West Africa remains a major security headache for the oil&gas industry, particularly Nigeria, the managing director of AKE warned delegates of a conference in Aberdeen late-September.
Andrew Kain said the high level of attention given by the media to numerous kidnappings of oil workers, in the Niger Delta region especially, had heightened awareness.
“That focuses people’s attention because it has a direct impact on employees in that they are less likely to want to go work in such environments,” Kain told the joint UK West Africa Action Group (UK WAAG) and AKE event.
“And when they do, they are less effective at work because it is playing on their minds.
“There has been an impact on corporate responsibility, too. The cost of becoming caught up in an incident, including damage to reputation, means that companies are becoming more engaged.”
Kain warned of a huge, and sometimes irrational, fear of the issues at stake, and said it was vital for companies and their employees to better understand what they could be letting themselves in for by working in an African security hotspot.
He said it was possible to mitigate risk by setting in place proper policies and procedures, including finding out which agencies are out there that could help in the event of an incident.
Kain said, too, that it was important to realise that such agencies had their limitations and that, fundamentally, the responsibility was on the employer to look after employees and resolve a situation.
He agreed with Energy that there was a tendency among companies to use the services of security specialists only when they were in a fix.
“Some companies come to us after an incident and then adopt the philosophy of mitigating broadly against risk, whereas we can demonstrate that, if they have those policies and procedures in place and assistance – particularly crisis management – to deal with risks, then it offers a variety of benefits.
“It can save them money in the long run, so helping the bottom line, reducing turnover of personnel, reducing the number of traumatic incidents, and even disease and illness, so generally making companies more effective.
“Now that’s a hard sell, but one of the aspects that can drive it is the potential for better insurance, including premiums.”
Kain said that, in the case of Nigeria, companies were gradually cottoning on to the value of taking proper security precautions.
“WAAG is certainly reaching out to its membership, and more and more of them are coming to understand what they can do to mitigate risk and look after both personnel and their commercial enterprise.”
However, the minute that pressure groups such as MEND showed any sign of backing away from aggression, Kain agreed that some companies were perhaps a little too ready to relax vigilance and dispense with the services of specialists like AKE.
“There is a tendency for that. When the threat level is raised or there is an incident, then there’s an immediate clamour.
“But if the situation persists or declines security threat-wise, then again, interest falls off until the next time.”
Kain added that, just because some West Africa countries were relatively peaceful places, the scent of oil money could change all that.
“Maybe even Ghana,” he said.
“As money pumps in there, it will probably have an influence on the security situation. I think that applies anywhere where there is considerable poverty and massive investment taking place that fails to percolate through to local populations.
“There is the potential for increased criminal activity and copy-catting of events in other countries.”