At the Events Centre of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, friends and colleagues of the out-going chief executive officer of Brass LNG Ltd, Mr. Vinenzo Di Lorenzo, treated the man they love to call ‘Vincenzo’ to a lavish farewell party. ALIKE EJIOFOR, who was at the centre, writes that the future of the project hinges only on a timely intervention of the federal government.
Mr. President (Goodluck Jonathan), Brass LNG needs your help; the Project is your baby, please let the dream fly’. This was the passionate appeal of Mr. Vincenzo Di Lorenzo, the departing Managing Director of the multi-billion dollars Brass Liquefied Natural Gas Project; at a farewell dinner organised in his honour by the Company. Mr. Di Lorenzo exits the Company after six years as its helmsman.
Appointed in November 2007, the reality of returning to his home country, Italy, after spending cumulatively nine-years in Nigeria, understandably exerted some mixed emotions on him, especially as he was not only retiring from active service; but leaving his Nigerian friends behind and, re-uniting with his family whom he has loosely been away from for upward of 25 out of the 37 years he has spent in the oil and gas industry.
Popularly called Vincenzo by his golf-playing friends and colleagues, the departing Brass helmsman has always seen Nigeria as his second home. No wonder he saw his appointment in 2007 as an opportunity to demonstrate his affection for the country.
“This country has been very good to me, and my desire is to give back something unique by leading this project to Final Investment Decision (FID) thereby launching it on its promise of creating employment, generating huge revenue for Nigeria, improving social infrastructure and attracting businesses to the Niger Delta,” Vincenzo would always say.
In an emotion-laden speech at the Eko Hotel, Lagos where the farewell dinner was held in his honour by the company, he told his friends, colleagues, staff and contractors/consultants that: “I wanted to deliver the project to Nigeria so that it would be my legacy. But that did not quite happen. However, I leave the project in a very good stead. It is a project that Nigeria needs, to improve the lives of the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria. The truth is that Brass LNG is really about Nigeria. It will be a cash cow for the nation as it will yield revenue of at least USD 80 billion for the country in the upstream and mid-stream in the first 22.5 years. It is one of the projects that will give meaning to the nation’s dream of becoming one of the 20 strongest economies in the world by the year 2020. This Project must not die. I have no doubts that the project will take the FID,” he added.
Exuding happiness that there was no single ‘ugly’ incidence during his tenure, Vincenzo said: I am leaving, a happy man. My time to go home has come. I am particularly happy because the company did not record any accident throughout the period.”
He recalled his cordial working relationship with the government of Bayelsa State, the traditional rulers and the project’s host communities, the Board of Directors and the contractors and said he was proud of them. He specifically admonished the contractors not to lose faith in the project as, according to him, “there are lots of jobs for you to do” in the course of time.
Dedicating his successes to the visionary leadership of the Board’s Chairman, Dr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki, Vincenzo described him as the best man for the project whose passion and hard work helped to move the project to the present stage.
In his speech at the event, the Board Chairman, Dr. Jackson Gaius-Obaseki said the project took off the ground and moved on at the astronomical speed it did because of the desire of the leadership which had ‘’a focused vision and which it was committed to.” He said as expected in a good governance regime, his ‘’Board tries to stir the management rather than seeing itself as the management.”
He described the project as the one that has a record of a pre-FID investment of over a billion dollars. He assured that the project can’t be abandoned at this stage because “expectations are high and we can’t go away.” He added: “…Therefore, Brass LNG must happen. If it doesn’t, it will rank as one of the costliest mistakes ever made by this country and we will pay dearly for it.”
Describing the project as a vital economic effort, he said: “It is not about Bayelsa or Niger Delta alone; it is about Nigeria and Nigerians’’. He expressed gladness that the Federal Government “is behind us and I want all those who are behind this project to stand up to it because there is still collective confidence in the Brass LNG project.” He eulogized the departing Managing Director for his achievements on the job and told him that “you have every reason to be proud, satisfied and feel good going back to your family and you have cause to ask God to give you a sound health to see your legacies.”
Representative of the Bayelsa State Government at the event, Chief Francis Egele, in his brief speech, assured that the Brass LNG project has come to stay “in the eyes of Bayelsa State, the Niger Delta and Nigerians.” Egele, who is also the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, said: “We will assist you and do all you need us to do for the project to succeed.”
The representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. David Ige, who is also NNPC’s Group Executive Director in charge of Gas and Power and Board member of Brass LNG, described the project as a challenging one that is progressing due to the commitment and hard work of “the personalities on the Board and the management of the project.”
He revealed that: “The project is going to get the FID very, very shortly from the NNPC’s point of view,” and told Vincenzo, ‘’the corporation is very proud of you.”
Also speaking, Mr. Bunmi Obembe, representing the MD of Total , shareholder of Brass LNG, described Nigeria as a “sure-banker. It is a destination for investors irrespective of the country’s challenges.” He said the project was rather lucky to have what he called a wonderful team led by the “indomitable Cchairman, Gaius-Obaseki.” Obembe admonished Vincenzo to be encouraged by the fact that “this project will succeed.”
Vincenzo’s colleague at Eni, friend and golf-playing mate, Antonino Fiore, simply said: I wish you a happy retirement and thank you for being a father to all your staff.”
The well-attended dinner had dignitaries from many walks of life in attendance, including the paramount ruler of Twon Brass and former Military Governor of the defunct Rivers State, His Royal Majesty, King Alfred Diete-Spiff as well as the last Military Administrator of Bayelsa State, Lt-Col. Paul Edor Obi.