‘Regulatory framework must be strengthened to check abuse of Local Content Act’
Dr. Mayowa Afe is the Chairman, Oil and Gas Trainers Association of Nigeria (OGTAN). In this interview with STANLEY OPARA, he speaks on the activities of OGTAN and the need to boost local capacities, especially in the oil and gas industry. Excerpts:
Eight years after the enactment of the Nigerian Content Act, many operating and service companies continue to apply for substantial expatriate quota approvals from the Board, claiming that the capacities they seek are not available in country. How far is OGTAN working to identify these seemingly non-existent capacities and equip Nigerians with the skills?
Since the Nigerian Content Act was enacted in 2010, Nigeria has made significant progress in the area of capacity development for the oil and gas industry. You will agree with me that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) with the cooperation of major stakeholders like OGTAN, has lived up to its mission statement: “To promote the development and utilisation of in-country capacities for the industrialisation of Nigeria, through the effective implementation of the Nigerian Content Act”.
Since the last Skill Gap Audit funded by NCDMB, OGTAN members have built extensive capacity to tackle this challenge. We are currently developing the Nigerian Occupation Standards for the Oil and Gas industry (NOGOS) with respect to training deliveries to international standards.
Again, OGTAN with the support of the Board is championing another Data Gathering Strategy and categorisation of her members outside the Proposed NOGOS effort. This will help identify these seemingly non-existent capacities and equip Nigerians with the skills, it will further provide a veritable Skills Gap Analysis and Needs Assessment Plan. In the last two years, OGTAN have reached out extensively to press the case for more localisation of training programmes as a means of reducing the capacity deficit that some of these companies cite to justify their requests for expatriates. This is an ongoing effort, we believe that Nigeria even has the potential to export oilfield skills to other parts of the world, and reverse the so-called expatriate quota.
Finally, the vacuum created within the space can also be addressed by embracing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). As a nation, we have a latent talent of 34 million unemployed and underemployed! OGTAN is willing and able to Partner with IOCs in line with TVETs – by investing in infrastructures and upgrading curriculum where necessary.
Presently, Nigeria has only 373 TVETs, while Brazil has over 3,000 TVET Institutions and graduate over three million every year. India has 10-year plan with target of 500 million new jobs and have deployed infrastructure to achieve this.Having said all these, you have to also note that these companies are also here to do business and in line with the NOGIC Act 2010 Part 1 and No 32, an operator or project promoter may retain a maximum of five per cent of management positions as may be approved by the Board as expatriate positions to take care of investor interests.
Many oil and gas operating and service companies continue to send their staff members overseas for routine trainings. Is this not an indictment on the capacity of your members to provide the requisite training need by these companies?
It is an indictment on Nigeria as a country not necessarily on OGTAN. Whatever a nation permits will thrive. This has nothing to do with the indictment of our members, rather several reasons could be adduced. Take for example, a Nigerian company with a Nigerian instructor all went to Dubai to train. Tell me, is that a foreign training or indictment of our members? No! But many staff prefer overseas training because of the estacode and shopping and not because of any additional training they will get. If the companies feel strongly about the extra knowledge to be acquired overseas, let them bring the resource persons to Nigeria and let more people, participate. There are many competent faculty members and many of our members have the right facilities, yet people continue to be sent abroad because employees see this as an opportunity to travel, and so they intensify pressure on employers for this purpose. Our regulatory framework has to be strengthened to monitor this act.
Someone came for training in our office, he confessed that he attended a similar training course in London with a foreign trainer. He confessed that he could not hear 60 per cent of what the instructor was saying talk less of understanding and benefiting from the course. And most of the examples used during the course has nothing to do with the Niger Delta basin which relates more to where he works. I will like to use this opportunity to appeal to NNPC management in encouraging the domestication of training in country. As the leading partner on behalf of government in the oil and gas sector they should lead by example.
Many oil companies also want to patronise and develop training institutions in their home countries. There should be a deliberate policy by government and particularly through NCDMB to ensure a balance. This is why OGTAN on her part is working with all stakeholders on the categorization of members to ensure we are able to identify well established training institutions and give room for others to grow and meet international standards.
I believed that this will be a win-win strategy for the industry. Finally, let me say that our members have eminently qualified trainers with long years of industry practice in their respective domains. Many of them have international affiliations where necessary, with courses that are certified or accredited. Though we still have room for improvement and growth. This is where we need the assistance of all stake holders.
What is the possibility of OGTAN members forming a consortium to establish training centres of excellence?
This can be achieved 100 per cent and that is the way to grow. OGTAN has always encouraged its members to collaborate and form alliances that will enable them punch higher than their individual weights. This is on-going, and I believe that in no distant future, some of these synergies will culminate in training centres of excellence. Government, through NCDMB, can also help encourage and support these synergies.