- In this no hold back interview with the Chairman, Nigerian House of Representative Committee on Local Content, Hon. Emmanuel Ekon in Abuja, he spoke extensively on the need to review the existing Local Content Act as enacted in 2010 for the oil and gas industry, with a vow to replicate same laws in other areas of government functionaries; while blamed the arbitrary abuse of the Nigerian Content laws on Nigerians nonchalant disposition at switchboard, negligence and lackadaisical approach to due-diligence, Ekon promised better deal in days ahead. OMOSOLA AKINGBOYE captured the interview for Energypost Africa. Excerpt:
Let me start by saying, Local Content law as enacted by President Goodluck Jonathan, one of the cardinal reasons why that law was enacted in 2010 was to build indigenous capacity in the industry, and looking back on the road map between 2010 and today, you will agree with me that Nigeria has done well in the oil and gas industry. Prior to the enactment of this law, a lot of things were going wrong; a lot of Nigerians did not have opportunity of being supplied water even food like have being consumed by expatriate in the oil and gas industry, but since the enactment of the law, quiet a lot of people have been gainfully employed, couple of fabricated job has been won by Nigerians in the oil and gas industry. So, for me I think it is a good law as churn out by the legislative arms of the Nigerian National Assembly. For me as the Chairman against this thinking that, if we can diversify this law to other section like Power, Aviation, Construction considering the gains we had in the oil and gas industry, Nigeria would be better for all of us.
Can you throw more light on the opportunity fare in the oil and gas sector?
The opportunity fare essentially is to gather the oil majors, the international oil companies operating within the shore of Nigeria to come in here and tell the indigenous local contractors, what are the opportunities that are coming up in the next couple of years, so that the Nigerian indigenous companies can also brace up to key into those opportunities if it means to undergo trainings, it can be done now if it means to build capacity, they can do it now; if it is in terms of funding, they can also look for funding now, so it is a kind of giving us an expo on what is going to happen so they can get prepare for the exams, so that is why we gathered these people here today to come and tell our indigenous contractors what is being expected, what is going to happen, what kind of projects and which way are they looking at in the oil and gas industry, which way is it going in the next couple of years, so that we can also brace up and follow them.
Local Content is about seven years, what do you have to say about the journey so far?
I talk about it a little bit earlier, prior to seven years now, a lot of services were outsourced, including the supply of water that expatriate would drink within the oil and gas facilities, even food that we consumed were outsourced, little things like bolts, shafts were outsourced, even labour; talk of little artisan jobs were also outsourced, but with the existence of those things today, some of those things were being carried out by Nigerians, so for me in the last seven years, I would say we are ten a little mileage in terms of local capacity building.
I understand that there is a plan reviews by PETAN on Local Content Act, as a NASS member, what do you think is the role of the Senate in this and how far has this law gone so far?
Well, I don’t know which one they have pushed, but I know if there is a process of trying to implement this law, we found out some inefficiencies and difficulties that needs to be addressed, a lot can be tinkered with, that is why we have the room for amendment, so if there are issue in the law that have existed or arise which we did not noticed when the law was passed, we can amend it, but I have never seeing anything from PETAN yet, but I know amendment was done by me last year, but like I said, we are ready at any time that Nigerian people needs a law to be tinkered with, but what I am working on right is to diversified the law to other section like construction, like telecom, aviation, so that we can replicate the gain we have in the oil and gas sector, that is what we are working on now.
Recently, NCDMB inaugurate local content in ICT, as a member of the House Committee, in what areas are you diversifying?
I don’t know how NCDMB inaugurate its committee on local content on ICT, but I do know that Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC has local content in their organization; yes, the local content department is there, but there has never been an existing legislature to back up that, but we are trying to do now as of last week was to sit down write a letter and look at things holistically, and send these letters to some of this organizations like NCC and Niger Delta Power Holdings, let them come and brief the committee what are they doing about Local content in the IJC, in that way we would know where to start by trying to draft the implementation on those policies that have been put in place. Until we diversify the Local Content in that way may be other agencies of government like what we have in Balyelsa, that is overseeing all the IOCs, by the time we diversify into telecom, construction and so on, we are also going to have the directorate that will also monitor infractions in those areas.
Do you think we have the capacity to handle this in those areas at the moment?
Nigeria has the capacity to handle anything, even the international community has proffer in several forum that Nigeria has capacity to go about anything, all we just need to do is to change our attitudes, there is nothing that is impossible for Nigerians to do, the capacity is there, only to open platform for other people to manage it.
How would you go about monitoring of the IOC which you mentioned on flouting Local Content law?
I have shared it in different fora, the problems we have in Nigeria is that Nigerians are the architect of their own problems. Until we seat round tables and look at ourselves eyeball to eyeball and say are we really going to correct the wrong in the system? For example, a situation where we have an agency that suppose to oversight a scheme; for instance, infractions in the expatriate quota, agencies that are suppose to monitor numbers of expatriate that comes into the country are not doing what they are suppose to do, until we seat down as a body and say let’s do what we are suppose to do. The enabling law is there for us to follow, the thing is that we are not following it. The law is very emphatic, it is very explicit that when you want to bring in an expatriate, there are process you have to follow, but in a situation where those process are not followed and the regulatory body that are suppose to check whether this process are followed ignored it, there is a problem, so it is not the expert that are giving us the issues, it is us Nigerians, and when we sit down and say enough is enough, I think we would able to correct our mistakes.
What futures do you see for Local Content?
Great future of course, we are driving it being in the saddle for one and a half year, though I can’t rate myself but I think the industry have seen the kind of leadership, I believe the industry has confidence on Local Content Committee, we are going to build on that, the future is bright, future is great if only these people can understand that these law is actually made for us not the IOCs, and if they know that and partner with National Assembly, I think we are going somewhere.