Ossai: Domestic, Industrial Waste Management Must Be Given More Attention

Ossai: Domestic, Industrial Waste Management Must Be Given More Attention

The Initiates Plc, which got listed on the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) in 2016 remains the only utility services company rendering waste management and industrial cleaning services on the exchange. The Managing Director of the company, Mr. Reuben Ossai spoke to Goddy Egene on  the journey so far, climate change, waste management and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

The Initiates Plc got listing on the Nigerian Exchange in 2017. Six years on, how has the experience been?

The Initiates Plc (TIP) got listed on Nigerian Exchange (NGX) about seven years ago precisely on the 25th of October 2016 and till date remains the only utility services company rendering waste management and industrial cleaning services. The listing cannot be described as a failure but that of mixed outcomes: fulfilling and at the same time disappointing. We got listed almost at the time the market was in turbulence:  when stock witnessed a serious drop in public acceptance as an investment outlet. This was what greeted our enthusiasm, and despite our five years on-a- roll payment of dividend, our share price never got the impact. On the other hand, TIP has used the machineries of both Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and NGX to greatly improve our governance, reporting standards, and above all increased her visibility. TIP has capitalised on this, to venture into East Africa Oil & Gas sector with a 40 per cent ownership of a Ugandan Company trading with our name (The Initiatives UG Limited). This  company with two other local companies are currently executing a 4-year construction phase Waste Management contract for Total Energies in Uganda. The impact of this investment on TIP is indicatively phenomena as the company is projected to be worth $10million in the next five years. 

Would you say the dreams and aspirations of  going public and getting listed on the NGX have been met?

Our expectations from the market have not principally been realised however, we see the market as a strategic platform for positioning our dream and vision for investors’ confidence. In this respect, our destination is  not too far away going by the wave of changes in waste management subsector (where we are): the challenge is becoming more pronounced; the populace is demanding greater attention  for environmental cleanliness; and above all, governments all over have realised the relationship between waste management  and health, energy security and economic prosperity. Again, in our last  seven years in the market, we have built a company that has a defined entrepreneurial concept (targeted at providing waste management solution to the society), and growth trajectory that will sustain investors’ return on investment.

 Your company play in the environment and waste management space, how would you rate current Nigerian situation in terms of laws and policies to ensure we have a sustainable environment in the face of climate change challenges?

TIP business space is precisely defined not only by public desire for cleanliness but veritable Laws and regulations. It is so because of the cultural conception of waste as that without value and nothing must be spent on it. Therefore Law plays a very pivotal role in defining the commercial value of waste management services.  Incidentally Governments have not been  helpful.  There is no definitive framework structure for waste and its management services. Tthe existing haphazard legislations lack clarity  and the policies so far tends to be gravitating around international tendencies without any pragmatic specifics. Everybody is now anxious for solution and governments are seeking solutions especially as the impact of climate change ruddily confronts us as flooding, adverse weather and so on. This stimulus is beginning to open up our business space also heralding new laws like the professionalisation of Environmental Practice in Nigeria (Act 41 of 2023) and many others in the pipeline .It is evidently clear that in the coming years, our business space shall be well constructed and our service will earn commensurable commercial value. TIP as a player already in the market with standards is well positioned as the investors’ choice when the bell is sound not too long from now. 

While Government is making efforts to ensure the country and its people suffer minimal impact of global climate change, how can individuals and companies contribute to ensure success government’s plans and policies?

Climate change is a product of poor emission (waste) management and the impact can also be exacerbated by poor solid waste management in multi-dimension. Open burning, dumpsite, wastewater and agricultural waste contribute over 27 per cent of world global greenhouse gases emission.  Also, uncontrolled solid waste has evidently block drains leading to massive flooding, blurred the beaches, and defaced the marine environment. These contributory factors of climate change and impact have individuals and organizations at the centre. Individuals and organisations have reasonable roles in mitigating the impact. Critical is reduction of gaseous emission from transportation, gas flaring, processes (including waste management), and good waste management practice. This includes consigning waste to standard facility for management not dumping of waste in urban spaces or drains. Greening our environment with trees and flowers can also benefit us in this regard.

How is The Initiates Plc deploying its expertise and contribute in this regard?

TIP has greatly deployed its expertise in providing waste management and industrial cleaning solutions to a host of her clients including Shell, Seplat, Mobil, Eko Disco, NNPC, NLNG and others. The services range from international disposal of asbestos waste, processing of E-Waste, treatment of oily sludge, pyrophoric waste, drill cuttings, and Industrial plant (Power, Gas &Marine vessels), Crude Storage tanks and FPSO. TIP has also been in the forefront of waste management professionalisation. In this respect, TIP has tremendously contributed to setting up and the sustenance of Waste Management Society of Nigeria, a non-governmental professional association recently recognised by Nigerian Government through the Act 41(2023) of the National Assembly). The objective here is to grow manpower for the emerging waste management industry, and develop guidelines in alignment with international standard for Nigeria.

 Waste management, in whichever form is a big challenge in Nigeria, how can we tackle this challenge?

Waste management is not just physical problem but a challenge of our economy. The solution is not farfetched but needs to be society rooted, driven by the private sector with governments creating a robust business environment through enactment of laws that can stimulate private sector investment in the industry. Dire to the survival of the industry is enforcement which must be two directional: government pulling the legal string and the professional bodies pulling the ethical string. Society must recognise that waste it generates is their responsibility, and its management must be paid for. On the other hand, the media must reconstruct waste as a result of our social endeavour and must be managed within our space not in the moon: therefore they should not criminalise waste manager or waste management facilities.

Specifically, how does The Initiates Plc handle waste management and how is this helping your clients?

TIP is a one-stop-shop for waste management. It may be necessary to note here that TIP started as a consultancy firm before incorporating contracting services, so we do all in TIP including advising our clients. TIP’s principal focus is to ensure that her client risks (legal, social and environmental) are eliminated or mitigated for a successful business journey. Specifically, we ensure proper transfer of custody of the waste (ensuring traceability) after screening to know, if we have capacity to handle it. Those we do not have capacity to handle, we reject or through our extensive international network consign such out (using appropriate legal documents). Within TIP facilities, accepted consignments are sent to different lines which include (incineration, desorption, wastewater treatment, fixation and e-waste) for treatment/processing.

 Given the array of your clientele, most of which play in the oil and gas sector and as an indigenous company, how are able to successfully service them?

Currently we are playing in the Oil & Gas sector. However, our subsisting strategy projects earning about 40 per cent of her revenue from non-oil & gas subsector of hazardous waste market in Nigeria by 2030. This subsector is worth over $160million annually. Generally speaking, Oil & Gas industry as we know is driven by standard and operating in the sector as a waste manager demands not only standard but strict control. This, TIP has accepted and all our operations are subjected to multifaceted control from not only our clients but regulators from two principal backgrounds.  Sustaining our clients to us, is delivering services (mostly bespoke) with sustained confidence based on compliance.

What are  your plans for the next five years, in terms of operations and  company’s performance?

TIP is in her decade of consolidation and diversification (strategy) after the formation and establishment decades. The strategy for this decade has identified an aspect of maintenance (industrial cleaning) as a key business channel in the aging Nigerian Oil & Gas sector. Also, public solid and liquid waste management are included in TIP diversification targets, with a view to improving her revenue from non-oil & gas sector. The company has made over N1.5billion investment in industrial cleaning assets including: Non-man-entry Storage Tank cleaning Robot, Pipe and Covered drainage cleaning Rotocar, Solar Panel & Heat Exchanger Fin automatic cleaning system. During this period too, TIP will be establishing an operational Base in west of the Niger and grow business in East Africa Oil & Gas sector.  The foundation of these has been laid. These include: prospecting for municipal waste management from  three state governments (likely to have the first shot by 2024); preliminary investment in a pioneering waste management company in Uganda Oil & Gas sector (commenced operation in 2023); Heavy investment in industrial cleaning (already secured projects for 2022 to 2025); and development of western operation Base in Kwale, Delta State (this is on and shall commence operation by end of 2023.)

What is your last final message to all your stakeholders?

As the Managing Director  of TIP, I want to sound conservatively hopeful for the future of the company based on the discussed strategy, and would like to promise our stakeholders  good results going forward.

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