NATONY, an indigenous construction firm and one of the major contractors to SPDC was recently awarded the contract for NIS/ISO certificate. In this interview with Godwin Oritse, NATONY’s Chief Executive, Mr. Nath Agbonifo said that the ISO certification has opened the organisation to limitless opportunities in the Oil and Gas industry.
What is NATONY all about?
NATONY is a construction company, an indigenous construction company, that is what NATONY is about.
Which sector of the economy is NATONY involved in?
Natony is very much involved in up- stream sector of the Oil and Gas sector of the economy.
How long have you been operating in this sector?
More than 25 years
Your company has been awarded the NIS/ ISO certificate, what does this mean to you?
For me it is a great achievement and it means that we can now compete with even foreign firms , because what the oil companies did is to publish in some national dailies that any company that do not have ISO certificate cannot bid for certain jobs.
With the acquisition of this certificate we can now bid for any job that is advertised by any oil company .Because we do not have any other job, so we commenced the process of the ISO certification not minding the cost. That is what we did.
What is next after the ISO certification?
The next thing is that we will be able to compete any day, there will be no limitations, nobody can limit us because we are not qualified, this means that we can compete with any other company.
You have been in the Oil and gas industry for some time, do you think that the industry is developed enough to the benefit of Nigerians?
I will say no, because the foreigners are still in control of happenings in the industry.
Nigeria as a country has not done much in developing the oil and gas sector to the benefit of Nigerians.
What can be done for Nigerians to take control of the industry?
It is for the government to trust indigenous contractors, the government does not trust indigenous contractors, that is why most of the big construction works are given to foreigners.
The funny aspect of the whole thing is that the foreigners get the contracts but they use Nigerian technicians and skilled men to execute these contracts.
The government is not sincere when it comes to the issue of patronage of local contractors, the government awards contracts to people who do not even have any office and some of these people are not even in business.
But people like us who are established and with a good track record should be considered when construction jobs are being considered for award.
If the government wants to build a bridge or construct any road, they look for established indigenous companies to engage for that purpose, but instead of doing that, they will rather give these contracts to their friends who either abandon these jobs or do haphazard jobs, so how can we develop.
I have never been to the government to look for jobs because I know the kind of game they play. I cannot compromise my faith in Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you think indigenous construction firms have capacity to take on major construction contracts in Nigeria?
I tell you yes, 100 percent, if you take a look at Nigerians who are into construction, there is nothing we cannot do.
Take Julius Berger as a case study, if you give a job for say N10billion, and you mobilise with say 30 percent of that sum, I will buy the best equipment in the world to execute that job that is exactly what Berger is doing.
So if they empower Nigerian firms and give these major jobs to Nigerian firms who are already established and they give mobilisation like they give the foreigners because you already have a name, you are already in business, you would not collect the money and run away.
I have a contract that I am running now for Shell; I have gone to buy the equipment I need to do the job because Shell has confidence that we can do it that was why they gave us the job.
So the government can grow if they truly want Nigerians to grow.
Before now, NATONY was known to be one of the major contractors with Shell; will this ISO certification move you up in any way from the current category to a higher one?
There is a group of the first 60 contractors with Shell and NATONY falls into that group, but for us to forge ahead and do whatever you need to do and do it well, with what we have learnt from the experience of the ISO certification, I think any job we go for now must be worth it.
For example, there is this job offered five contractors including NATONY and all of us were asked to mobilise to site. We are the only indigenous contractor amongst them and we are the first to move to site and Shell congratulated us for this.
When I started contract in Shell in 1980s, I was a minor contractor and any contract that was more than N5,000.00 was not given to people like us ,but even with that we were able to grow to where we are today. Today, there is no job that is too high for us to bid for.
We hear NATONY turns down some jobs that come their way how true is this?
We have not turned any job except for a company that called us to come and work for them, we tendered, they gave us the contract but by time they were giving us the letter of offer they doubled the sum on the contract we propose in our bid.
How do you mean the /contract sum was doubled?
For example, I bided for a job at the sum of N10million and when the offer letter came it was raised to N20million and I told them I could not accept such a job, and I wrote them officially to tell them I was sorry I could not take such job.
Why did you do that?
I am a Christian; I became a Christian when I was 21 years. I became a Christian before I became a businessman, so the issue is not money, money will not take you anywhere, how much money do you require that will make you compromise? I cannot compromise by God’s grace.
Where will NATONY be in the next five or ten years?
In the next five to ten years, NATONY would have joined the big league of contractors in Nigeria, we would have been separated from contractors that will be scrambling for small jobs.
We will be doing special jobs. There are two contracts we are currently bidding for, God helping us, if we are able to get any of them, I think we will leave all these minor jobs.