HEAD, LEGAL ADVISORY & CONTRACT | EKO ELECTRICITY DISTRIBUTION PLC

Kofoworola Olokun-Olawoyin joined Eko Distribution Plc in 2015 and has contributed immensely to the development of regulatory framework required for successful implementation of a viable Power Sector in Nigeria. Kofoworola ensures the efficient negotiation and drafts of various Industry documents and proffers accurate legal opinions on critical industry regulations, rules and laws. She is a registered Expert with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and author of the book The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry: Post Privatisation Realities, Trends and Challenges.

WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN LIFE?

I draw a great deal of my inspiration from my parents. They both taught and continue to teach me the virtues of sacrifice, perseverance, dedication, hard work, diligence, undiluted parental affection and unconditional love.

I have also been inspired by a number of my mentors and senior professional colleagues, former lecturers and bosses for uniquely different reasons and their common virtues of practicality, empathy, professionalism and continuous pursuit of excellence.

Finally, not “who” but “what”, i.e. the sector has also inspired me a great deal. Despite various initiatives, as the industry was evolving, it came with its peculiar challenges. This, in particular, inspired me to author the book The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry: Post Privatisation Realities, Trends and Challenges, arguably the first post-privatisation treatise at a time when the industry was facing myriads of challenges.

WHAT’S THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ THIS YEAR AND WHAT WAS YOUR KEY TAKEAWAY?

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama, former president of the United States of America. The book portrays practical examples of ambitious dreams, planning and an unwavering tenacity with a sense of purpose and pursuit.

The various practical anecdotes and the leadership character of Obama accentuate the need for a dedicated and planned pursuit of dreams while daring to do and achieve the seemingly impossible. Obama went beyond the ambitious dreams captured in his book to eventually achieving them as the first black American president of the United States of America.

The book offers vital lessons in planning, realistic projections, dedication, discipline, risk assessment, clarity of purpose and vision, strong advocacy and clarity of communication and a huge sense of purpose-driven organisational skill amongst others.

WHEN MEETING OTHER LEADERS WHAT DO YOU ASK THEM?

When I see other leaders that are inspiring change, I engage with them about their staying powers or sturdy stability. This is very important in a world where a “little” achievement clothes us with an exaggerated sense of worth to bar us from attaining our full potential or leads us to the failure to sustain our level of excellence. Thus putting us in danger of extinction or irrelevance.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE AND WHAT LESSON LEARNED DO YOU CONTINUE TO PRACTISE TODAY?

Over a decade ago, I was barely two years at the Nigerian Bar, and I was placed in a senior leadership role. I was made a project champion on an oil and gas transaction involving an African based Consortium which I had to close together with a small team of associates. This experience shaped my ability to take up other responsibilities decisively and created more opportunities which included leading and managing other major multimillion-dollar transactions in different economic sectors.

What I have learnt and continue to practise is that people are uniquely different and as a leader, you cannot have a one size fits all approach to deal with situations when leading different people.

IS A LEADER BORN OR MADE? WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL LEADER?

A leader is a product of both nature and nurture. The jury is still out to put a sense of finality on the age-long debate on deciding the one that is more impactful. I may not have the full professional competence to affirmatively proffer or make a proposition to end the discourse but what is clear is that the two are inextricably linked and pivotal to the definition of any human. There are inherent nature implanted or infused leadership traits in everyone but the capacity of the nurturing environment to inhibit, boost or exploit such capacity cannot be downplayed.

The hallmarks of a successful leader are inexhaustible but a few traits are: a great degree of emotional intelligence; empathy; professionalism; punctuality; discipline; ability to self-motivate; ability to inspire and motivate others, to impact/teach, to learn, unlearn and relearn.

WHAT INDUSTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR ARE YOU LOOKING AT FOR INSPIRATION?

The banking and finance/project finance sector provide enticing motivation for exploration.

Advising banks, financiers and project promoters on the bankability of a proposed or conceived project, driving the loan and financing documentation, structuring the general project and setting practical timelines for the successful commission of the conceived project/transaction have always served as veritable sources of inspiration to me.

From my experience in project finance, Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and other schemes and arrangements, I strongly believe that the infrastructural deficit currently within the country could be bridged by applying these schemes not only to the power sector, but also transportation, education, health sectors etc. These schemes not only facilitate infrastructure development but also enhance the general standard of living.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST RISK YOU’VE EVER TAKEN?

My biggest career risk was when I left the previous law firm I worked with to get into the power sector, which was still fresh from privatisation and full of uncertainties. It was a risk because at that time, no one knew what the sector was going to be like, or whether privatisation was going to succeed or fail. I took that plunge as I was eager to contribute my own quota to the development of the sector, win or sink. Luckily, so far, we have been winning.

IF YOU COULD WISH AWAY A CHALLENGE TO YOUR BUSINESS OR THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I would wish away more than one challenge such as policy risk, lack of cost reflective tariffs, high aggregate technical, commercial and collection (“ATC&C”) losses, gas supply and infrastructure constraints, underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of credit worthiness of the major players and general value chain misalignment. These challenges have caused a huge dearth of funding in the electricity supply industry in Africa generally, resulting in a slow-paced development of the power sector. Notwithstanding, the government and the regulators have continued to design policies and regulations that are geared towards addressing these challenges.

WHAT TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES DO YOU USE TO KEEP A TEAM MOTIVATED?

Effective communication is essential. I emphasise the need for my team to work together always. The power of positive praise is sometimes overlooked but acknowledging and rewarding achievements when due inspire team members as they can see themselves progressing towards the goals of the organisation. When my team achieves results, puts in extra effort or does outstanding work, I am sure to sing their praises. Encouraging personal development is another approach I implement to keep motivation levels high.

HOW DO YOU MEASURE YOUR AND YOUR TEAM’S PERFORMANCE?

We measure our performance from achievements of key performance indicators set prior to the commencement of each calendar year. In addition, we take into account overall feedback and adherence to timelines and deadlines.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH UNCERTAINTY AS A LEADER IN A TIME WHERE LEADERSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER?

I generally use these three tools: verifiable information, knowledge and adequate consultation in dealing with uncertainties. I believe strongly that the level of uncertainty is better degraded with these three tools. They also aid the ability to forecast with a measure of certainty and make plans to forestall the potentially negative impacts of the uncertainty.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM PLAYING IN THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY OF THE 2020 GLOBAL PANDEMIC?

We are at the forefront of offering enlightenment, mentorship and critical legal advisory services to ensure that the available contractual and non-contractual legal rights are enjoyed to the fullest.

Consequently, we will most likely be at the forefront of ensuring industry players – especially my company – get their economic and commercial benefits and also recover substantially, if not fully, their losses during the pandemic. This includes advising and enforcement of protective provisions such as indemnity and insurance provisions in relevant industry documents and agreements.

We will also actively review and contribute to the development of new policies and regulations that may be issued by regulatory agencies for that purpose and advise key stakeholders accordingly.

HOW IMPORTANT IS SCENARIO PLANNING WHEN IMPLEMENTING ANNUAL STRATEGIES?

The importance of planning in any human endeavour cannot be overemphasised, especially when the conversation borders on implementing mid-term, short-term, long-term and indeed annual strategies.

Planning would essentially be focused on efficient management of often limited resources and their allocation to meet the varying demands and needs of an organisation, large or small. Another fulcrum of planning would entail the painstaking process of ascertaining, establishing and even setting critical organisational goals and corporate expectations of the company or an individual to drive the performance/productivity or initiate the mechanisms for the attainment of the goals.

The modalities for the management of associated and unforeseen risks and uncertainties would be addressed to forestall a derailment of the planned or set goals.

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT DIGITALISATION, THE COMPLEXITIES AND INTRICACIES, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS AROUND THIS AND HOW IT WILL CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE POWER AND ENERGY SECTOR AFRICA?

Technology and digitalisation would continue to play profoundly impactful and hugely defining roles in the power and energy space in Nigeria and Africa in general. The Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System for example would provide and assist in real time fault detection along and within power lines, which would in turn aid easy and quick repairs. Other examples of technology in the sector include Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Energy Management System (EMS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software etc. All these enhance the commercial angle of the business in view of the fact that revenue losses would be easily mitigated and minimised and consequently lead to assured increase in power supply.

Within the oil sector, African oil-rich countries can copy copiously from the Saudis who are developing technology to produce oil with ‘Near Zero’ Emissions, while its current CO2 output from crude production is already among the lowest in the world. This initiative will have a long-lasting effect on climate change and general environmental ambience of the African continent.

WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?

A legacy of excellence, impactful mentorship, people-upliftment, of sacrifice and benevolence and being recorded in history as giving my best to every noble endeavour that I undertake. I am hopeful that I can teach and mentor many younger generations on the ethos of the legal profession, the dynamics of the electricity power industry, financing and the general oil and gas sector.

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