‘This company was founded with N3000 borrowed from Union Bank; built on a high level of integrity, transparency, and commitment to work – Arco Boss, Okoigun
Alfred I. Okoigun, founded and serves as Chief Executive Officer and Group Managing Director of Arco Petrochemical Engineering Company Limited. Mr. Okoigun worked as a Pioneer Staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Mr. Okoigun’s business experience has been greatly enhanced by several executive training programmes in Nigeria and his stint at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland. He serves as Director of Arco Petrochemical Engineering Company Limited. A fellow of both PTI (his Alma Mater) and the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers. He is an Alumnus of the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Warri. His training is in mechanical engineering.
After a one-year industrial training with Snap Progetti of ENI in Italy in 1978, Mr. Okoigun joined the NNPC as a Material Management Officer in the Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC); he served in that capacity from 1978 to 1980. A visionary entrepreneur, Mr. Okoigun resigned his appointment in 1980 and established ARCO Petrochemical Engineering Company Limited, to provide maintenance engineering and consultancy services to the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry. He was granted agency representation by Nuovo Pignone – a 100% owned subsidiary of the ENI Group (now owned by General Electric) when he was only 25.
Mr. Okoigun is a strong believer in the development of engineering services in Nigeria. Through ARCO, he has sponsored over 40 engineers, technocrats and energy correspondents for training programs and facility visits to Oil and Gas equipment manufacturing firms and to exhibitions and seminars on energy matters in Italy, Switzerland, USA, Brazil and Argentina. In recognition of his contributions to the Nigerian Oil & Gas sector, Alfred has been honoured by his professional colleagues and his alma mater; among these awards are the conferment of a Fellowship on him by the Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun at the age of 43, designation as a role model by the Engineering Society, University of Lagos and the conferment of Fellowship on him by the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers.
You have come a long way with 36 years of manning this industry, you have seen the rough, tough, and the good old days of the industry, can you tell us how you have fared in the Nigerian oil and gas industry?
Well, within these 36 years we have had 10 presidents and the present president should be the 11th since I started business, and not to talk of the ministers in the petroleum industry, so there have been a lot of notions in the oil and gas industry. Above that, it calls for change of policies and whenever there is change in policy it affects business, sometimes positive, other times negative. But my hope is that with where we are now and current oil price guiding us to be focused and do the right thing, I think we have a president who is renowned for his integrity, my believe is that all the honest and hardworking people this should be their opportunity, if they get themselves established within this period then they will continue to move on, because over the years we haven’t had president who was quite focus and through their policies we got lifted up, we also have some that through their policies it didn’t work well for us. Because we have chosen business and the dream of Arco is to outgrow anybody that will work in Arco, that is the real dream and we are trying to live it.
So how has Arco managed to survive throughout these years with the policies somersault that the industry has gone through, how have you been able to make it to this point?
I am told that Arco’s story is being used in the Lagos Business School in the last 13 years or so, it is being used as a case study there, it is not that we have too much money, but what stands out for us is that this is a company built on a high level of integrity, transparency, and commitment to work. When you understand that this company was founded with N3000 borrowed from Union Bank, then you can say that we are just ready to work and make something out of nothing and this is what we have been doing. And so whenever we have challenges – the somersaulting one you talked about, we just keep our head low knowing that our own is not just today, we are looking beyond today and that has helped us.
We just heard a presentation about value addition in the Nigerian oil industry through local content; can you relate that to the story of Arco so far?
Well, presently we have over 400 workers with us
How many people did you start with?
One, which was just me, then later we started increasing. Gradually we were increasing our customer base and over the years we diversified, we started by being an agent, maintenance organisation in rotating equipment, and later on dwell in logistics support providing vessels, now we have Arco integrity for inspection, this is how we have moved over the years, I must tell you it’s been easy, but like I use to tell people, if you believe in what you are doing and you are focused, the sky is the limit, there can all kinds of challenges but just believe in your goal.
You have experienced the industry in the days when there was no law enforcing local content and now that the Local Content law is in place, how has it helped or supported your business, and at the same time what is the difference between these two periods?
When there was no Act, companies could do anything and go away with it because there was nobody, no agency to direct your complain to, now that the Act is there it helps you to at least shout, and when you are not satisfied you go to court, how many people would like to do that? So they may have no choice than to begin to respect the law. It is a good development but we indigenes should try to develop our capability.
You just unveiled an ISO certification for your company, what does it mean to you and the company?
I will give you one example, some four years ago we wanted to work with a company for maintenance activity, but this company have the technology and we wanted to partner with them, they sent us a list of their requirements to be considered, we looked at it and discovered that there was no way we can be qualified if we follow all that was needed, all we did was to just step it down that we were not ready, and that was a message that this was what this international organisation wants in order to partner with us, so we now invited PWC, and through them, midwife the process that we needed to put in place that will get us to that level. We don’t really need to use PWC, but we used PWC because of a number of other things that we were doing. We have started that process a year and few months ago, what it means is that International Standard Organisation Certification, that is, they evaluated and established that our processes are right, we can use this process to compete with other companies of the world, so that is what it is and for us it is a great achievement and cheerful news for us.
You started 36 years ago where the situations were quite different, having garner much experiences what will be your advice to younger ones who may want to tow the same line?
First and for most, the person should have personal integrity, he should be transparent, you should know what you want which means you have gone to school so you should know what really interest you in life, what you want to pursue, stick to it and make efforts in different ways because the people who are successful are not the most brilliant ones, they are not, they are just people who try and try, so don’t give up. If you meet somebody and he is not able to help you then go to another person, continue until you get that result that you want.