[By Sopuruchi Onwuka]
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is adding voice to the call for regulators and legislation to address capacity issues in the application of the Nigerian Content Law, demanding that the nation’s education system be positioned to deliver high quality products.
Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, stated in a virtual stakeholders consultative summit organized by the Senate Committee on Local Content that capacity issues remain the biggest hurdle to cross in the drive for policy targets.
The Oracle Today reports that principal objective of the local content policy is to use Nigeria’s upstream petroleum industry budget to cut operations cost and create multiplier effects that propel domestic economic growth through job creation, patronage of local goods and services as well as create demand basis for investments in domestic industrial productivity.
In delivering on the objectives, the law requires security of jobs for indigenous workforce and preferential contract awards for local companies that have capacity and competence for world class service delivery.
With restriction on use of expatriates in order to preserve jobs for Nigerian professionals, many indigenous companies have resorted to huge investments in retraining rooky employees to bring them up to competency standards in the industry.
The job specific trainings are parallel to pan industry efforts through the Petroleum Training Institutes, Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and Centers of Excellence by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited.
The issues of capacity became vexed when some indigenous firms that hold little capacity started turning to job traders in the industry by forging bogus technical partnerships with foreign companies that ultimately deliver the contracts. The alleged trade of contracts by some indigenous companies has since generated serious debates over capacity audit on contractors.
In stating the views of Mallam Kyari on the debate, the corporation’s Group General Manager in charge of Group Public Affairs, Dr. Kennie Obateru, said NNPC would want all indigenous companies operating in the nation’s oil and gas sector to build capacity for global competitiveness.
Mallam Kyari also wants the National Assembly to amend the Local Content Act to reflect current realities in the industry.
Group General Manager, Corporate Planning & Strategy (CP&S), Mrs. Eyesan Oritsemeyiwa, sho spoke at the virtual summit for Mallam Kyari, argued that there was need to have a legislation to resolve the issues of funding challenges faced by local players, stressing that oil and gas business required high technical skills and competence to compete favourably at the global stage.
Speaking further on the need for greater capacity building on the part of indigenous companies, the GMD said the nation’s education system has a great role to play in the development of highly skilled technical manpower, adding that any legislation on Nigerian content development that fails to embrace issues of investment in the educational system was not likely to achieve much.
“In terms of the interaction between industry and education, we think these new bills would present a good model that we should work with. People are the greatest assets of any nation. If you have the best brains in the industry today, as long as you are not getting good replacement for them from the educational sector when they grow old and retire, then your industry will collapse,” the GMD argued.
He said the nation has made some good progress from the era when there was no single indigenous operator in the oil and gas industry to the current situation where local operators have risen to double digits, stressing that the trend should be encouraged.
He hailed the National Assembly’s initiative to review and amend the Local Content Act and urged the committee to ensure that it is carried out in a timely fashion in order for the law to deliver maximum value for the nation.
The GMD commended the legislators for the plan to extend the local content law beyond the oil and gas industry to other sectors of the nation’s economy, stressing that it would open up the non-oil sectors to growth and development.