The appeal came from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Local Content, the High Commissioner of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK), Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC), Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) and Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO).
The stakeholders in oil and gas industry at The Global Nigerian-Aberdeen Forum 2013 held at the weekend at the University of Aberdeen, UK, also called on President Goodluck Jonathan to tap from the 1.3 million Nigerian professionals in the UK including 700,000 engineers to fix some ailing sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
The Global Nigerian-Aberdeen Forum 2013 is an initiative of Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited aimed at fostering value-driven partnership between Nigerian companies and their foreign counterparts and to facilitate an interactive session to explore opportunities for partnership, employment and synergy.
The Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Local Content, Mr. Asita Honourable, told The Guardian in an exclusive interview: “I am here to encourage Nigerian experts in UK to build alliances and partnerships with Nigerian companies because I believe that will reduce the volume of technical work that is given to expatriates. I believe that if strong partnerships are established in core technical areas, we will be able to reduce capital flight through the oil and gas sector.
“The oil and gas industry is the highest earner for Nigeria. Unfortunately, most of the funds generated in the industry are spent outside Nigeria. So much money goes to procurement, especially of steel products. Now, if we are able to reduce the volume of money that we spend outside, it means more money will be available to spend in the country and it has a multiplier effect on the economy. So, it will grow the economy. It means that more jobs will be done in Nigeria, more employment opportunities will be created directly and ancillary businesses will also grow from there. So, it is directly and indirectly going to bring so much development to the country.”
In his address, Tafida said that encouraging technology and innovation transfer in the oil and gas sector between Nigeria-based service companies and Nigerians in Diaspora would help to save money and boost knowledge and skills in Nigeria.
The UK High Commissioner said: “Let me emphasise here that the Nigerian government’s policy thrust is anchored on the regulation of the economy and its disengagement from activities which are private-sector-oriented. The role of government now is that of a facilitator, concentrating on the provision of incentives, policy and infrastructure, necessary to enhance private sector’s role as the engine of growth.
“The emphasis here is to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to fund the transformation agenda of the government on a win-win basis. It is also meant to promote and attract value-added industrialisation, making FDI work for local economy to ensure job creation, value-chain, out-sourcing, among others.”
Tafida said he wholeheartedly supported the forum and urged potential partners to seize available opportunities and partner investors in Nigeria to set up facilities that would serve the oil and gas sector.
He said Nigeria was blessed with a large pool of human resources locally and abroad, and that the Nigerian government recognised the value of Diaspora’s engagement. Tafida said the forum had therefore provided the forum an opportunity to identify ways to engage them.
Chairman, NIDO UK North Chapter, Dr. Paul Eke, said: “My call is that the President should emulate, tap into human resources all over the Diaspora, not only in the UK. In UK North alone, we are over 90 per cent of more than two million Nigerians residing here that do have the skills, the expertise not only in engineering but in all fields of life.
“The President should learn a lesson from this, tap into this to fix most of the ailing institutions back home. There are some parastatals that are not featuring very well; they are recycling people who do not have experience and the competences are not there, while we have abundant human resources out here. We have been giving out in the respective communities where we live. We give out daily here, we run the economy, run the oil and gas, run all sectors, anything you can mention.”
Eke added: “Our statistics show that we have over 700,000 engineers alone in the UK. When you add up other professionals like medical doctors in the UK, they are about 1.3 million professionals in UK alone. The population is 2.1 million Nigerians residing here and 1.3 are professionals and about 700,000 are engineers. We are calling on the President to tap into these capital human resources.”
Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), Mr. Chike Onyejekwe, told The Guardian that the concept of the forum fits was in line with Shell’s drive for capacity development of Nigerians.
Onyejekwe said: “You see, what has happened is that most Nigerians in Diaspora do not know the opportunities back home. One of the key objectives is to get most of the Nigerian companies working in the country to partner those out here.”
General Manager, Nigerian Content Development for Shell, Mr. Igo Weli, said: “We are here to host the Global Nigerian Forum. This event is basically aimed at building a frame-work that will enable young Nigerian experts in the Diaspora to participate in Nigerian content development. So, what we are doing basically is to bring those Nigerian experts into contact with Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Nigerian service companies to form synergy. That is why we are here.
“What informed it is that for us to achieve our objectives in Nigerian content development, we need to tap all the resources we have as a country. We are all aware that all over the world, we have Nigerians in various disciplines who are actually excelling, experts doing very well. What we feel is that for us to achieve our Nigerian content objectives quicker, we need to find a way to tap into this huge resource.
“You know the Nigerian Content Act has determined targets for different work categories in the oil and gas industry. But in some of those areas, we have gaps in the country. We don’t have enough in the country’s capacity yet. But we have young Nigerians outside the country who are working in the same oil and gas industry who have this experience, who have this knowledge, who are very much versed in how to meet the global requirements. So basically what we are trying to do is to bring them in to help us achieve those objectives and close the country’s gaps as soon as possible.”
Information from The Guardian was used in this report.