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A Deserving Honour To An Icon

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OPINION

By Etim Etim

University of Uyo held its 26th, 27th and 28th combined convocation ceremony for the 2017/2018, 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 graduating classes last weekend during which 14, 866 were awarded post graduate and undergraduate degrees. Of these, 2672 got postgraduate degrees and 11, 295 received first degrees. First class degrees went to 136 graduating students. It was the first time that the 40-year-old institution would organize a combined convocation ceremony; and this was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the long ASUU strikes of 2020 and 2021 that disrupted academic activities in the nation’s federal government-owned universities. It was clear that a big event was taking place. Flights into Uyo were fully booked; the city was brimming with visitors and hotels were all occupied.

For me, the high point of the event was the award of honorary doctorate degree in law to Mr. Udom Inoyo, retired oil executive, philanthropist and a distinguished Nigerian of rarified pedigree. It is one of the most deserving of such honours made by the university since its establishment in 1983. I commend the Council and Senate of UniUyo for such a well-considered choice. I do not, by any means, wish to downplay the worthiness of the other two persons who were also honoured – Mr. Vincent Enyema, former goalkeeper of our national team and Senator (Mrs) Daisy T. Y. Danjuma, who served meritoriously in the sixth senate. Unfortunately, she could not attend the event but was represented. Enyema was a student of the university many years ago, but he elected to withdraw midway to continue his studies and professional football career elsewhere. This prompted some debate within Council and Senate of the university on whether he should be given the honorary degree. I am thankful that the university eventually decided to celebrate him for his achievements in football.

For Inoyo, who retired from Exxonmobil in 2020 as executive vice chairman, there was a general consensus both within the campus and across the country that he was a very justified choice for the laurel. I have known him for over three decades. He is one of the 13 persons that I honoured in my book, Akwa Ibom Heroes, published in December 2021, for their contributions to the abrogation of the onshore-offshore oil dichotomy. Led by then Gov. Victor Attah, the abolition of the dichotomy and subsequent payment of derivative funds to Akwa Ibom has led to the huge oil revenues the state has been earning since 2016. I look forward to when the state government will acknowledge their efforts.

Inoyo is indeed a man of sterling leadership qualities, high moral and ethical standing and compassion. He has a deep passion for education and human capacity development. In 2007, he inspired the establishment of the Inoyo Toro Foundation through which he executes his philanthropic activities. Through the foundation, he has attracted huge private sector investments in the education sector. So far, the Foundation has spent over N600 million on the development of teaching and learning in Akwa Ibom State. Recently, the Foundation announced its collaboration with an oil company, Savannah Energy, on award of scholarships to Akwa Ibom students with 50 undergraduate scholarships already being being rolled out. One remarkable achievement of the Foundation was its early identification of a young Physics teacher in a public secondary school, Mr. Ephraim Jacob Inyangudo, who, after winning a series of the Foundation’s awards, proceeded to receive the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement Award in September 2022. Still, as a manifestation of his zeal and zest for quality education, Inoyo opened a library in his village of Ikot Okoro-Ubium to provide learning aids and development opportunities for students in the community.

In the heat of the COVID -19 pandemic when Nigerians had to be tested for the virus before they could board a plane or access some offices, Inoyo facilitated a donation of the $100,000 Molecular PCR testing equipment to Ibom Specialty Hospital, Uyo, making Akwa Ibom the only State in Nigeria with two PCR machines for testing suspected COVID-19 cases. The State Government had earlier installed one at the General Hospital, Ituk Mbang, near Uyo, but Inoyo had reckoned that one would not be adequate for the people whom he cares for so dearly. Talk of compassion! The Molecular PCR testing machine saved lives during the pandemic and is still used today for other purposes.

Beyond this, in 2020, the Akwa Ibom State Government set up a post-COVID-19 Economic Reconstruction Committee to fashion an economic roadmap for the state. Inoyo, having just retired from work, was appointed to serve in that Committee. He worked diligently even when the world was under a lockdown.

In 2014, Inoyo was the Guest Speaker at the 19TH/20TH Convocation of the University of Uyo, following which, in 2015, he promoted the establishment of the International Centre for Energy and Environmental Sustainability Research (ICEESR) at the University. Subsequently, in 2017, he supported the University’s Live Theatre Performance ‘Adiahaobong,’ a stage adaptation of Effiong Johnson’s play, Install The Princess.

Since his retirement, he has dedicated time to supporting many other capacity development initiatives across a broad range of areas:

  1. Partnering with the Royal Arts Academy to flag off the first film mono-technic in Akwa Ibom, offering training in several aspects of the sector, such as script writing, cinematography, film editing, etc.
  2. Promoting innovative solutions via the launch of the first Akwa Ibom Technology Week and a Pitch competition in 2021.
  3. Instituting in 2021 the Ray Ekpu Annual Award for Investigative Journalism to build the capacity of journalists in Akwa Ibom state.
  4. To galvanize interest in creative writing among the youth of Akwa Ibom State, hosted Professor Joseph A. Ushie on his conferment with Fellowship of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).

Inoyo is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association, the Chartered Institute of Directors of Nigeria, the Society for Corporate Governance Nigeria, the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria, the Danne Institute for Research Board and a Women in Energy Network trustee. A recipient of several professional and community awards, in 2012, ExxonMobil Cooperative Society, in recognition and appreciation of his leadership and promotion of corporate governance in the workplace, named a one-hundred-unit Housing Estate at Ajah, Lekki, Lagos, INOYO HAVEN after him.

An accomplished Oil and Gas industry professional, a consummate administrator Inoyo has a record of outstanding leadership in corporate organizations and community service. With an early career in the Cross River and Akwa Ibom state governments, he would later have a meteoric rise in Nigeria’s Upstream Oil and Gas industry, providing strategic business direction and leadership on the Board of ExxonMobil Companies in Nigeria for sixteen years. He was ultimately appointed the Vice Chairman in 2018, a position he held until retirement.

His oil-industry career started in 1989, when Mobil Producing Nigeria hired him to work at the Lagos office and by 1998, he was assigned to Mobil Exploration and Production, New Orleans, and later ExxonMobil Inter-America, Coral Gables, Florida and ExxonMobil Production Company in Houston, Texas, all in US. In 2000, Inoyo was transferred to Belgium, where he worked with the Center of Expertise for Compensation and Benefits, ExxonMobil Petroleum and Chemical BV, Brussels. He returned to Nigeria in 2001 to assume position as Manager of Human Resources Policies and Programs.

By 2002, he was appointed General Manager of External Relations, which enabled him to interface with critical stakeholders to mitigate the crisis in the oil-producing region. These engagements would also occur outside Nigeria, providing him with the platform to engage with relevant US Government departments, members of Congress, and non-profit groups to inform and elicit broad-spectrum support to resolving the restiveness. In 2007, he was identified by President Olusegun Obasanjo as one of the country’s Economic Drivers and Bridge Builders. Inoyo was elected to the Board of Mobil Producing Nigeria as an Executive Director in 2004.

In 2006, he assumed the In-Country Human Resources Manager position and, beyond numerous strategic representations at various industry and government platforms, also served as the Chairman of the Human Resources Sub-Committee of the Oil Producers Trade Sector of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce (OPTS). He utilized this platform to educate critical stakeholders about industry issues and peculiarities, promote Oil and Gas project resourcing, facilitate Nigerian Workforce Development, and secure a stable work environment through positive National Labour Union engagement. In 2017, Inoyo was appointed by the Presidency to serve on a committee for the interview and selection of would-be Federal Permanent Secretaries in Nigeria. He also served as the National President and Chairman of the Council of the Country’s Human Resources regulatory body, The Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM).

A Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Calabar, Udom is also an alumnus of the Lagos Business School and Thunderbird School of Global Management, USA. He enjoys interacting with people from diverse backgrounds, mentoring, golfing, and reading. His zest for knowledge has put him back in the classroom as a student at the Harvard Kennedy School. Married with four adult children, Inoyo is self-effacing, quiet and humble. He is a superlatively ethnic-blind personality who places a premium on merit and fairness even as he is humane.

Etim is a Journalist and Public Affairs Analyst, l writes from Abuja

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