Agriculture, Corruption to Healthcare and very importantly, to unite Nigerians and give them a sense of belonging, while stoking the embers of patriotism.
If you go to Ghana today, you will be shocked to realise the level of their patriotism. A taxi driver always has the Ghanaian flag in his cab as every household, like it was in America perhaps before the Trump era when American schools taught American history, the need to be patriotic and love for country. So patriotism is very important. Game Changer is here to bring awareness about patriotism.
What is your advice to politicians as we await the 2019 elections?
We should stop the politics of money and vote-buying. We should allow Nigerians to vote for candidates of their choice without influencing them. It is a disgrace to buy one’s way into a public office. When that happens, you look at yourself as a businessman and begin to fashion out ways to recoup spent money. This is what has been happening for ages. Only a person voted in by merit would think of improving the lives of the people.
Google, UBA Collaborate to Provide Free Wi-Fi to Customers
Africa’s global bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc has collaborated with Google and ISP partner to launch Google Station in 11 key UBA branches in Lagos State as part of plans to roll out 200 stations in the country.
Google Station, a platform for providing free, high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, began in Lagos last year, and extended to Abuja in December in partnership with Backbone Connectivity Network.
This google-powered initiative would allow customers access to internet connectivity within the 11 branches and its environs, thereby facilitating their day-to-day businesses and activities, while ensuring unhindered connectivity.
The 11 branches where the hotspot will be located are: UBA Bank Road, 810-811 Bank Road, Daleko; UBA Matori, 21 Fatai Atere street; UBA Surulere, 152 Ogunlana Drive; UBA Allen, 13 Allen Avenue, Ikeja; UBA Tisco Plaza, Alausa; UBA Apapa, 11-13 Warehouse Road, Apapa; UBA Marina, 55 Marina, Lagos Island; UBA HQ, Broad Street, Marina; UBA Lekki Admiralty; UBA Oke Arin and UBA Aspamda Plaza, Trade Fair.
At the official launch which took place in UBA’s Head Office on Wednesday, UBA’s Executive Director/ Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Chuks Nweke, expressed UBA’s excitement over the collaboration, adding that the move will go a long way to present opportunities far beyond the imagination of both organisations.
He noted that the challenges of financial inclusion which the USSD platform has not been able to solve will be eased through the Google Station, as the financially excluded will now be able to access the internet and enjoy the services provided free of charge.
He said, “It is an interesting platform which will ultimately benefit everyone. It is a win-win for everyone. Customers will have ease of doing businesses, especially with the growing use of smart phones, and the 52 million Nigerians who have otherwise been financially excluded will now have access to data through this collaboration and can carry out their transactions with ease.
“Interestingly, SMEs, who previously had challenges with funding can now do other things which they couldn’t achieve before, such as accounting services and others. Also, UBA recently launched an educational app, and so, students will be able to use these Google Station platform to carry out their necessary research from the comfort of their homes, it is an awesome opportunity with benefits for everyone which we are presenting to our customers in line with our customer 1st philosophy.
Group Head, Marketing, UBA Plc, Dupe Olusola said in addition to the 11 locations, the organisations are looking to expand beyond the shores of Nigeria to other African countries where UBA operates. She added that by the collaboration, the initiative will help ease the burden off customers while also presenting them with opportunities to excel beyond boundaries.
Google Station is a simple set of tools to roll-out Wi-Fi hotspots, and aims to provide fast and reliable Wi-Fi in more places where more people spend time, such as bus stations, shopping malls, airports and public transit stations.
Specifically, the Wi-Fi service is available free of charge and partners leverage Google Station’s business model, which enables venues, system integrators, businesses and ISPs with access to fibre to setup, maintain and monetise their Wi-Fi networks.
Google Nigeria’s Country Director, Juliet Ehimuan-Chiazor noted that the institutions remained focused on providing internet services to users for free.
She said, “With the help of our partners, we are offering high-quality internet access in heavily-trafficked areas like airports, markets, malls and bus stations throughout the country, especially in areas where there were no internet connections before.
“Even with the amazing progress on expanding mobile internet, we are finding that public Wi-Fi remains a crucial step in getting free, high quality internet to everyone,” she explained.
Josh Woodward, Director, Product Management, who spoke generally on the benefits of the high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots in public places said the collaboration will aim to solve a basic need and allow customers access to connectivity to assist them in their day-to-day businesses and activities.
He said, “Deploying Google Station in collaboration with UBA and 21st Century is an important step to connecting the next billion users. As a result of the locations enables us to be up-and-running in no time. Even more, their WiFi signal ensures connectivity to Google Station hotspots so users can do a lot of things online and be constantly connected.”
Halogen Security unveils new subsidiary, Avant Halogen
By Babatunde Alaran
One of the largest security markets in Africa, Halogen Security Company has officially unveiled its new identity management and outsourcing solutions arms, named Avant Halogen.
According to the security risk management company, Avant Halogen is a full-fledged subsidiary with specialist focus positioned to innovatively tackle identity management, talent risk, verification and outsourcing issues affecting multinational companies, institutions, parastatals, government security agencies, corporate bodies and the general public.
The company further revealed that Avant Halogen has undergone significant transformation in the past few months. While its corporate identity shares a common emblem that visually integrates all Halogen operating companies, its vision remains that of being the benchmark for biometric verification, background checks, digital aided identity and credentials confirmation as well as outsourcing solutions that cater to all cadres of clients.
Speaking on the new company, Halogen’s Group Managing Director, Mr. Wale Olaoye, said that the new company is a product of the deep transformation and unique talent risk management services at Halogen security adding that it is empowered to deliver best-in-class services in the area of identity management and talent risk solution for the Nigerian and the West African economic landscape.
“We are delighted to announce the birth of a new company from the Halogen Group; Avant Halogen. Avant’s vision will be driven by professionals with track records in the industry. In line with our avowed cardinal principles of professionalism, integrity, passion, and excellence.
FIRSTBANK PARTNERS AZURI TECHNOLOGY TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA
By Stellamarris Ashinze (NAN)
First Bank of Nigeria Limited, last Thursday signed a partnership with the Azuri Technologies to provide solar energy solution for the low-income areas.
The Deputy Managing Director of the Bank, Mr. Gbenga Shobo, said in Lagos that the partnership was aimed at proffering solutions to one of the major challenges facing the country today.
Shobo, represented by Tunde Owolabi, the Bank’s Group Executive, Retail Banking Group, Lagos & West, said that the focus is delivering power to millions of Nigerians; while at the same time enabling access to financial services in rural and low-income areas.
According to him, financial inclusion is a priority to FirstBank. “This is why we are excited about this partnership; because our customers will be able to access a wide range of services that address the real problem of access to power.
”This partnership with Azuri Technologies is one out of several of FirstBank’s partnerships. We have a track record of partnering with individuals and institutions to help meet the needs of our customers (children, women, youth, SMEs) and promote sustainable development in our host communities. Our partnerships cut across the Arts, Sports, Education, Health, among others; FirstBank has been at the forefront in ensuring ease of banking and convenience for its customers.
”Our Agent Banking Network (Firstmonie Agent) and digital banking offerings like Chat Banking on Whatsapp, FirstMobile app, Firstonline, and USSD banking, are some of the channels we have put in place to make this happen. We are therefore, very excited about the FirstBank-Azuri partnership and the positive boost it aims to bring to the nation’s economy through inclusive services.”
”Indeed, this is part of FirstBank’s 125 year-long passion for partnerships that are woven into the fabric of society,” he said.
Also, Mr Simon Bransfield-Garth, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Azuri Technologies, said that the company “is a leader in pay-as-you-go solar technology”.
Bransfield-Garth said: “Azuri brings affordable, modern consumer goods and services to the millions in sub-Saharan Africa without access to conventional power.
”Of the one billion people who lack access to electricity around the world, over 600 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. Pay-as-you-go solar power is connecting off-grid households to the modern digital world. From home lighting to satellite TV, Azuri-designed solutions deliver world class performance at an affordable price for customers who live away from mains power.”
”Azuri’s vision is to create a level playing field where all consumers can access and benefit from the digital economy, wherever they live” he concluded.
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