A concisely worded 20-year-old message written on AAPG letterhead announced the beginning of a long relationship.
Dated June 20, 1994, the well-preserved letter from then-AAPG Executive Director Fred Dix is addressed to Dr. O.F. “Layi” Fatona, President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists.
In it Dix writes: “I am pleased to inform you that the House of Delegates of AAPG approved the application for your society’s affiliation. The affiliation is now completed, and I have every confidence that it will be mutually beneficial.”
And since the formalities of that early communication between the two association leaders, the benefits have indeed been mutual.
At the time, NAPE’s presence in Nigeria was well established. For AAPG, affiliation with the Nigerian Association provided an avenue for extending AAPG programs and services into sub-Saharan Africa. Previous AAPG affiliations were with two northern Africa societies – first, with the Earth Science Society of Libya in 1973, and second, with the Egypt Petroleum Exploration Society (EPEX) in 1984.
By the date of its affiliation with AAPG in 1994, NAPE was a seasoned organization.
Initially, the group formed in August 1975 under the name of Lagos Society of Geologists and Geophysicists. From the small local group of only 25 people attending its inaugural meeting at the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos, the society soon expanded its membership and changed its name to accommodate colleagues from across the country.
Today NAPE represents over 8,800 individual members and 152 corporate members. From its headquarters in Lagos, NAPE has expanded its reach to include four regional chapters in Port Harcourt, Benin, Warri and Abuja.
More than 30 annual NAPE conferences have been held to date.
Out of Africa
In the beginning, the August 1990 AAPG EXPLORER could be credited as catalyst for NAPE’s eventual affiliation with AAPG.
In a letter dated Oct. 9, 1990, Toyin Akinosho with Gulf Oil Company Ltd., a Chevron subsidiary, wrote to AAPG on behalf of the Nigerian Association. Akinosho reported reading about the first AAPG international Distinguished Lecturer program and the tour of professor Peter Vail, who had toured eight Pacific Rim countries earlier that year to lecture on the topic of “seismic stratigraphy.”
Akinosho’s letter congratulated Vail and the AAPG for “this attempt at globalization of the knowledge of petroleum geology.”
Then describing the growing community of oil explorationists in Nigeria, Akinosho wrote, “NAPE is ready to coordinate a Distinguished Lecture tour of West Africa from Lagos.”
A few weeks later, Gary Howell – then AAPG science director and international development adviser, wrote to Akinosho to say, “The reason for my writing is to extend an offer to NAPE to consider affiliation with AAPG.”
NAPE’s Executive Committee did consider, and four years later, with Layi Fatona as president, decided to affiliate.
“We did all that was required,” Fatona recalled. “We were admitted, and I indeed addressed the House of Delegates at the (AAPG) annual convention.”
Fatona also clearly recalls his message to the convention attendees.
“I proudly told the audience my prediction, that outside of the United States, and perhaps the U.K., the single largest one-country collection of AAPG members will be my country – my Nigeria and the Niger Delta oil province,” he said. “I was proud then as I have remained to date, to have taken NAPE to this international level.”
Those who were in attendance at the AAPG opening ceremony in 1994 recall how the process was formalized with the reciprocal attendance and participation of AAPG President Toby Carleton at the 1994 NAPE international conference and exhibition held at the old banquet hall of Eko Hotel in Lagos.
Some still remember “as if it were only yesterday” how Carleton opted to break all protocols and security by riding around Lagos in a personal car.
On his tour Carleton saw “the contrasting sides of Lagos,” one eyewitness recalled. “No sirens and no escort car, driving past Jankara Market, the largest market in Lagos, where they sell everything from tie-dyed cloth and trade beads to herbs and traditional medicines, to Tafawa Balewa Square, Victoria Island, with its imposing buildings and memorials to World War I and World War II fallen soldiers.
“It was then,” he continued, “that he (Carlton) realized that Lagos could have been any other city in the world, with all its shams, drudgery … and glistening neon lights.”
An Ongoing Relationship
Opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between AAPG and NAPE have been many.
For example, the groups joined together to run two deepwater Western Africa conferences (DOWAC), in 2004 and 2010, in Abuja – “major collaborate events in which NAPE provided the platform while AAPG provided the quality control and editing,” said past Region president Gilbert Odior.
“It also is worthwhile to mention that the activities of NAPE led to the formation of the AAPG Africa Region,” he added, “and since its formation NAPE has provided more than 80 percent of the regional presidents and officers.”
In recent years, the two associations have worked together closely to reach out to universities in Nigeria, with AAPG Africa Region members and NAPE members expanding the reach of the Imperial Barrel Award Program since 2008. In many cases IBA judges and mentors were both NAPE members and AAPG members.
Then in 2013, the two affiliates worked together to offer a Local-Student Chapter Leadership Summit. AAPG Africa Region Vice President Femi Esan attended Leadership Days the previous year to learn the L-SCLS model and implemented the program during the annual NAPE conference.
The next L-SCLS is planned Nov. 11-13 during this year’s NAPE conference.
Thanks to collaboration with NAPE, there are 24 AAPG student chapters in Nigeria. The first AAPG student chapter formed in 1999 at the University of Calabar. Then after a hiatus with no new chapters forming for several years, 2001 brought a resurgence – since then, new chapters have formed across Nigeria nearly every year.
Since Carleton’s visit to commemorate the AAPG-NAPE affiliation, other AAPG presidents and executives have flown across the Atlantic to pay respects to the relationship, learn from Nigerian geoscientists and benefit from NAPE’s hospitality.
Those who have visited Nigeria and participated in NAPE conventions are past AAPG presidents Robbie Gries (2000, 2001) and Scott Tinker (2008), Alfredo Guzmán (2010), Stuart Harker (2011), David Curtiss (2012) and Alan Wegener (2013).
Robbie Gries was AAPG’s first female president-elect when she traveled to Nigeria in 2000 for NAPE’s 20th anniversary. The following year as president she attended the NAPE annual meeting in Port Harcourt.
For Gries, both trips were rich with experiences among the working professionals and students of Nigeria.
“It was truly impressive the way this organization had grown and become a major influence in the professionalism of its members,” she said.
Friendships forged and memories of these visits remain strong to this day for Gries. But her lasting memories are of the students.
“With only an hour’s notice, for both me and for the students attending NAPE, I gave an impromptu talk for 800-900 enthusiastic students,” Gries said. “They were so eager to develop as geologists – and they all wanted a photo with the AAPG president!”
NAPE currently has its first female president in Adedoja oja Ojelabi – and considering over 60 percent of the NAPE members are students and young professionals, Ojelabi meets a lot of students and young professionals at NAPE events.
“With such a huge population of young talent, it is equal parts gratifying and equal parts challenging,” Ojelabi said.
“It means NAPE must tailor programs to their demographics that will grab their attention and sustain their interest. That is the only way to ensure that they transition from students to young professionals and eventually active members,” she added.
The responsibilities of being a role model for young talent is a fact not lost on AAPG President Randi Martinsen.
“My election as the second female president of AAPG and Doja Ojelabi’s election as the first female president of NAPE is clear evidence of both AAPG and NAPE valuing the leadership capabilities of women,” Martinsen said. “I hope Doja and I as role models of successful female leaders in the petroleum industry encourages more women to become petroleum geoscientists.
“West Africa is an important hydrocarbon province and the challenges facing our industry to find and produce hydrocarbons are immense,” she added. “Organizations like AAPG and NAPE are important contributors to the technical and professional development of these young geoscientists.”