03 September 2016, Sweetcrude, Abuja – Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Local Content Hon. Emmanuel Ekon has charged that some international oil and gas companies (IOCs) operating in the country still find it hard to adjust to the changing environment presented by the Local Content Act of 2010, even as he said the law is affording Nigerians employment opportunities in the oil and gas industry.
Ekon, who spoke in an interview with journalists in Abuja, noted that some of the international oil and gas companies were yet to come to terms with the fact with some changes in the contracting system in the industry as it portends to the Local Content Act.
He said, “Some of the IOCs have been in the country for over five decades, some, more than that operating within this sector and have done things in the same way for that period of time and this law is barely six years old. It was passed in 2010 so you don’t expect these companies to just wake up overnight and adhere to this law a hundred percent.”
According to him, in spite of some infringements, the Local Content Act has been relatively successful, adding that a lot has happened within the sector between 2010 and date.
He said, “So many Nigerians will agree with me that prior to the passage of this bill just about everything including feeding, catering services in offshore platforms were basically done by foreigners. Even the water some Nigerians were drinking, Escravos and offshore were supplied by foreigners up to the janitorial services. Most of those jobs were outsourced to foreign companies.
“But today, it is relatively different and a lot has happened. So many Nigerians have had opportunities to work within the oil and gas industry, provide services, capacities have been built, and a lot of Nigerians have undertaken jobs that were hitherto done by the so-called expatriates. I will say we have made tremendous progress between 2010 and now.”
Ekon commended former President Jonathan who signed the bill into law, noting that, “if he did not do it, we would have remained in the same situation where just about everything within the oil and gas sector were done by foreigners but he saw the importance and signed that bill into law and today, we have witnessed changes in that regard.”
He added, “Now, the question is how far we have gone. Can I sit down here and say we have achieved much? Well, we have achieved so much but can I say that we attained the maximum level of achievement that we are supposed to achieve? Well, the answer is no. We still have a lot to do in the oil and gas sector to get our Nigerian people properly situated in that sector.
“We are still fighting the expatriate quota because companies have continued to bring in foreigners that ordinarily are not supposed to come and work in that sector even after the law was passed and this violates that law.”
According to the legislator, skilled crafts like plumbing, welding, painting and others are jobs that should be done by Nigerians but it is still very common that companies are still bringing people from other countries to come and weld, paint and refer to them as expatriates.
“That was the issue we had with Samsung. The committee visited Samsung in Lagos and what we saw there was a complete departure from what the law says. A complete violation of the Local Content Act.
“That is why we are still fighting today and I believe that as a committee, we will fight this battle to a logical end. We will make sure, by the grace of God, that the Nigeria Immigration Services depots all those people that are brought into this country to work as welders and feeders in fabrication yards all over the country. That is where we are presently,” he added.
He noted that “Even with the expatriate quota, it is Nigerians that connive with foreign companies to help them to bring in these people. It is the Nigerian people that advice the companies not to go through the Local Content Board by telling them “just give us something and we will go to the ministry of interior direct and get you an expatriate quota” whereas it’s not meant to be so.
“The law is very explicit. It says before you do any business within the oil and gas sector in Nigeria, you are supposed to get an approval from the Local Content Monitoring and Development Board to get an approval that you will take to the Ministry of Interior to get your expatriate quota.
“But what we observed recently is that people just go straight to the ministry because they have their links, people who help them get expatriate quotas and then when you ask the IOC, they tell you they are not in violation because we have our expatriate quota, work permit renewal, extension and all that. That is not what the Act says.”