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Sylva in Petroleum Ministry: Boom time for Local Content development

Sylva in Petroleum Ministry: Boom time for Local Content development

By Idowu Bankole

When the list of the Ministers and their portfolios in President Muhammadu Buhari’s second cabinet was released in August 2019, one of the names that was greeted with wild jubilation in the Niger Delta in general and Ijaw land in particular was that of former Governor of Bayelsa State and the leader of the APC in that State, Chief Timipreye Sylva.

Sylva’s appointment was celebrated because apart from the beauty of watching his Phoenix-like rise from the political ashes of Bayelsa and Nigeria Politics, his appointment as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources underscores President Buhari’s commitment to integrate all segment of the Nigerian nation into a united nation in the pursuit of peace, prosperity and progress of the greatest number of Nigerians.  The Minister himself alluded to this point in his vote of thanks during a reception help in his honour in Abuja on August 21, when while thanking President Buhari, he said that his appointment was not just a honour done personally to him but to Bayelsa State and the entire of Ijaw nation.

The Minister has already hit the ground running as he resumed duties the next day August 22 to meet with the staff of the Ministry where he pledged to reposition the ministry and chart a way forward for the Nigerian petroleum sector.

Sylva came to the job with years of experience in both the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry and the Niger Delta region where a vast majority of the country’s oil is mined. Having once served as the Senior Special Assistant to the then Minister of State for Energy, Petroleum Resources, Dr Edmund Daukoru, between July 2005 and May 2007 before moving to serve as the Governor of Bayelsa State at the height of militancy in the Niger Delta, the new minister has a good grasp of the terrain. It has been often said that he is the architect of the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty Program an idea he sold to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which restored a semblance of peace in the Niger Delta at a time that insurgency has disrupted the nation’s Oil production leading to a marked decline in our national earnings which are mostly dependent on Petroleum. Therefore there is no gainsaying that President Buhari hit the bull’s eye at the right time with this appointment.

Nonetheless as the Minister commences his duties in full, the need for him to chart a new course for the Ministry that would make the nation self-sufficient in the production and refining of its petroleum Resources cannot be overstated. One viable means of achieving this goal as well as the general development of the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector is the vigorous pursuit of the country’s Local Content Policy.

So far the agency saddled with the responsibility for implementing Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act of 2010, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) is doing a great job in that regard. Under its current Executive Secretary, the energetic Simbi Wabote, the NCDMB has recorded tremendous strides making it one of the most effective and distinguished government agencies in the country. Under Wabote’s steady hand the Board has recorded huge successes in the pursuit of its core mandate in terms of the retention of huge foreign exchange of investment capacity in-country, attraction of new FDIs in the Oil and Gas Industry, Promotion of indigenous ownership of equipment used in industry operations; Promotion of local manufacturing of Oil and Gas Components; Giving first consideration to Nigerian indigenous companies; Ensuring that Nigerian Content targets are met for projects and operations; Creating and Utilizing training and employment opportunities for indigenes; Establishment of the $200 million Nigerian Content Development Fund (NCIFund) for targeted capacity building; Ensuring that local capacity investors have work to amortize investments,  involvement of oil producing communities in the activities of the sector among others.

Another landmark innovations and initiatives of the Board under the Bayelsa born NCDMB boss is the Nigerian Oil and Gas Park Scheme. Already work has commenced in the Parks in Odukpani in Cross River State and the one in Bayelsa that was inaugurated by Sylva’s predecessor Dr Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu last year, located at Emeyal 1 in Ogbia Local Government Area of the State.

The Board has also pursued a deliberate policy of acquisition of equity stake in Modular Refineries as a means of accelerating their development and supporting the President Buhari government’s drive for economic development through the local production of petroleum products. Azikel Modular Refinery located at Obunagha in Yenagoa local government area is the latest of the Modular refineries the Board has invested in to speed up their kick off.

Given the great work the NCDMB is doing, Sylva’s appointment as Nigeria’s new Minister of State for Petroleum Resources offers the Country’s drive for Local Content development many great opportunities.

One of the opportunities offered by Sylva’s appointment is the unique position it places him to use the NCDMB which is coincidentally headed by another great Bayelsa to pursue to successfully facilitate the kick-off of projects like the Brass Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Brass Fertilizer and Petrochemicals, Hyundai Shipyard as well as attract other fabrication facilities to the Niger Delta region.  These projects would not only create jobs for the teeming youths of the region, especially the ones that are often restive, they would also increase the revenue base and economic development of the country as a whole.

There is high expectation among the Ijaw Nation (and understandably so) that the Minister and the Executive Secretary would consciously collaborate to attract pipeline firms, cable producers and other producers of Oil and Gas inputs to Bayelsa and the Niger Delta in general.

Another vital area they can work on is the promotion of host community content through the initiation and effective follow up on a new Petroleum Industry Bill that create the proper legal framework to attract new investments in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

Bayelsa and indeed the Ijaw nation are lucky to have two sons working together for national development. The pre-existing good working relationship between them has to be sustained, as it is vital for the attainment of the country’s Local Content development goals and overall development of Bayelsa State and the Niger Delta region.

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