Those who know Austin Avuru (AA) would agree that he is at the turning point of his life. They can tell without voicing it, that this is AV’s coming of age; the point at which he begins to transit from being a thoroughbred technocrat to an authentic Nigerian statesman. At 60, the garb of leadership begins to sit on him like a well-cut suit.
A home-bred technocrat who has earned global standing; effervescent all-rounder with the mental acuity of a genius, AA earned a degree in Geology from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, (1980) and a postgraduate diploma, Petroleum Engineering, University of Ibadan.
He joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC after UNN and his trajectory in the oil industry has followed the path of a meteor since then. Twelve years in NNPC, Africa’s largest oil and gas behemoth where he rose to the position of Reservoir Engineer and ten years in Allied Energy Resources, AER, peaking as Technical Manager and Exploration Manager. He honed his exploration and production acumen here.
AA set up Platform Petroleum Limited in 2002 and was its managing director up until 2010 when he made what would be considered as his leap of destiny. He led Platform to effect a merger with Shebah Petroleum Development Company Limited, to birth the indigenous oil giant, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Limited, SPDC.
Imbued with deep technical and financial capacities, Seplat was active in acquiring divestment opportunities arising from the restructuring activities of some international oil corporations exiting the Nigerian environment. It also was upfront in taking advantage of the indigenization of Nigeria’s oil sector. Taking advantage of emerging opportunities, Seplat acquired major interests in some onshore oil and gas blocks which have numerous producing fields and enormous potentials for gas development.
Deploying its up-scaled drilling capabilities, Seplat under the drive of AA grew its oil production capacity to a record level for local firms. Gas processing capacity has also been deepened to production levels never before achieved by an indigenous producer. Seplat’s exponential feat and a rich Board has led it to be perhaps the only Nigerian indigenous oil firm quoted both on the Nigeria and London stock exchanges.
It needs be noted that the ability to plod in the swamps of the turbulent Niger Delta to extract ample quantity of the black gold may not be the key mark of greatness of AA. It’s actually team spirit and the infinite capacity to drive an indigenous conglomerate under the harness of one of the most formidable and multinational board ever to be found in Nigeria.
The deep and diverse assemblage of eminent men and a woman is led by ABC Orjiakor, a cerebral medical doctor and multi-dimensional businessman. There is independent director Mark Malloch Brown (The Right Hon. The Lord Malloch-Brown, KCMG), former United Kingdom minister and United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. Alumni of Magdalene College, Cambridge where he made a first class honours.
Another formidable independent is Mr. Basil Omiyi, former Managing director, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria and later Chairman. He is currently Chairman Stanbic-IBTC Holding Company.
The inimitable Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru is a multi-disciplinary technocrat who recently chaired Nigeria’s Federal Inland Revenue Service, giving it the reboot it enjoys today. She is currently chairman of multi-billion naira worth Lagos State Security Trust Fund and also an independent director of Seplat.
Others are Mr. Macaulay Ofurhie, former director of the Department of Petroleum Resources; Damian Dodo, SAN; Dr. Charles Okeahalam and Mr. Michael Richard Alexander. Mr. Effiong Okon is Operations director while Roger Thomson Brown is Chief Financial Officer. A board built to last no doubt.
AA is among the most respected player in Nigeria’s vast oil industry today. In nearly three decades, he has brought his vast experience, knowledge and even wisdom to bear on oil and gas policies, legislations and technical know-how. For instance, he was chairman of the technical sub-committee that drafted the policy paper that formed the basis for the Nigerian Content Act of 2010. He was consultant to the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources as well as a member of the Ministerial Committee on the Restructuring of the Department of Petroleum Resources.
Zestful and widely knowledgeable, he regularly contributes informed commentaries in national newspapers; he has also authored books in his field as they affect the nation’s political economics.
Though AA has grown in clout and substance in Nigeria and globally, those who know him will also testify that he is well rooted and well loved in his community Abbi, Ndokwa East Local Government of Area of Delta State and indeed the entire state.
Known as Mr. Humility, through the instrumentality of his Austin Avuru Foundation, he has almost transformed Abbi into a semi-urban centre. A state of the art Catholic Hospital; a Catholic Cathedral; community-wide water supply scheme; scholarship to indigent students and various youth empowerment schemes among others, have elevated him to nigh an institution living out compassionate social responsibilities.
A devout Catholic, AA is married to Victoria and they are blessed with children. At 60, this result-oriented technocrat, humanist and patriot has indeed come of age – statesmanship beckons.