Any lingering doubt about the extent of devastation on the country’s economy due to the current high insecurity was erased today as international and local investors massively boycotted the 16th Offshore West Africa Conference and Exhibition in Abuja.
The conference, themed, “Deepwater Technologies for West Africa”, is an annual technical forum for discussions on the advancement of oil and gas exploration and production (E&P) activities in the West African sub-region organized by Pennwell Corporation. This year, it had less than one-third of its usual participants.
The minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who was invited to deliver the keynote address at the opening session neither showed up nor sent a representative. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) listed in the brochure of the conference as the lead sponsor also shunned the event.
NNPC’s group Managing Director, Austen Oniwon, also did not turn up for the event, neither did he send any representative
Of all the upstream multinational E&P companies listed as either sponsors or key participants, only Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Total Upstream and ExxonMobil Corporation registered limited presence, while only 41 companies had exhibition stands out of nearly 200 that reportedly registered for the event.
Most of the participants Premium Times spoke to blamed the poor attendance at the event on the high insecurity in the country, particularly the increasing spate of bombings of public places and churches by the extremist terrorist group, Boko Haram.
“Apart from the high insecurity situation in the country at the moment, the crisis, which resulted in a national strike, affected plans by prospective participants towards the conference,” one official of the organizers said.
“We could have called off the event. But, by the time the strike was suspended, it was too late to get confirmations from most of the sponsors. Besides, we had already made serious commitments to the event that could not be reversed.”
An official of one of the sponsoring multinational companies, who pleaded anonymity, said the implication of the poor attendance at the conference goes beyond the fact of the insecurity in the country, which is sending terrible signals to the international community. He urged the Federal Government to sit up to redress the problems that are stopping investors from coming into the country.
“This is a reflection of state of insecurity in the country,” the official said.
“Most multinational companies have instructed their representatives to stay away from the country as their safety and security could not be guaranteed. This is not good for the development of the oil and gas industry, particularly at this time when there are other countries in the region that are competing for the attention of investors.
“It could have been a different situation when Nigeria was the only oil big producer in the region. Today, with Ghana, Sierra Leone, Angola and Gabon all becoming oil producers, if government does not sit down to address the problem of insecurity, the country would be the worse for it, because investors don’t go to where their investments and security are not guaranteed.”