Ambrose Bryant Chukwueloka Orjiako (OFR) needs no long introduction. Many know him.
Orjiako is one man who exemplifies the Nigerian Dream. Born on October 1, 1960, the exact date that Nigeria won her independence from Britain, he is the Nigerian Dream writ large. Simply called A.B.C Orjiako, his ennobling world smacks a lucid example that Nigeria is a project that cannot be associated with failure. Celebrating his birthday alongside Nigeria, it is as though the self-effacing Orjiako has carried the abiding dreams of his beloved country on his formidable shoulders.
On the 1st of October this year, even without formal invitation, his relatives, friends and well-wishers converged at his Park-View- Lagos residence to fraternize with the Orthopaedic surgeon turned oil magnate. Prominent amongst his guests were the Bishop of Baminda in Cameroun, Chief Chris Mmeje, Nemeith Executive Director of finance, Chief Ziggy Azike, distinguished leaders of the United Concerned Citizens (UCC) of Ihiala Local Government, executive members of the Uli Progressives Union, Lagos branch, leaders of Lagos branch of Umuaku Development Union, the executives of the women wing of Uli Progressive Union, Lagos branch and a host of other friends and well-wishers who had come from all works of life to celebrate with him. As a true Igbo man, he used his birthday to also celebrate his New Yam Festival.
Orjiako certainly runs against the grain of Nigerian businessmen and politicians who put up billboards to advertise their so-called philanthropy. He gives selflessly without asking to be applauded. It’s against this remarkable background of large public spiritedness that became a fascination to many.
A gifted child, he took pride of distinction from primary school through secondary education until he studied the coveted course of Medicine. An esteemed orthopaedic surgeon, he acquitted himself in medical science before branching out into business.
A man of uncommon courage, Orjiako threw his hat into the ring of competition at the very heart of the Nigerian economy; oil and gas. He has in the course of time been involved in distinguished enterprises such as Abbeycourt that traded crude oil and refined petroleum products with Britain’s Glencore, Abbeycourt Energy, Zebbra Energy and Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited etc.
The cosmological year of 2009 dawned with the founding of SEPLAT, the industry benchmark in management efficiency and social responsibility in the oil and gas industry, where Orjiako leads as chairman. His intimidating business dimensions span construction, real estate development, pharmaceuticals, shipping etc. He is an indefatigable top player on the Nigeria Stock Exchange, the London Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris.
“Orjiako readily admits that business runs in his blood, as he stresses: “I come from a business family – my late father was a businessman – and all around me, I could see business opportunities either going begging or being handled very poorly. So, I tried to do other things and found myself naturally slipping into the stream of the Nigerian economy.” A passionate lover of knowledge, he enrolled into the renowned Harvard Business School to widen his horizon.”
The international businessman has been reputed for his peerless philanthropy. Far back in 1994, the erudite scholar of the prestigious University of Calabar, undertook to fill the gap of obvious brain-drain in secondary education in his Uli community by retaining retired teachers in the schools under his payroll, a fete he has maintained to close the gap of inadequate teachers in schools.
Consolidating his firm commitment to philanthropy, he founded the Daniel Orjiako Memorial Foundation (”DOMF”) in 1996 in honour of his late father, Chief Daniel Obiesie. Orjiako.
The DOMF is committed to breaking the poverty cycle in rural Nigerian communities through education, healthcare services and economic empowerment through agriculture. The DOMF runs scholarship schemes for indigent students across the spectrum of education in Nigeria and has to date assisted towards the education of over 10,000 pupils in primary schools, over 200 in science education in post-primary schools and over 200 university graduates especially in medicine, engineering, pharmacy and geology.
The DOMF also provides free care services to the elderly and micro-credits to rural farmers, especially rural women. He further supports education and medical research through an endowment of a professorial chair in orthopaedics and trauma at the University of Calabar, Nigeria.
Piqued by the growing rate of graduate unemployment in the country, Orjiako rose recently to depopulate the surging numbers of graduate unemployed youths in his community, as well over a hundred of them have been landed lucrative jobs in some of his multinational Oil companies.
An insight into Dr. Orjiako’s background is quite intriguing. According to him, “In terms of my background, I qualified as a Medical practitioner in 1985, then qualified as a General Surgeon in 1993 and sub-specialised in Orthopaedics and Traumatology in 1996. Overall, I practiced medicine for eleven years before switching to full-time business.
I founded a few companies in oil and gas before Seplat, which we founded in 2009. Seplat was founded between two indigenous exploration and production companies, Platform and Shebah. We were later joined by a French independent, Maurel and Prom to pioneer the acquisition of assets from IOCs (Shell, Total and ENI) in 2010. So far we have had a compelling story of a good historical track record and we are well positioned to improve and do more in the oil and gas space.
Seplat Petroleum which he chairs its board, has since been listed on both the London and Nigerian stock exchanges which is an incredible feat of its own. The company from all indications has promising future. But on what has been their springboard that endeared them to the part of progress, Dr. Orjiako has this to say,
“The road map has been that of commitment, hard work and overcoming challenges. But we are very determined and the situation we find ourselves in is where we are adding substantial value with the assets we have acquired which have grown production upwards from 14, 000 barrels to 60, 000 barrels per day. We started on a very sound footing with a clearly defined three-plank growth strategy.
First is the organic growth of our existing assets to ensure production and reserve growth. Second is the price-disciplined acquisition of new assets and thirdly, gas commercialisation. To drive this ambitious vision we first put in place a sound corporate governance framework and a strong management team. The next step was to have access to investible capital.
That is what propelled us to list the company on the London and Nigerian stock exchanges. Looking at the future, it holds well for Seplat with our focus, determination and consistency in delivering value to all stakeholders.
On why Seplat, an indigenous oil and gas leader on the continent, does not seem to have plans to grow into other regions in Africa, Dr. Orjiako said, “At the moment, we remain Nigeria-focused.
It is true that there are a number of opportunities in the other African countries but the Niger Delta remains the most prolific hydrocarbons zone. The ongoing asset divestments by the IOCs, possible Government bid auctions and the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) will all reinforce the huge access to asset acquisition by indigenous independents.
Seplat is well positioned with a real competitive advantage to harness these opportunities. Our plan is to maximise the opportunity and consolidate our growth within the Niger Delta so our plan is to remain Nigeria-focused for now.
On how they have been able to manage youth restiveness prevalent in host oil communities, Orjiako admitted that this is one of the most difficult challenges in the Niger Delta which they have converted to a major opportunity, saying that they created a proactive engagement strategy in the host communities and developed what they call the “Seplat Model” of community engagement.
“This is based on capacity building, empowerment and economic prosperity within the host and impacted communities. It is our win-win strategy. We are by no means perfect in this regard but we are continually improving this strategy to ensure sustainability”, he remarked.
Whilst still practicing at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, Orjiako established and managed various companies in the upstream, downstream and services sectors of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
These include Abbeycourt Trading Company Limited (with which he traded crude oil and refined petroleum products with, amongst others, Glencore UK Limited), Abbeycourt Energy Services Limited, Zebbra Energy Limited and Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited.
He went into full-time business in 1996 after eleven years of active medical practice. He co-founded SEPLAT in 2009 and became the Chairman, spearheading new business development and fundraising as well as providing leadership on strategy and stakeholder relationships.
He is also the chairman of Neimeth Pharmaceutical International plc, which is listed on the NSE,
In recognition of his services to humanity and the Roman Catholic church, Pope John Paul II in 2003 bestowed on him a Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSGG).
Orjiako is a deeply religious icon of the Catholic faith such that Pope John Paul II in 2003 bestowed on him the Knighthood of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (KSGG) in recognition of his services to humanity.
Orjiako remains an eternal friend of Catholicl Bishops, Reverend Fathers and Sisters, including Francis Cardinal Arinze, the only Nigerian clergy that missed the office of the Pope by the whiskers.
Dr. Orjiako easily connects with the lowly and the mighty. The awards he has garnered over the years include: the Distinguished Alumnus Award and Doctor of Sciences (D.Sc. Honoris Causa) by his alma mater the University of Calabar in 2001;
Platinum Award of the West African College of Surgeons in 2006; National Honours as an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) conferred on him in 2012; the coveted Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe “Zik” Prize in the Professional Leadership category by the Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC); the African Business Executive of the Year 2014 by the Oil and Gas Council etc.
He is happily married to his beloved Henrietta with four children. On this auspicious occasion of Nigeria’s 58th Independence Anniversary, it is cool to toast to the country’s birthday mate, Dr. ABC Orjiako, who eloquently proves that our country is indeed a successful work-in-progress,
but however, expresses discomfort that Nigeria abandons agriculture and relies on the production of between two million and three million barrels of oil daily and at the end of every month, they share the proceeds among political leaders.
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