‘PTDF hasn’t cancelled overseas scholarship’
How far do we expect the collaboration between the oil and gas centres and tertiary institutions to go?
This collaboration and partnership with the centres of excellence is one of the strategies to facilitate our domestication process because these centres of excellence are essentially places where we have capacities that can compare with the foreign universities to which we send our scholars. If we have enough of these centres of excellence in Nigeria or if the other universities have the same capacities with them, then it will mean that we are gradually getting there because at the end of the day, the goal is for us to carry out capacity building right here in Nigeria. Which will mean that even if we are going to give scholarships to people we will give them scholarships to go to our universities here because at the end of the day our own universities will ensure industry relevance of the training, they will ensure industry relevance of the research and we will save money.
If all we would save is actually the cost of ticket from here to the UK as well as the cost of accommodation, we would have saved a lot. Going forward, the domestication drive is all that we will be pursuing.
I’m not saying we are cancelling foreign scholarships tomorrow but that is actually the goal, and if we have enough of the centres of excellence here that can give us the standard that we go out to look for, then over time we will continue to reduce our reliance on foreign institutions.
But there were reports recently that the PTDF has cancelled the scholarship programme, could you shed Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) Mr. Femi Ajayi, in this interaction on the sidelines of a two-day workshop on collaboration between Oil and Gas Centres of Excellence and Nigerian tertiary institutions held recently, said contrary to media reports, the Fund hasn’t cancelled its overseas scholarship scheme. Excerpts: more light on this?
The PTDF has not cancelled the scheme, the point I have made is that as much as possible we want to increase capacity building locally here and because of that even our training partners; we have told them that going forward, people that we would be favourably disposed to, are those partners who are ready to encourage our domestication drive. We are asking them to come and set up shops in our country here, to do what they are doing for us over there, here.
Of course, you know the spinoffs that it will give to us, in fact we are not likely to be able to cancel it outright because don’t forget, there is a need for intellectual interaction and diffusion even within the country. If you bring scholars who trained in the US, Germany and the ones that trained in the UK, the mix is the best you can have and be better for you because we are combining the expertise from so many places.
What I am saying is that patronage of foreign universities will continue to be important and relevant as a way of ensuring some kind of intellectual intercourse among our own institution and the ones abroad.
What is the PTDF doing to ensure that scholars that passed through its foreign and local scholarship schemes are employed in companies in Nigeria?
We said that we will make efforts to ensure the employability of our scholars, that is to ensure that they have the requisite skills and experience that should make both the IOCs (International Oil Companies) and the NOCs (National Oil Companies) attractive and desirable. We don’t have the mandate to force any oil company to employ anybody, which is not our mandate. We are not a regulatory agency. The Federal Government had to establish another agency, NCDMB (Nigeria Content Development and Management Board), to carry out that role.
Their critical role is to ensure compliance with the Local Content Act that in situations where you have local capacities that have been built, such companies whether they are local or foreign should consider employing these people first before they go abroad, that is the essence of the Local Content Act and that is precisely the Act that the NCDMB is supposed to enforce, it is not the job of the PTDF. There are things that we are doing to reposition our scholars to make them more employable, apart from giving them the relevant training.
We don’t just train, we train based on a skill-gap audit. We find out the skills needed in the industry we train for their use, which is the first thing we do. Apart from the training, we expose them to industrial attachment; we give them entrepreneurial training such that they are able to cope either on their own or in the world of work.
Over the years, the Fund has expended a lot of money in upgrading some departments in universities, has the money spent in these universities matched what you have achieved so far?
The point is, when you build capacity, you don’t expect returns immediately because the universities that you have upgraded will be there forever. For your information, we spend money and in some of the universities we build entire departments for them like a department of geosciences, geology, chemical engineering or where we don’t build the entire department we supply them with equipment, the equipment will be used for a very long time.
It is not a ‘press-button’ affair, it takes time. We are getting the value that we expect to get from them because most of the people we are training under our local scholarship scheme are being trained by the upgraded universities. In fact, it is a condition precedent for us to give scholars to universities to train.
Mr. Femi Ajayi