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Disquiet in oil & gas, IT, construction sectors over expatriate certification policy

Anxiety, apprehension and confusion can best be used to describe the scenarios now playing out in several companies dominated by expatriates after the announcement by the federal government on Wednesday that it has approved a new policy which stipulates that “for any foreign professionals to practice in Nigeria, they have to be registered and certified by all the necessary regulatory bodies henceforth”.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who made the revelation after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, explained further that “We agreed that from now on, any person who wants to practice any profession that has anything to do with science, engineering and technology, medical doctors, accountants, quantity surveyors just to mention but a few, that first they have to be certified by appropriate regulatory bodies in Nigeria.”

The Minister said FEC in its deliberations approved policy that will help to change the direction that will be taken as a nation, a direction that will be very useful in helping to start looking inwards to produce the things that the country needs as against depending on outside to import our requirements.

Before now, there had been running battles in several sectors where Nigerian better qualified and well certified professionals were sidelined or shortchanged with foreign workers who have poor expertise to do the jobs.

Mostly affected sectors include the oil and gas, telecoms, road construction and others.

In some cases, there are confirmed reports of even foreigners who were brought in and trained by Nigerian professionals but they were later promoted to become bosses to their Nigerian trainers and placed on salaries and allowances as expatriates.

Noting that the new policy will end such anomaly in a telephone interview, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Computer Society (NCS), Mr. Ayoola Iyiola said “the policy is long overdue even though in the telecoms sector, we already have similar regulation that is monitored by the CPN”.

“However, now the federal government has given it a bite, it will among other things guarantee the job security of Nigerians wherever they are working in Nigeria because we have the best and right professionals to do any job in the industry.

He said the problem is more pronounced especially in companies where the core investors are expatriates. They bring in all sort of ill-trained relations and give them one big office with little or no expertise.

According to him, “Government should not stop at announcing the approval of the policy but set up a monitoring and compliance team that will be going round from time to time to maintain true compliance to the policy regime”.

Giving an insight of what obtains in the oil and gas industry, a petroleum engineer working with one of the leading international oil Companies (IOCs) who pleaded anonymity said “Yes, there seems to be such provision in the sector but the challenge had been monitoring and compliance”.

“let me tell you, many of the expatriates’ you see around in oil platforms are not more educated than us but for the fact, their brothers are the employers and dictate the tune, wherever you are posted or whoever you are given as your boss, you dare not question his qualification or competence.

“We Nigerians in the industry in some cases train the expatriates and after some times, we see those we trained becoming our bosses and there is nothing we can do because their ‘big brothers’ are the owners.

In the construction sub sector and mainly roads, a junior engineer working with the China Civil Engineering and Construction Company (CCECC), on Lagos-Badagry Expressway confided on Business Hilights that “from my observations and experience, though many of the Chinese workers know the job, I don’t think they passed through serious higher institutions as we pass through here in Nigeria”.

The worker who pleaded anonymity said “if government or the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) should do the needful by virtue of the new policy, heads will roll at CCECC”

Though the Minister made the announcement, government is yet to give details of how the new policy will be administered for the sake of compliance in all the sectors of the economy.

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