There has always been talk about local content in Nigeria. In no other sector has it been mentioned than in the oil and gas sub-sector. But the Association of Consulting Engineers of Nigeria (ACEN) also called for the policy of local content in their industry. This is appropriate, seeing that the two sectors have something in common: for the oil and gas sub-sector to prosper, it needs the skills of engineers.
But then, some may wonder, what is the local content? It is simply the evading of imported skills or talents. It can also mean the development of local skills so that there is no need or little need for the foreign, the transfer of technology to local hands, the use of local manpower and manufacture. A definition of the term itself reveals how prepared Nigeria must be in order to implement the local content policy.
No business person will want to be cheated and since local engineers think that they are getting lesser attention and contracts as the case should have been, hence the need for a local content policy that will empower the average Nigerian engineer. The Nigerian oil and gas industry had it bad when manufacturing equipments, repairs, maintenance and general engineering designs were basically carried out in foreign countries. Not long ago, the need for foreign skilled engineering companies bidding through a Nigerian entity has promulgated, thereby empowering the Nigerian engineering companies.
It is the same empowerment issue that prompted the President of the association, Engineer Kunle Ogunbayo to call on the federal government to implement the local content policy last year. Looking at the pivotal role of engineering in Nigeria, he said “One of the easiest ways to empower national engineers is by making a policy and sticking to it. There is a policy that was made in this country about protecting and developing the engineering industry. I believe that policy was made in 2005 or 2006. The only problem is that it has not been implemented. That is why you are able to say that contracts are being awarded to foreign companies.
“I have no problem with you awarding a contract to a foreign firm provided you can demonstrate that there is no competent Nigerian company that can do it. The local content bill in the oil industry is actually the right step in the right direction because it would hopefully bridge that gap but we should not leave it only to the oil industry. That local content bill should now be extended to the rest of the engineering industry and that is the only way we can begin to project ourselves and ensure that we grow the capabilities that we need today in the Nigerian industry.”
In any economy, engineers are indispensable to growth and sustenance of infrastructure. Each year, as budgets are planned, much of the nation-growth policy will hinge on the skills of engineers that will construct homes, roads, technological tools and other items for the masses to utilize. If the role of engineers is so important as the president of ACEN explained, since it is needed also for the planning and development of Vision 20-2020, then the implementation and inclusion of engineers in infrastructure planning and execution of projects is indispensable as well.
Think about a situation whereby the nation can reap back most of the profit it has lost for years. At the present time, the local content policy for the oil and gas sub-sector means that many of the projects which were carried out in foreign countries will now be done in Nigeria, with local skills and tools. For the oil and gas experts, among other things, it has meant that assembling, testing and commissioning of subsea valves will be carried out in the country to ensure lower cost and for the benefit of engineers of Nigerian origin. Such advantages will prevail for experts in the consulting engineering sector outside the oil and gas sub-sector, if the local content policy is carried out in Nigeria.
If an organisation is a major promoter of the Federal Government’s local content policy, particularly in the downstream sector, and continues to do so, it will continue to perform such roles for long-term employment, training and career development of Nigerians. Of course, this may be hard in terms of lack of local skill-sets or tools, yet, the possibility of this is exemplified by some indigenous companies already taking full allegiance to further the success of the policy.
The Act and Foreign Companies
The Local Content Bill, which the current government recently passed into law has been very critical in ensuring that Nigerians are afforded the opportunity of participating in the process by way of the impact of the actual delivery process, from engineering, design to fabrication in the case of deep off-shore and allied industries.
Without the law, it would have been difficult for Nigerians to benefit from the exploration and investment opportunities in the oil sector, more so, considering the level of competition offered by foreign operators. The same obtains to other sectors where the interests of foreign companies could easily override that of a local company.