‘PTDF hasn’t can­celled over­seas schol­ar­ship’

Daily Trust - - EDUCATION - By Daniel Adugbo

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

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