SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc recently emerged as the Most Profitable Company (Oil & Gas: Exploration and Production) in Nigeria. At the Nigerian Investor Value Award (NIVA) organized by BusinessDay Media Limited and the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX), its Chairman, Dr Ambrosie Bryant Chukwueloka Orjiako, also won the Board Chairman of the Year.

In this interview, Dr Orjiako speaks on the feat and other issues.

How did the company attain the recent recognitions?

First of all, one of the things we have always said in SEPLAT is that from inception, we have been very clear, and have defined who we are as a company, where we are going with a defined roadmap.

That is what we have been following and that is why within four years of existence, you found us listing in the London Stock Exchange and the Nigerian Stock Exchange. And, in doing that, we were very clear that to start with, we needed a very strong Board, a board that is studded with people with the right expertise, the right diversity, the right experience, both in the business we do and also in the financial world.

So our Board also has members with diversity across geographies. With that, supported by a strong management team and professional staff, we then hit the ground running focusing on our vision to build a world-class company that focuses on stakeholders’ values.

The company obviously from its oil and gas business is now translating to the energy business. We immediately championed the acquisitions from the international oil companies. We saw that as the future of the indigenous growth in the oil and gas business. We championed that and we are happy to say that we have led from the front in that regard.

And following our listing in the two exchanges, which of course you recall, was the biggest IPO in sub-Saharan Africa in oil and gas. And ever since then, what we have done is to deliver on the promises we have made.

We have also since our existence distinguished ourselves from peers, distinguished ourselves from the kind of corporate governance that we have put in place, distinguished ourselves from the level of efficiency we brought to bear in our project delivery system, distinguished ourselves by making sure that our unit operating cost remains one of the lowest in the industry, if not the lowest.

So in every regard, we ensured that we grew revenue year-on-year, we grew profitability year-on-year and at the same time we ensured that the total shareholder return was guaranteed. Initially when we started, we were focusing also on capital appreciation for shareholders until the Capital Market took dive southwards. But in compensation for that, we maintained regularity and consistency in paying dividends to our shareholders and that has paid off because we promised them that we are going to continue to give returns to them every year.

What would you say about staff welfare of the company?

And we have also made sure that the management staff are well looked after so that we can retain the best talents in the organization to continue to deliver on what we set out to do.

Our corporate social responsibility programme is one of the best you can find in the industry and every business. So all of these, put together, have given rise to the profitability that we have enjoyed over the years. And of course, has now culminated in the BusinessDay/Nigeria Exchange Limited award that you are seeing today.

Can you explain your strategy in leading the board?

I think everything revolves around strong corporate governance.  At SEPLAT, one of the things that we emphasize is not just enough to comply with rules and regulations, we go over and above that and set very high standards around what we do.

And we do this through the right policy framework. So we set up our board dynamics, and gear it towards high performance.

SEPLAT attracted more experts in the board recently, what informed this?

Yes, we refreshed the Board recently, where both the independent non-executive directors were replaced.

The very strong hands we had in the persons of Mr Michael Alexander, who was a senior independent director, got replaced by Mr. Xavier Rolet, a former CEO of the London Stock Exchange. It is not easy to attract this kind of person to the Board. But they have confidence in what we are doing.

Arunmah Oteh also joined us; she is a very well respected lady globally in the marketplace as well as in the regulatory space and sustainability world. So to attract people like this means that there is quite some confidence in the company.

We are making sure that the Board continues to have the right policies around it, and we empower the Independent non-executive directors to actually be the true representatives of the shareholders in the company such that the majority shareholders do not lord it over everyone else.

We also make sure that there is proper separation of duties between the board and the management, between the chairman and the CEO. We make sure that as a non-executive chairman, we have oversight functions, but we do not run the company day-to-day.