Mr Augustine Ojunekwu Avuru, popularly known as Austin Avuru, is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of one of Nigeria’s leading crude oil exploration companies, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc. Being at the helm of affairs of such a big corporation has availed him many privileges and compensations, as expected.
Just last month, Nairametrics listed him among the wealthiest billionaires of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, with the total worth of his shares estimated at ₦49.5 billion.
He is one of Nigeria’s most accomplished businessmen and an inspiration to thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to someday translate value into wealth.
It is, therefore, for his numerous accomplishments and contributions to the Nigerian business environment that we have decided to feature him as our CEO of the week. Get to know him.
Avuru’s educational background
Austin Avuru has a degree in Geology, having graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980. This qualification had undoubtedly established his foothold as an oil and gas professional.
Meanwhile, to further prepare himself for the sector, he went back to the university (this time, the University of Ibadan), where he studied for a Postgraduate Diploma in Petroleum Engineering, graduating in 1992. He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, an organisation of which he was once the President.
A look at his thirty plus years as an oil and gas professional
Since 1980, the same year he graduated from the University of Nigeria, Avuru has worked in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector till date.
Having begun his career with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), he worked in various capacities for twelve years, including in positions such as Production Seismologist, Reservoir Engineer etc.
In 1992, precisely twelve years after joining NNPC, Avuru went on to have a ten-year stint at Allied Energy Resources. There, he worked as Technical Manager and Exploration Manager.
The establishment of Platform Petroleum Limited and Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc
In the year 2002, after 22 years of working for others, Avuru decided to start off his own company by establishing Platform Petroleum Limited. As expected, he became the company’s Managing Director and held the position until 2009 when the company merged with A.B.C Orjiakor’s Shebah Petroleum Development Company to form Seplat.
The business partners, who are also friends, formed the company with the intention of taking advantage of the opportunities in Nigeria’s upstream sector.
Following the merger, Seplat received a major investment from Muarel & Prom, a French oil company which acquired a 45% interest in the company.
It also was appointed the operator of three oil mining leases (OMLs), which include OML 4, OML 41 and OML 38.
Over the years, the company has also engaged in so many other lucrative deals which has helped to establish it as one of the leading oil companies in the country. Meanwhile, Avuru has been the one at the helm of affairs as the MD, with A.B.C Orjiakor occupying the position of the company’s Chairman.
Avuru has had some court cases over Seplat
Meanwhile, as good a CEO as he has been, Austin Avuru has not been without his own share of corporate controversies. The company was involved in a protracted legal dispute with Canadian oil company Crestar Natural Resources Limited. The dispute emanated from the acquisition of OML 25 from Shell.
Both companies had in 2014 jointly emerged the preferred bidder in the acquisition of the OML. They, however, disagreed along the line over a $20.5 million deposit held in escrow. The case was later settled in 2018.
Note that this particular court case is not the first ever faced by Seplat. As a matter of fact, it had in 2016 (alongside Chevron Nigeria Limited) won a different court case against Brittania-U Nigeria Limited over OMLs 53 and 55.
In conclusion, despite the challenges that are typically associated with doing business in Nigeria, Austin Avuru has continuously succeeded in his profession, while setting the pace for us. However, there is always room for him to do more.