HomeFeatures/AnalysisExclusive interview with Dapo Akinosun

Exclusive interview with Dapo Akinosun

Akinosun is a member of the Advisory Power Team in the office of the Vice President of Nigeria and the Managing Partner at Simmons Cooper Partners. Mr Akinosun is a featured speaker in the opening session of the Generation track at African Utility Week in May, themed “What is the best-cost and optimal mix in Africa?”

Let’s start with some background in terms of your career and your current position.
My name is Dapo Akinosun, Managing Partner at SimmonsCooper Partners, law firm ranked in the top-tier of Nigerian firms particularly in the Energy sector.

For over a quarter of a century as a lawyer, I have advised several companies, governments, and non-profits. This has enabled me to become considerably acquainted with relevant strategies, expertise and skills to project a balanced view of the legal spectrum and regulatory efforts in the Energy industry.

I have carved a niche in the Gas Sector of energy law providing guidance in Nigeria and other many aspects of the energy and natural resources sectors, leading to participants referring to me as the ‘gas lawyer’. I have presented several papers and featured as a panellist in the many energy sector in conferences in Nigeria, the US, and Europe. I have has also published insightful articles, and am a regular guest on National television programmes, where my analysis and opinion is often sought.

As Head of Energy and Infrastructure Practice at SimmonsCooper Partners, I have advised governments, organisations who are participants at all levels of the energy sector, in ensuring optimum effectiveness in their activities and investments, as well as regulatory compliance. I have assisted these organisations in constructing compliance programs, negotiating contracts, preparing legal documentation and provides representation in dispute resolution where necessary. Currently I offer counsel to the Advisory Team that works with the Office of The Vice President in resolving Power issues in Nigeria.

I am married with children.

Tell us more about work on the Task Force on Power.
The Advisory Power Team is a team in the office of the Vice President. The team is made up of experts in various areas of the power sector, including: Gas to Power; Solar Power; Transmission; and Generation among others.

The mandate of the team is to provide technical support to the Federal Government on power and to harmonize the direction of all MDAs (Ministries, Departments & Agencies) involved in the power sector. The team also reviews proposals from investors and foreign governments interested in participating in the power sector, with a view to advising the Government accordingly. The team’s mandate makes it interface with participants in all areas of the power sector. The team regularly conducts physical assessment of various power facilities across the country.

The Advisory Power Team is strategically placed under the office of the Vice President who supervises many of the MDAs in the power sector. The team reports directly to the Vice President.

Apart from your work on the task force, are there other projects in the energy sector that you are involved in? Any particularly exciting projects you can share?
Yes, I have been involved in other projects in the energy sector. Some of the recent projects include:

i.   I am currently providing advisory services to a consortium in respect of the purchase and development of the OMA Power Plant in Nigeria into a major energy hub in Africa. This is interesting because the project will, among other locations, provide electricity to Aba city which is a hub for indigenous manufacturers and exporters, and invariably improve Nigeria’s economy.

ii.  I advise NDPHC (Niger Delta Power Holding Company) on strategy and sale of its Power Plants particularly in Calabar and Ilorin. I have advised on study issues on Egbema and Omoku Power Plants.

iii. I am also providing transaction and legal advisory services to an energy company in respect of its purchase of the Afam Power Plants in Nigeria.

iv. I am representing a gas supplier in negotiations in respect of Gas Supply & Purchase Agreement (GSPA) to supply gas to the generating plants of one of the major participants in electricity generation in Nigeria.

v.  I work with the GACN (Gas Aggregation Company Nigeria) on their delivery and the Gas Supply and Aggregation Agreement.

What in your view are the specific challenges facing the Nigerian energy sector currently?
The Nigerian Power sector is on a peculiar learning curve the realities of which are better appreciated when put in proper perspective. It should be understood that the power sector is the only privatised power system in the continent. That in its self poses management challenges as there are no Africa specific benchmarks to use in comparison.

This becomes important when we realise that all development is achieved based on comparative models which in our case we do not have. It is therefore axiomatic that for every major achievement we need to dig within to find a solution.
The second part is that the Nigerian privatisation process has a few imperfections. Those imperfections have lengthened the learning curve in the industry.

The third aspect is very peculiar to Nigeria and the fluctuation of the Nigerian naira vis-à-vis the major currencies of the world. Given that most of the components of the Nigerian power sector are imported, fluctuations in the value of the Naira makes business planning a nightmare. A fourth is the competence development of the human resources.

That said, it’s not all gloom and doom. The challenges in and of themselves are business opportunities. Equally important is that the liberation of the sector has shed light into a previously opaque sector. The light that has come helps to itemise in verifiable terms the opportunities in the sectors. This becomes good news to entrepreneurial interests and the investor community.

In a summary, the power sector is a case of half empty and half full. The way you choose to look at it will determine if you can benefit from the sector or not.

What is your vision for the energy sector on the continent?
My vision for Africa in the energy sector is one that is both independent and interdependent. Independent by national design and perspective and interdependent by international choice and focus.  To this extent, what Nigeria currently obtains from Europe and the US should be obtained from countries like Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, etc.

What surprises you about the sector?
The rot and lack of investment that had gone on in the industry.

My primary astonishments about the sector are the limited interest into the workings, economics, etc. of the sector. There are hardly any regular research reports on the industry. Data can be cumbersome to obtain for non-insiders and more. We need more entrepreneurial interests in these matters.
This is why the current work by some entrepreneurs such as Cabtree Limited (in collaboration with USAID) in statistical research for the power sector is a welcome relief.

Entrepreneurial interests in the area of data information & knowledge should be encouraged.

You are part of the opening session of the Generation track at African Utility Week in May, themed “What is the best-cost and optimal mix in Africa?” – What will be your message at the event?
My message will revolve around developing home grown solutions to the energy challenges. Yes, we talk about the financial demands of the industry but it is key to break these demands into piecemeal tasks  such that the financial needs can be solved with home grown remedies rather than imported ‘medications’.

What are you most looking forward to at African Utility Week?

This conference promises to be a good one. I look forward to insightful discussions with those who have interest in the Nigerian market and those who have a focus of African integration. I look forward to technological discoveries in the sector. In summary I look forward to a few days of learning.

Anything you would like to add?
Energy is the most important commodity. Period! Energy can be measured for empirical purposes in per capita terms. The country of Nigeria and indeed the continent has some of the great potentials for demand of power. We should not misuse this opportunity. An African that is both independent and interdependent is in the enlightened self-interest of all.

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.