[EXCLUSIVE] Why we constructed Nigerian Content Tower – Simbi Wabote, NCDMB boss
“We can surmount our developmental challenges in the Niger Delta and in Nigeria if we have the right leadership and mindset.”
In this exclusive interview with GbaramatuVoice, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), speaks on the sustainable steps the organization is taking to develop and sustain growth of local content in Nigeria. He also used the opportunity to highlight his achievements in the office, Niger Delta and other sundry issues.
GbaramatuVoice: For the benefits of our teaming readers, we would like you to give a brief introduction of yourself.
Wabote: My name is Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote. I’m a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and the Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS). I hold a Masters Degree in Corporate Governance from Leeds Metropolitan University and a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) Degree in Civil Engineering from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. Prior to being appointed as Executive Secretary of NCDMB by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, I was Executive Director in Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited; a company I had put in over 26 years of service. As you know, I am married with family. I relax by playing golf and reading books.
GbaramatuVoice: Sir, kindly comment also on your endeavors, achievements and success stories prior to your appointment as the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
Wabote: As I mentioned earlier, before my appointment by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari in September 2016, I had worked in Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Limited for over 26 years. During this period, I held several leadership roles and functioned in different capacities, including as Executive Director; General Manager Local Content; General Manager, Business & Government Relations. I also served in other roles spanning engineering, operations, procurement and strategic local content development.
My job took me to various countries including but not limited to Gabon, Brunei, Oman, Kazakhstan, Australia, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, USA, and United Arab Emirates. I also worked briefly with the defunct All States Trust Bank. One of my landmark achievements was the construction of the Osubi Airport in Warri Delta State where I was the project manager in charge of the airport construction from conception to what you have there today.
GbaramatuVoice: Looking at this magnificent corporate headquarters that currently houses Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), and constructed by your administration, it is evident that you have achieved a resounding feat in this direction. We would like to ask what informed such vision and burning desire to build such a gigantic edifice in Bayelsa state with marshy topography, where people had earlier argued that erecting such will be impossible?
Wabote: The motivation to construct the iconic Nigerian Content Tower, the NCDMB 1000-seater conference hall, and other adjourning facilities was based on several reasons. First, we wanted to provide a world-class office environment where the staff of the Board would work comfortably and deliver on the important work we are doing for the oil and gas industry and the entire country. As part of our mandate as enshrined in the Nigerian Content Act, we have a responsibility to promote Nigerian Content. Because of this, we organize conferences, workshops and seminars regularly on Local Content development and Oil and Gas generally. For this reason, it was important for us to develop a conference facility that will surpass any venue you will get in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
Secondly, we also needed to erect a facility that will meet the international standards and expectations of the oil and gas industry and give them comfort whenever we invite them for meetings and other engagements. Today, when you step into our headquarters, the ambiance is comparable to what you get in any top organization in Nigeria, the United States or any part of Europe.
Thirdly, the Nigerian Content Tower was conceived to make a strong statement; to show that Local Content and local service companies have come of age in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. That was why we insisted that it would be designed by a local architectural firm – Popham Walter Odusote and constructed by an indigenous contractor, Megastar Technical and Construction Company (MTCC).
Finally, we wanted to make the point that the building is proof of sound leadership, continuity of policy and prudent management of resources. The building was conceived by the pioneer Executive Secretary, Engr. Ernest Nwapa, when former President Goodluck Jonathan was in office. However, it was fully executed and completed under my leadership, under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. That is how the development of a nation should be.
Today, everybody agrees that the Nigerian Content Tower has changed the aesthetics of Yenagoa and indeed Bayelsa state. The building serves as a beacon of hope to all lovers of development and is proof that we can surmount our developmental challenges in the Niger Delta and in Nigeria if we have the right leadership and mindset. We used the project to create thousands of jobs, to create Nigerian Content records during construction and to show that NCDMB practices what it preaches.
GbaramatuVoice: Again, at the 5th Value chain Magazine annual lecture and awards held recently in Abuja, you among other things noted that $8 billion is saved annually because of Nigerian Local Content Law. Niger Deltans and of course Nigerians as a whole would like you to throw more light on this remarkable achievement.
Wabote: The annual estimated spend/budget of the Nigerian oil and gas industry is $20bn. Before the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, almost the totality of this amount used to leave the country because key activities of the industry were executed overseas.
But with the implementation of the Act, we have catalyzed the development of critical capacities and assets by local oil and gas service companies and encouraged domiciliation and domestication of industry operations. This has resulted in the local service industry now being able to retain more than $8 billion of the annual industry spend/budget every year.
We could retain this amount because critical industry work is now being executed at the two world-class pipe mills and the five impressive pipe coating yards that have been established in Nigeria. Similarly, local firms are now able to fabricate more than 250,000 tonnes of steel per year, Nigerians now own more than 40 percent of marine vessels used in the oil and gas industry and several other aspects of the industry are now being done locally by Nigerian companies, using indigenous personnel.
Our achievements also include the creation of over 50,000 direct jobs in the local economy over the past 12 years. We are very proud that the level of Nigerian content in the oil industry which hovered around five percent before the enactment of the NOGICD Act in 2010 has now increased to 46 percent as of December 2021.
It may interest you to know that in 2017, we launched the Nigerian Content 10-Year Strategic Roadmap with the target of 70 percent Nigerian Content by 2027.
To achieve this, we hope to catalyze the creation of 300, 000 direct jobs in the oil and gas industry and the linkage sectors, enable the retention of $13bn out of the estimated annual $20bn spend in the oil and gas industry and establish major fabrication yards and manufacturing hubs in-country. This is quite a daunting and ambitious target, but we are determined to achieve it.
GbaramatuVoice: You also made mention of the fact that the implementation of the Act has spurred the establishment of several important oil and gas plants and facilities, including two world-class pipe mills and five modern pipe coating plants, and have helped to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on imported foreign pipes or coated pipes in the industry. How will these developments impact positively on the oil/gas bearing communities and unemployed youths in the Niger Delta region?
Kesiye Wabote The projects we are developing are meant to meet critical needs of the oil and gas industry, solve infrastructural needs and create employment opportunities for thousands of Nigerian youths, including those from the Niger Delta. We are developing some of the projects directly as well as partnering with investors to bring others to fruition. Most of our projects are in the Niger Delta region. They include but not limited to: Nigerian Oil and Gas Park in Emeyal 1, Ogbia, Bayelsa State, Hydroskimming Modular Refinery at Obunagha, Gbarain, Bayelsa state in partnership with Azikel Petroleum & Refinery Company, Bunorr Integrated Base Oil Company at Omagwa, Rivers State
Waltersmith Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited at Ibigwe, Imo State Nedo Gas Plant and the Kwale Gas Gathering Plant, both at Ndokwa West, Delta State Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemical Project which Final Investment Decision (FID) was recently taken in partnership with NNPC and other core investors. The Composite Gas Cylinder Manufacturing Facility at Polaku, Yenagoa, Bayelsa State which should be ready in Q4 2021, Development of the Oloibiri Museum and Research Center (OMRC) in partnership with the PTDF, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Bayelsa State Government, Nigerian Oil and Gas Park in Odukpani, Cross River State, Nigerian Oil and Gas Park in Onna, Akwa Ibom State, Upgrade of Technical College in Abak, Akwa Ibom State, Upgrade of Oil and Gas Training Center in Port Harcourt, in partnership with PTDF and ANOH Gas Limited. Some of these projects have been completed and are already employing young Nigerians. Others are at different stages of construction and currently employing Nigerians during this construction stage.
GbaramatuVoice: Indeed, you have changed the narrative and brought hope to the people of the Niger Delta region. But, we would like to ask: what effort are you making to ensure that these achievements not only outlive your administration but become a sustainable kind of arrangement?
Wabote: In terms of sustainability, we have very good plan in place and no project is tied to a staff or management staff. The first point to note is that some of our projects were originated by third party investors, while the NCDMB serves as catalyst and equity investor. Projects like the modular refineries, gas cylinder manufacturing plants, Eraskon Lube plant and other gas-based projects are being championed by private investors and they are eager to see to the continued success of their projects.
We got involved in them because we are actualizing the Federal Government’s policy direction to develop those initiatives and we plan to exit from their management when they become successful and accomplish Government’s mandate. We carried out due diligence before we agreed to partner on those projects, and we serve on their Board of Directors to guard against any misadventure.
Another important factor is that many of our projects have been completed and others are nearing the commissioning stage. The Waltersmith modular refinery has been operational since 2020; Duport is ready for operations and NEDO Gas Plant and the Kwale Gas Gathering Plant are both operational. Our Oil and Gas Parks in Bayelsa and Cross River state will also be commissioned in early 2023. In fact, we have started inviting investors to take spaces in the facilities.
I also like to point out that many projects of the Board like the NOGAPS and the Headquarters building started before my appointment, and they have continued during my time. We have a strong policy of continuity in NCDMB, and I am confident that any outstanding project will continue after my tenure because of the quality of staff we have and the policy framework in place.
The last point to note is that all these projects are part and parcel of the Nigerian Content 10-Year Strategic Roadmap, which has been embraced by the organisation and the industry. I have no doubt that the staff of the Board would like to accomplish the targets of the Roadmap and any Executive Secretary that comes after me will also see the benefit in that.
GbaramatuVoice: For the sake of clarity, is there any relationship between Local Content Act and Petroleum Industry Act (PIA)?
Wabote: Yes. The Petroleum Industry Act reinforced the Local Content imperative in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry. It also encourages greater participation of Nigerians in the Oil & Gas industry. The PIA states in section 2 (e) that its objective is to among other things deepen local content practice in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. In section 79 (2) (g), the PIA makes it mandatory that a licensee that makes a commercial discovery of crude oil, shall within two years submit several documents to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), including an approved Nigerian Content Plan pursuant to the NOGICD Act. The PIA also makes it mandatory in section 252 (f) that Host Communities Fund must among other conditions conform to the Nigerian Content requirements provided in the NOGICD Act.
GbaramatuVoice: If given the opportunity, what areas/parts of the Local Content Act would you call for its amendment to help achieve greater efficiency in operation?
Wabote: There is no perfect legislation, and we are proud of the huge successes we have recorded with the implementation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act. In terms of amending the NOGICD Act 2010, we are partnering with the two arms of the National Assembly in this regard. The amendment Bill has scaled the second reading at the Senate and is equally progressing at the House of Representatives. The intention of the amendment is to: Pay more attention to the midstream and downstream activities. Provide incentives for investment in facilities for processing hydrocarbon resources into petroleum derivatives and domestic gas utilisation. Promote development of local capacity for construction, repairs and maintenance of refinery and gas processing units. Insert new targets in the Schedule to the Act based on available capacity. Expand NCDMB functions to cover scope of Executive orders 003 and 005 as it relates to oil and gas industry and Encourage service companies to invest in Research and Development to reduce continuous reliance on foreign technology. However, all the above issues have been adequately addressed by the Ministerial Regulations that was signed and gazetted in 2021 so no urgent need to amend the Act for now.
GbaramatuVoice: What message do you have for the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta region as a whole?
Wabote: We would like stakeholders in the Niger Delta region to appreciate that NCDMB has catalyzed several projects to reduce capital flight, drive infrastructural development, and community development. NCDMB’s interventions are transforming the Niger Delta region into a haven for oil and gas activities, value addition and are creating an industrial base. We are creating derivatives and linkages with the oil industry and helping to create opportunities for employment and economic advancement in the polity.
Therefore, we enjoin State Governments in the region, host communities and other stakeholders to support investors and companies in their domain and refrain from burdening the companies with onerous demands, so they can thrive sustainably. The youths should create a conducive environment for businesses and refrain from acts that could scare away investors from the region. Our people should strive to attract and retain investments that would create employment and impact the economy of our communities and the nation. We should always forge a common front and focus on big developments that would improve our lives and that of other members of our community.
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