Doing things right as it should be done: Meet Otemu Igho –The Aviation Refueling Expert

When you’re in the business of aviation refueling, like Stein Energy CEO’s Otemu Igho, safety isn’t just the primary measure of success, it’s the top priority.

In his words – “The one thing we lay emphasis on at Stein Energy is the constant need to adhere to aviation fuel handling, safety and to continually operate within acceptable standards. In a nut shell, it’s been a good run so far.”, the Nigerian recounts to the Pleasures Magazine.

Engr. Otemu Igho is a Petroleum Engineeringgraduate of the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State Nigeria. Discipline, diligence, hard work and honesty are his driving force as a successful entrepreneur that he is today.
“My Father was in the Army and of course, you know what an average military family would look like, discipline was the order of the day”. He continues, “The exposure I got as an aircraft refueller was from working with some multinationals (Nigerian Agip Oil Company, Exxon Mobil and Chevron) prepared me for the role I occupy today by the grace of God”.

Engr. Otemu Igho – CEO, Stein Energy

Founded in 2018, the company offers a catalogue of services such as plane fuelling, aircraft refueling services for both fixed and rotary wing operators… Currently, the company is involved with the Nigerian Airforce in the area of technical support to their aircraft refueling personnel in the country.
With a strong passion for adherence to safety standards, he chats with PLEASURES Magazine on his career journey, the aviation refueling industry and others.

Can we meet you please, who is Otemu Igho?

Well, first of all, I’m pleased to share this moment with you. My name is Engr Otemu Einstein Igho, an Urhobo by tribe from Delta State, Agbarha- Otor precisely. I am the Chief Executive Officer of Stein Energy Limited.

Am married to the love of my life, Engr. Molina Igho-Otemu (who is an Executive Director/Company Secretary at Stein Energy) and am blessed with a wonderful family.

What’s your educational and professional background?

I attended Kogbodi International School, Ughelli for my primary education and proceeded to the prestigious Government College Ughelli (both in Delta State) for my secondary education.

I have a Petroleum Engineering degree from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

As for my professional background, I have certifications in Aircraft Refueling and Aviation Fuel Systems in the course of my career.

What aspect of your background has been most helpful to your experience as an entrepreneur that should resonate with the average Nigerian youth?

I would say discipline, diligence, hard work, honesty and a drive to succeed. My Father was in the Army and of course, you know what an average military family would look like in terms of discipline. He made sure I studied hard and ensured that I did my best to be successful at whatever I was involved in -academic work, social, (sports especially) , Religion and otherwise. He made sure not to spare the rod and spoil the child…(laughs)

What inspired you to start an aviation refueling company and how has the journey been?

Well, as much as I am at this point in my life, I can’t tell you I ever dreamt I would own an aviation refueling company, though It had always been my passion. I felt maybe the best I would get was to be at top management but, you know what they say “Man proposes; God disposes”. By the divine grace of God and the love and support of Engr. Isewede Asuiemen (my Father Figure) and my darling wife as well, I am here today.

So far, It has been a very beautiful journey, we are learning and growing as a company and we have made massive stride in our own segment of the industry. The one thing we lay emphasis on at Stein Energy is the constant need to adhere to aviation fuel handling safety and to continually operate within acceptable standards. In a nut shell, it’s been a good run so far.

Can you describe a typical day, what it’s like to run Stein Energy?

I begin the day with a review of the previous day’s report before dawn. Next, I proceed to the airfield to get a feel of what our engineers are up to as it concerns the equipment and facility. Truth is, am not your typical CEO that sits in the office. I monitor every aspect of the operations and sometimes, join the lads in refueling the aircrafts as well. They enjoy having me around I can tell you for a fact…. (laughs)
Then, comes meetings with my administrative and operations team, clients, vendors, suppliers and the lot as well as phone calls, emails, reports and other official responsibilities that comes with the portfolio.

My typical day wraps up at the office with the last flight of the day and a close out review of all the day’s operational and administrative activities.

Prior to being CEO at Stein Energy, what were you doing– and how did your previous role prepare you for what you are doing today?

I was Head of the Aviation and Technical Engineering at Acorn Petroleum Plc prior to this time. I started off as an Aviation Fuel Systems Engineer and was made Aviation HSE Officer after a while. So I pretty much rose through the ranks, and am your typical aircraft refueler on any given day.

The exposure I got as an aircraft refueller from working with some multinationals (Nigerian Agip Oil Company, Exxon Mobil and Chevron) prepared me for the role I occupy today.

Engr. Igho with Air Commodore Elijah Ebiowe, Commander 205 Combat Search and Rescue Group (CSARG), Nigerian Airforce Base, Jos.

As it concerns my passion for adherence to safety standards, I would give it to Engr Peter Dia (Current Operations Manager at Raven Energy) he exposed me to IATA and Airline Inspections quite early in my career and that gave me an edge over my colleagues at the time. All I learnt from these opportunities has helped me in continually developing the processes and standards at Stein Energy.

What informed the name of your company, Stein Energy?

Well, initially it was just a short form of my middle name Einstein but at the very beginning of the company, I had a dream sometime in May 2018 and God told me the true meaning of STEIN- Service, Transparency, Efficiency and Innovation. The minute I woke up I told my wife about it and those words became our Core Values today at Stein Energy.

Walk us through Stein Energy ‘s business model. What is the company all about? Tell us about your products and services?

Our business model focuses on the Oil and Gas aspect of the aviation industry. We provide aviation fuel refueling services to rotary and fixed wing operations who fly offshore workers and we have kept it that way since inception in 2018.

Aside the sale of aviation fuel to airlines, we are involved with the Nigerian Airforce in the area of technical support to their own aircraft refueling personnel across some of their bases in the country. The Nigerian Airforce must be commended for the quality of service they provide for their aircrafts as it concerns aviation fuel. We have enjoyed every day of that partnership.

We are also involved in the maintenance and construction of aviation fuel storage facilities as well as inspections and audits. We are more like your go-to- guys when it comes to aviation fuel technical support.

How profitable is the aviation fueling and maintenances business in Nigeria?

The profitability of it is relative and it varies from one establishment to another. For me, any business is profitable, it all depends on how it is managed. If you do the right things, following the due process and make productive decisions and manage it well, you will make profits. If you do otherwise, you’re sure to fail. There is no circumventing that.

What major concerns did you have when you were starting and how did you resolve them?

You know, like I always tell people “God gave me Stein Energy” This applies here. He took care of any concerns; It was a smooth sail for me by His grace…. (laughs)

Airline Audit with Omni Helicopters Fuel Quality Inspector, Engr Uyele

Stein Energy has seen an incredible growth since you founded it. What has been the most challenging aspect of growing it and what has been the most exciting development?

I would say getting a JET A-1 storage facility was the most challenging. I would like to use this opportunity to thank God for Late Captain Harrison Adekunle Kuti of HAK Air (God rest his soul). He gave us our first lease on a storage facility and as such our story will not be complete without appreciating him. You can’t run the business without JET A-1 storage tanks, he came through for us on that.

There are a lot of exciting moments since we began in July 2018. The thrill and excitement of signing up with new clients is also a point to note. On this, we are grateful to Nesto Aviation Services Limited (NestAV) for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to serve them as our very first client. They mean a lot to us.
Just to buttress this point, there are more exciting times ahead.

For people in the aviation industry in Nigeria, what are the key benefits that Stein Energy offers that they cannot get from your competitors?

We offer quality and due process. We don’t tolerate anything that will compromise the quality of our aviation fuel. We don’t cut corners. Ask around, we are known for our constant strive in the provision of clean, dry and on-spec aviation fuel within the standard as prescribed by both local and regulatory bodies (IATA, JIG, NCAA, DPR etc.) and our excellent approach to documentation and quality control. These and many more attracts both fixed and rotary wing operators to our establishment.

Engr. Otemu with wife Molina

How do you see the industry evolving in future?

So much is going on now in the industry, Post-Covid 19will come with its unique challenges for sure; We must approach the coming times with a completely different disposition. You can’t be in the industry and survive using yesterday’s logic (Before COVID-19) to run your establishment, a lot has to change. There are going to be a lot of technological and operational improvement/changes and Stein Energy is prepared to move along with the changes that may occur.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is another area that we will see a lot of evolution in the coming years. There is a lot going on in that area at the moment, it has so much to do with clean energy and carbon foot print. In the coming decades, it will get to the Nigerian market for sure. That will change the dynamics of course, in the same vein, Stein Energy is prepared to be a part of that change.

With aviation in your blood, what’s your favourite aircraft and why?

For sure it’s the Gulfstream G700. It’s the world’s largest private jet, nearly 57-foot-long, six-foot-tall, and it’s eight-foot-wide cabin is the tallest, widest, and longest in the industry.

The Jet is sleek, can operate on short, weight restricted, and high-altitude airport runways. It’s powered by two Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines. As for the interiors……let’s leave that for another day! Pheeeeww!!!

Where does the COVID-19 pandemic rank in terms of industry crises?

COVID-19 changes it all! For me, it’s at the very top. This is the first time in history (or maybe peace time) that airports the world over are shut down! Never did I think a day will come in my lifetime when ramps globally will be filled with aircrafts at one time, all grounded. I would think the Aviation industry is the worst hit. On a scale of 1-10, I’ll put COVID-19 at whopping 10!

I jokingly tell some of my industry colleagues that COVID-19 has sent whatever strategic plan for 2020 anyone had right out of the window. We have to re-strategize and try to wade through these times. Hopefully, the industry will pick up gradually and we take it up from there.

What keeps you and your team motivated?

It’s the drive to succeed and be the best in our area of expertise. We want to do things differently as well, using the right processes. Simply put, we want to be the best!
Our Motto at Stein energy has always been “PRIMUS INTER PARES” meaning FIRST AMONG EQUALS. We are driven by that determination.

3 personalities that inspire you…

My late Father, Augustine Otemu Eyagha (God rest his soul), Engr Isewede Ausiemen and the Late Olorogun Micheal Ibru, who incidentally is from Agbarha-Otor as well.

Any tips to become successful in the aviation industry?

Just do the rights things as it should be done. Don’t cut corners. It would always come back and hunt you. Basically, work within the acceptable standards and plan well.

What’s your personal leadership philosophy?

I am the CEO that“rolls” with his staff. They are like family to me. Every one of them will tell you am interested in their lives outside work. I share in their celebrations as well as their pains. My door is always open to them and they come to me with anything and together we find a working solution to their issues. Servant Leader approach (giggles).

Refueling NestAv AW-139 Helicopter

What advice would you give budding African entrepreneurs who aspire to your kind of success?

Know what your industry entails. Be patient. Be honest. Be wise. Wealth is accumulated over time, trust God and trust the process. Permit me to use local parlance “Don’t be in a rush to hammer”. There is time for everything.

What’s the next five years looking like for Stein Energy?

We should be every airline’s reliable aviation fuel service provider across all airports in the Federation in the next five years. That’s the short term plan, on the long term, we go global and become a household name when it comes to aviation fuel supply.

I am in my mid-30s now; Who knows what the future holds for Stein Energy? It’s all in God’s hands. My bit is to keep doing the right things and be humane about it. I bet we will just have to wait and see.

Finally, are you looking into foreign partners? if yes, what kind of partners and partnership are you looking at?

Most definitely! We are currently in partnership with Proflo LLC, Ohio United States of America in the area supply of mobile aircraft refueling equipment (Bowser). They have been a big part of our success story. We will like to expand our search for partnership in that area into the Middle East in the coming years. God has the final say on it though, our duty is to keep working and growing. God takes care of the rest.

How may you be contacted?
Through the company’s website:
IG: @stein_energy
Linkedin: Otemu E. Igho
Tel: +234 (0) 7066919672

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