‘Nige­rian con­tent not about chas­ing away for­eign­ers’

Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the Nige­rian Con­tent Devel­op­ment and Mon­i­tor­ing Board, (NCDMB), Engr. Simbi Wabote in this in­ter­view in Ye­nagoa, Bayelsa State, ex­plains how the board has fared in im­ple­ment­ing the Nige­rian con­tent law which is tar­geted at in­creasin

Sunday Trust - - INTERVIEW - By Daniel Adugbo

What will you say are your chal­lenges so far?

One of our key fail­ures has been the in­abil­ity of com­pa­nies to ac­cess the Nige­rian Con­tent Devel­op­ment Fund, (NCDF), which is man­aged by NCDMB and used to fi­nance projects di­rected at in­creas­ing Nige­rian con­tent.

Since the es­tab­lish­ment of the NCDMB six years ago, I thought that by now com­pa­nies should be ac­cess­ing the fund. Re­gret­tably, only three Nige­rian ven­dors have been able to ac­cess it. Not be­ing able to put that fund to use for me is a fail­ure.

There is so much con­tro­versy over how much is in the pool of the NCDF. What is the real value of the funds and why are com­pa­nies not able to ac­cess it?

We have about $600m in the fund. But I be­lieve it should have been more. We want to con­duct an au­dit to see who is hold­ing our money some­where.

It is not true that no op­er­a­tor has been able to ac­cess the fund. Three Nige­rian com­pa­nies have ben­e­fited from this fund but it’s that enough? Of course not, that is where my frus­tra­tion comes. I sin­cerely be­lieve we must use this fund to sup­port the oil and gas in­dus­try.

It is a sit­u­a­tion where when money is bor­rowed, it should be paid back so that oth­ers can ben­e­fit. It is not ex­clu­sively for one group. So, we must make sure we put ev­ery­thing right such that once we give out the fund, we will work with who­ever gets it to en­sure that the money is paid back. We are work­ing to en­sure that there is a trans­par­ent process on how that money will be paid back by the fund bor­row­ers. That is why that process is tak­ing time.

Which com­pa­nies have de­faulted in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Nige­rian Con­tent Act? Are there still ex­pa­tri­ates who are per­form­ing jobs that Nige­ri­ans can do?

I think this is not the fo­rum to be­gin to list com­pa­nies that have de­faulted in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Act. Are there de­fault­ers? Am sorry I can’t give you that but if you read through the Act there is a mech­a­nism. There are so many cases in court be­cause peo­ple de­faulted out of ig­no­rance and to­tal dis­re­gard for the law it­self but the mon­i­tor­ing unit of the NCDMB is up to the task.

Even Nige­rian com­pa­nies that you think are com­ply­ing with the Act are also de­fault­ing and we are go­ing af­ter them.

On ex­pa­tri­ates work­ing in Nige­rian com­pa­nies, let me make this point. The whole idea about Nige­rian con­tent is not in­di­g­e­niza­tion. The in­tent is not to say peo­ple should go back to their coun­tries. Nige­ri­ans want to pro­vide the ser­vices them­selves. We also ex­pected that these for­eign com­pa­nies bring in­vest­ments into the coun­try and they have to also pro­tect their in­vest­ments but the point about Nige­rian con­tent is that where you have ca­pac­i­ties ex­ist­ing in-coun­try, we will not ap­prove for you to bring in ex­perts.

We rig­or­ously mon­i­tor that and where the ex­per­tise does not ex­ist an­other thing we do is to en­sure that there is an un­der­study such that when that ex­pert leaves, he will be re­placed by a Nige­rian and most of the com­pa­nies par­tic­u­larly the in­ter­na­tional oil com­pa­nies and ser­vice providers hold dear to this. For ev­ery ex­pa­tri­ate quota ap­pli­ca­tion that they put be­fore us we de­mand to see the suc­ces­sion plan of that po­si­tion that will be filled by a Nige­rian in the next four years be­cause most ex­pa­tri­ate ap­pli­ca­tions last for four years.

I know that most Nige­ri­ans are out there in var­i­ous coun­tries en­hanc­ing their ca­pac­i­ties and also giv­ing their ex­per­tise. So, at times in some of those com­pa­nies you have ex­change pro­grammes where they send Nige­ri­ans to bring their peo­ple to also un­der­stand the Nige­rian chal­lenges in terms of oil and gas pro­duc­tion.

We are very pru­dent and com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that ca­pac­i­ties that ex­ist in Nige­ria, are not given to ex­perts. But our in­tent is not to say that there will be no ex­pa­tri­ates in our oil and gas op­er­a­tions. The whole idea is to en­hance and add value in Nige­ria.

What is the level of Nige­rian con­tent as at to­day?

When we took mea­sure­ment of Nige­rian con­tent be­fore the law was passed, it was only three per cent. This was about eight years ago be­cause the fo­cus then was more of rev­enue gen­er­a­tion as op­posed to in-coun­try value ad­di­tion.

But to­day, Nige­rian con­tent is around 28 per cent. Is it where we want to be af­ter seven years? Of course not! That is why I men­tioned that we want to take stock to see where we are to­day in terms of the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law. Once we iden­tify the gaps prop­erly, we will go af­ter those ar­eas that will help us in­crease the Nige­rian con­tent in the in­dus­try.

I know peo­ple will ban­ter num­bers to say that they have awarded con­tracts to Nige­rian com­pa­nies but if you drill down to the ac­tual value in terms of the equip­ment and kits, you are not go­ing to go any­where. Yes you have awarded it to a Nige­rian com­pany that is good but we need to en­sure that those com­pa­nies buy those prod­ucts and ser­vices in-coun­try by en­cour­ag­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing, that is where our fo­cus is.

How many Nige­rian com­pa­nies have ben­e­fit­ted from the lo­cal con­tent pol­icy since you have been on the sad­dle?

I know peo­ple will ban­ter num­bers to say that they have awarded con­tracts to Nige­rian com­pa­nies but if you drill down to the ac­tual value in terms of the equip­ment and kits, you are not go­ing to go any­where. Yes you have awarded it to a Nige­rian com­pany that is good but we need to en­sure that those com­pa­nies buy those prod­ucts and ser­vices in-coun­try

As you are aware, I have been go­ing round the coun­try to com­mis­sion one pro­ject or the other. The other day we were in Onne to com­mis­sion the Sole­want coat­ing plant. In De­cem­ber, we were at the Lekki Free Trade Zone to com­mis­sion a mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar state-of-the art pipe mill fa­cil­ity by Yu­long. I was also at the Nige­rian Ma­chine Tools in Oshogbo to look at the fa­cil­i­ties they have set up to man­u­fac­ture bolts, studs, flanges for the oil and gas in­dus­try.

Most Nige­rian com­pa­nies are now elated be­cause most of the con­tracts that hith­erto go to multi­na­tion­als are now given to them. As a mat­ter of fact most of the in­ter­na­tional oil com­pa­nies are try­ing to com­pile the list of con­tracts they have been able to give to Nige­rian com­pa­nies for the past 100 days. So, there are suc­cesses in terms of com­pa­nies ben­e­fit­ting from the pol­icy.

The point about Nige­rian con­tent is that where you have ca­pac­i­ties ex­ist­ing in-coun­try, we will not ap­prove for you to bring in ex­perts. We rig­or­ously mon­i­tor that and where the ex­per­tise does not ex­ist an­other thing we do is to en­sure that there is an un­der­study such that when that ex­pert leaves, he will be re­placed by a Nige­rian

Engr. Simbi Wabote, Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, NCDMB

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