Lagos — People who see the just-commissioned Nigerian Content Tower, the headquarters of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in Yenagoa, and regard it as a mere building are gravely mistaken. Those who simply desire it as an architectural masterpiece or hail it as a landmark miss the point. The 17-storey Nigerian Content Tower is more than all these – it is an ode to hope, a testament to resilience and self reliance and a vindication of an idea whose time has come. Not even COVID-19 could stop President Muhammadu Buhari from commissioning this landmark, the tallest Federal Government structure east of the Niger. Yes, he did so virtually, all the way from Abuja, but who cares – we saw him, we saw the building and we saw history being made. The commissioning, on 13th August 2020, was unique. The President led the Abuja audience while the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Wabote hosted the Yenagoa audience with live television coverage offering a real-time window for national and international viewers.
The structure merited all the distinguished and varied attention. It stands at 70 meters, with the main building occupying a ground floor area equivalent to four football fields. Among the features are a 1,000-seater conference centre, multi-level car park and a 10MW power plant. The NCDMB teamed up with the Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) Joint Venture to construct the gas-fired plant for steady power supply to the building. Nigerian architects designed and supervised the construction, while a firm based in the Niger Delta, Mega Star Technical and Construction Company, and many indigenous sub-contractors providing goods and services. The materials used is 76% Nigerian content with the tiles, electrical cables, granite, and many other materials produced in Nigeria. The manpower deployed for services and labour is also over 95% Nigerian content, with valuable skills on the construction of a high-rise structure transferred to the local workforce. Work on the site commenced late 2015 and the contractors worked tirelessly but safely to deliver a world-class project.
A virtual tour opened up the building for detailed appreciation by guests. Watching and speaking from Abuja, President Buhari described the commissioning of the building as a “birthday gift” to the NCDMB, in apparent reference to the signing of the Local Content Act and the establishment of the agency in April 2010. He said: “I believe strongly in local production and patronage of our goods and services as one of the surest ways to empower our citizens and give them viable opportunities to excel in their chosen professions and business endeavours. That is why two of the Executive Orders issued under our government are related to enforcing local content in public procurement and contracts to further replicate the successes being realised in the oil and gas industry.” He added: “We all know the fact that poverty knows no tribe or religion, we must therefore muster all resources and align all policies, projects and programmes to ensure that we lift millions of our people out of poverty.”
For Chief Sylva, the construction of the NCDMB headquarters was a reminder of the role he played in the set up of the agency in Yenagoa. He was the Governor of Bayelsa State when the NCDMB was created in 2010, and he welcomed the agency and its first Executive Secretary, Engr Ernest Nwapa to Yenagoa, providing the seed infrastructure as they settled down. Now, as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Sylva confirmed his place in history as he commissioned the building on behalf of the President. He said: “The commissioning of this building is symbolic in many ways: It shows that Mr. President is keen to see infrastructural development in every part of the country; It shows that skyscrapers and other laudable infrastructures can be built in the Niger Delta; It shows that indigenous contractors can perform wonders when given the right opportunities; It shows that the people of Bayelsa and indeed the entire Niger Delta are receptive to development; and it shows that Nigerian content is here to stay.” He linked the provision of the gas-fired power plant in the Nigerian Content Tower with the Federal Government’s declaration of 2020 as the Year of Gas: “Throughout 2020 and beyond, our focus on gas development will be significant: from export gas to domestic gas, from LPG to CNG to mini-LNG, from power to fertiliser, we will devote our energy to unlock the gas below the ground and eliminate the wastage at the flares. I call on local and international investors to join us in these efforts for the benefit of all.”
Engr. Wabote, the third Executive Secretary of the NCDMB, said the construction of the building showed prudent management of resources. He said: “The law provides that 1% of the value of all contracts awarded in the upstream sector is paid into the Nigerian Content Development Fund. This project represents evidence of the prudent management of the Fund. We are also deploying the Fund to execute other projects and for other income yielding ventures to ensure sustainability. We are proud of the end-to-end thinking that went into the design and execution of this project which is typical of what we do in the NCDMB.”
The best way to appreciate the Nigerian Content Tower is to situate it within the dreams and hopes ignited on April 22, 2010, the day the Nigerian Content Act was signed into law. The idea behind the move was to address over 50 years of capital flight of some $380 million, 2 million job losses and less than 5% in-country value addition in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria. Today, the NCDMB has achieved 30% Nigerian content in the oil and gas industry, which has seen indigenous and marginal producers accounting for some 15% of Nigeria’s crude oil production and providing about 53% of domestic gas supplies. The plan is to increase Nigerian content in the industry to 70% by 2027 through the implementation of a 10-year strategic roadmap. This will be an even more remarkable Nigerian content tower of testimonies.