Mr. Imrane Barry, MD, Total Nigeria Plc
Total Nigeria Plc is the only International Oil company (IOC), in Nigeria’s downstream subsector. The oil marketing company has been operating in Nigeria since 1956 with 577 stations across the country to its credit.
The Managing Director, Imrane Barry, revealed to OGODO DOUGLAS FELIX, Editor of Energy Focus Report Magazine on the sideline of Nigerian International Petroleum Summit (NIPS), that the sole IOC in Nigeria’s downstream has contributed immensely in the sector.
He pointed out that the young dealer scheme used to assist young petrol attendants has produced about 250 petrol stations and they are now entrepreneurs.
He said the company’s focus is to play complementary roles for Nigeria downstream. According to him, safety still remains a challenge in the country and the culture must be imbibed. Total has also brought innovative ideas to serve its teeming customers.
Total has been in Nigeria’s downstream for so many years and the company is still the only IOC operating in the downstream sector. Why has it not been able to build a refinery in the country after many years of operations?
First of all is about believing in Africa and also about the ability of tapping into the human capital in Africa by training people and knowing how to think globally and act on it. It is by putting the focus on safety both on transportation and deeper management of training people.
You may have heard about our programme called the young dealer scheme. It is a framework by which Total hires pump attendants keep them between 5 to 10 years and they are given free loan to run petrol stations. Today, out of the 577 stations Total has in Nigeria more than 250 of them are run by people who started with us as pump attendants. These guys with the value they have for the brand, love of Total customers with the ability to demonstrate the passion for the job, they end up becoming entrepreneurs. We started pushing this initiative of entrepreneurs since 1956.
Just to emphasise on the issue of refinery, does Total still have it in mind?
I think enough is being currently done for us to add anything. For instance, Dangote is doing something fantastic, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) downstream of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) just told us what effort has been put in place to revamp the 450,000 barrels per day refining capacity for NNPC. I think as a private sector our role is to be part of what is called complementary asset to help to connect the door because the refinery on their own will not take the products to end users which are the consumers.
Our role is not to add to any other refinery but to play the role of connecting the door through by ensuring that these products reach end users reliably, safely and timely to our customers.
Concerning Total’s role in the distribution of fuel, does it have challenges especially on the aspect of tankers and trucks in the ports?
Apapa gridlock is something hitting every operator in the downstream. The good thing is that we are cooperating among Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) and with the presidential taskforce in order to coordinate what goes on in Apapa. A lot of things are going on quite well there. There are plans at what time trucks should come and what time they can leave. Things are well coordinated in the sector.
But the challenges we have is that of safety which is important, at jetties, depots, transport level and stations. There is also the challenge of human capital, building valuable strong force is something that is key to us. Apart from that we love Nigeria and the continent such that challenges are just what keeps us going on daily basis. We thank you guys in the press because you are contributing in educating the population and the public in order to get the industry to next level.
What advice do you have for the government, independent operators and way forward for the downstream sector?
What I have for the government is to thank them for granting us the unique opportunity to be in this country and work in it. Total has been in Nigeria since 1956, it is not because we are perfect but we have been helped by the government to operate.
For my colleagues in the downstream sector who are independent. We welcome competition because there is no way some single handful of companies can serve Nigeria since it is a big country. There is a place for everybody and there is a role to play. What I can share with them are three things. Firstly, when you are in this business, you are here for a long term which I mentioned in my speech. When you rent a plot or you buy a plot of land and build a station, you are there for between 20 to 50 years.
Secondly, it is a business that requires to be extremely cautious on safety. All your efforts in productivity can be wiped out by just one accident. Safety should not be compromised. Total plays a lot of role in this area and it shares training with other companies.
Thirdly, is fund and to put the customers in the height of what we are doing. Am sure by doing this together we shall lift this industry for the benefits of the Nigerian people.
Does Total have any innovation for the downstream?
If you don’t innovate you will die. Innovation is something permanent. Today, as part of innovation, we are continuing with fleet management solution into our cards. As far as lubricant in concerned, we are moving into a new generation of base oil and Total is about to launch new packaging for lubricants which is more appealing. This is also the feature technical characteristics of the products.
On transport safety, we are introducing a new soft ware that is based on camera that is to capture the face of the driver to alert early fatigue signs and prevent the driver on how to manage the journey. So, innovation is restless and relentless quest battle.