The Ijaw Professional Association (IPA) has tasked the management of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) on the sustainable development of the rich but poor Niger Delta region, especially the Ijaw oil and gas bearing communities.
While commending the NCDMB for scaling up the overall Nigerian content in the oil and gas space since its set up in 2010, the association maintained that the Ijaw people have not felt the practical impact of the Nigerian content legislation that gave birth to the board in the first place.
The President of IPA, Home Land Chapter, Mr. Iniruo Wills stated this in an address he presented when he led a delegation of IPA members on a working visit to the Executive Secretary of the board, Mr. Simbi Wabote at NCDMB Corporate Headquarter, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Describing the visit as a significant moment to forge and harness the kind of constructive relationship it seek to foster with the NCDMB, the IPA said it was poised to engage with the management of the board and to explore co-operation towards achieving maximum mutual socio-economic impact.
Wills who was at various times the Commissioner of Information and Culture as well as Environment in Bayelsa State stated that it was time to move what he called “rusty relationship” between our communities and big oil into a better one in the years ahead.
His words: “It is time to move from lip service and tokenism to concrete undeniable impact. The NCDMB by its statutory DNA could play a huge role in realizing this responsibility. While this is a synergy that should happen even on its own merits, IPA’s personal history with the incumbent Executive Secretary and his predecessor (Amagbe Kentebe, IPA’s esteemed pioneer National President) is added reason to build and harness the synergy. We are proud that these two Nigerian professionals of the finest breed globally are from the Ijaw stable”.
According to him, IPA recognized that NCDMB is one of the most significant institutions for the potential transformation of our country, Nigeria, through the positioning of Nigerians on the driver’s seat in every aspect of the petroleum industry, domestication of the full spectrum of the industry’s value chain over time and, consequently, the overdue activation of the industry as a lead driver for national economic diversification and industrialization.
He hailed the strides the board has made since it was established even as it congratulated it on the biggest flagship of Nigerian content success so far, the Egina FPSO vessel that berthed in Lagos a few days ago for integration works before it will sail for its deep water operations.
“Your proposed Pipeline Mill at Polaku and Oil and Gas Park in Elebele also offer sparks of hope. The Ijaw people and communities with other petroleum producing communities of the Niger Delta region, being the hosts of the industry, should count amongst the first and biggest beneficiaries of the transformational mandate of NCDMB and of other institutions and activities of the petroleum sector. Very sadly, this has not been the case, despite a sprinkling of Ijaw individuals who have accomplished themselves in both public and private spheres of the petroleum industry, and occasional projects here and there. The truth is that the Ijaw people, whether as professionals or as business people or as geographical communities, are still not sitting at the petroleum industry’s table in any collective sense, and need to be brought in”, he said.
He argued that this historical and continuing sectoral exclusion has effectively excluded the Ijaws collectively from meaningful participation in most other economic sectors (maritime, infrastructure, utilities, finance, manufacturing, advisory services) that have directly or indirectly been bankrolled from the proceeds of petroleum resources extracted from our communities.
“This is not acceptable”, he declared.
The IPA President argued that what would accelerate national economic development, foster a conducive industrial climate and sustain a sense of inclusion for the Ijaw people and other host communities in the Niger Delta was a deliberate and comprehensive integration of our communities, professionals and business people, mostly MSMEs.
While expressing full confidence in the capabilities of the management of NCDMB led by Wabote, he charged the board with some specific expectations of the IPA and the oil producing Ijaw and larger Niger Delta areas.
These include community content guidelines; artisanal refining; indigenous environmental remediation capacity; training and engagement of local manpower; and advisory and professional services.
Others are Nigerian Content Intervention Fund and Local MSMEs; Nigerian Petroleum Exchange (NIPEX); corporate social responsibility and impact; mandatory project offices/relocation of head offices to host areas; and the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum.
While urging NCDMB and other regulatory authorities to continuously review the NIPEX criteria and processes in line with the current Federal Government progressive ease of doing business policy, the IPA Home Land President said the association cannot in good conscience ask for the lowering of standards to below minimum quality levels.
According to him, it was imperative for NCDMB to act as an accelerator, working with competent service providers, to close the NIPEX awareness and compliance gap for businesses and service firms in our historically disadvantaged communities and region. Otherwise, they will not have a foot in the door, let alone be in the deal room. The annual Practical Nigerian Content Conference hosted by NCDMB, which so far appears to have largely left small and micro players in the region out of the loop, can be one of numerous platforms for achieving this.
He enjoined NCDMB to develop metrics for ensuring that even our home-based firms that secure lucrative jobs in the industry devote reasonable parts of the proceeds for scaling up institutional capacity and actually create sustainable and verifiable jobs.
“There is no point in building and growing only a handful of individual indigenous giants who monopolize all opportunities while millions of other indigenes remain jobless dwarfs. NCDMB, NDDC and NIMASA are examples of that class. Where many such institutions have failed and are still failing woefully in the Niger Delta, we expect NCDMB to rise to the challenge. The Oloibiri and Otuabagi communities that gave first oil to Nigeria are a festering open sore on the conscience of the entire petroleum policy-industrial complex, which NCDMB is now wittingly or unwittingly the most proximate symbol of”, he added.
The IPA which has its secretariat in Lagos and the Rivers State capital, Port Harcourt, is an umbrella body of professionals of Ijaw extraction committed to enhancing their collective and individual capacities and competitiveness.
It is also committed to pressing for the sustainable development of Ijaw communities. These communities stretch from the Eastern Obolo axis of Akwa Ibom State, through substantial parts of Rivers, virtually all of Bayelsa, and mostly the coastal parts of Delta, Edo and Ondo States.