Dangote Petrochemical and Refinery has announced the return of 22 out of 50 Nigerian graduate trainees from Mumbai, India after five months of intensive training at Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited.
Technical Consultant to the President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Engineer Babajide Soyode disclosed that the initial stage operations will be handled by workers from India who will oversee the general operations, maintenance and production of the refining plant while a middle-class manpower will be attached to them.
The implication on Nigeria’s labour force
It is not uncommon to see multinationals bring expatriates into the country to do jobs that can be sourced locally. How do you explain a situation where a multi-national brings in an expatriate to drive industrial cranes when we have many Nigerian youths and professionals with such skills?
Most construction sites in Lagos have been overtaken by foreigners while indigenous contractors are left to watch from the sidelines. Projects including road construction, power plant projects, rail projects and even construction of A-3 block classroom are most times handled by Chinese contractors. Most times, youths with employable skills and professionals have had to compete and battle with foreigners for jobs-which are not readily available in the country and often, the foreigners are usually given preference.
The 650,000 capacity Dangote refinery initially brought some Chinese workers to manage the construction and technical running of the refinery which is billed to commence operation next year. The petrochemical industry has once again announced that the refinery will be managed by Indians. Bad news for indigenous professionals, right?
Is it that Nigeria has a shortage of brilliant home-grown professionals with a proven track record who can manage the running of the refinery? Why do we have to bring expatriates into the country when we have home-grown professionals in such field? When will millions of Nigerian youth who roam the street daily searching for jobs find a place to put their skills to use?
Is the Government doing enough?
Unemployment rate in Nigeria has continued to increase with no hope of slowing down soon, figures from the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show the unemployment rate increased from 14.2 percent in the fourth quarter 2016 to 16.2 percent in second quarter 2017 and 18.8 percent in the third quarter, 2017. This should be a source of worry to any serious and responsible government.
A regulatory act known as the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act was passed into law in 2010.The Act seeks to build the capacity of indigenous firms and provide more opportunities for participation in business in the oil and gas industry. This is expected to reduce the level of unemployment for youths living in the restive region of the oil-rich Niger-Delta and also across the country.
The rationale behind this policy is to ensure that substantial portion of the activities in the sector is carried out by Nigerian companies and Nigerian workers. All these have been jettisoned by many multinationals, surprisingly, many government agencies are also guilty of this.
The Nigerian Government has set a minimum local content target of 75% for all works and contracts to be undertaken in or on behalf of all oil and gas companies operating in the country but unfortunately, this has not been adhered to by many companies.
The government needs to closely monitor the implementation of this policy to ensure its efficacy towards increasing economic development. The Local content Monitoring Board which is saddled with the responsibility to manage and coordinate the implementation of such action has gone to sleep.
It is heartwarming that the President Buhari has signed an executive order prohibiting visas for some foreign workers whose skills are readily available in the country. This order aimed at improving the local content in public procurement with science, engineering, and technology components.
Speaking of the Executive order, Presidential Spokesman Garba Shehu said
“The executive order prohibits the Ministry of the interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria. Consideration shall only be given to a foreign professional where it is certified by the appropriate authority that such expertise is not available in the country.”
The statement also added that the president also directed Ministries, Department, and Agencies (MDAs) to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design, and execution of National security projects.
Maximizing the local content initiative is not only politically sensible but it makes good business sense. The government must ensure full implementation of this executive order and monitor compliance with the local content policy by private and government agencies.