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.
Garba 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. Excerpts:
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.