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(Special Report) A Day to Remember at NCDMB

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It was Tuesday, October 10, and the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, was at the corporate headquarters of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Swali, Yenagoa, for a one-day visit and tour of the Board’s facilities and projects in Bayelsa State.

Being 11 days shy of the first anniversary of the conferment of the Distinguished Capacity Development Award on the Executive Secretary of the Board, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, by the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari, it was tempting to believe that the visit was intended partly for celebration of individual and corporate success at the organisation.

As it turned out, the august visitor did not have to advert to specifics such as the aforesaid presidential award nor the back-to-back ranking of the NCDMB as Best Performer among ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) for January-June and July-December, 2022, in implementation of the Presidential Executive Order, EOI, on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Nigerian Business Environment.

At successive stages in the programme of activities for the Minister’s facility tour, one platform or the other emerged for authoritative affirmation of everything that has stood the NCDMB out among MDAs. It began with a warm reception and then meeting with Management and staff on the 15th Floor Conference Room of the Nigerian Content Tower (NCT), corporate headquarters of the NCDMB.

Senator Lokpobiri was unstinting in his commendation of staff for their sense of mission and remarkable accomplishments, emphasising again and again how the Board’s capacity-building endeavours had grown indigenous capabilities and companies that have effectively taken over divested assets of international oil companies (IOCs), and thus generated employment for large numbers of citizens.

“I want to thank this Board for some of the brilliant initiatives like creating funding to help people [operators and service providers] who are trying to grow, because one of the biggest problems was funding,” he declared, adding, “Some Nigerian companies are already doing well, courtesy of capacity-building efforts of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board.”

He was speaking to the US$500 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund (NCIF), being managed by the Bank of Industry (BOI) in aid of struggling but credible businesses in the oil and gas industry; the US$50 million Research and Development Fund, as well as schemes like the Project 100 Companies and equity funding in selected company projects to facilitate timely execution, completion and production operations.

Turning to the top Management, he reiterated his appreciation and pledged to do his utmost to ensure the momentum attained is not only maintained but boosted further: “Let me take this opportunity to commend the E.S. [Executive Secretary] and Management for what you have achieved so far. As Minister and Chairman of the Board I want to assure the staff that I’ll prioritise staff welfare.” The audience erupted in cheers of approbation.

Just before the interactions shifted to another section of the Tower, Senator Lokpobiri shared his feelings about the magnificence of the edifice. He recalled that he had been to the United Arab Emirate (UAE) a few days earlier for an international engagement, and that the famed Conference Centre there was in no way better than the one in the Nigerian Content Tower.

To underscore the depth of his appreciation, he declared: “I commend the Board for the maintenance culture it has on its facilities. I want to see this edifice having the same look down the line…. I will give all the support I can, so we have the edifice maintained for the benefit of Nigerians.”

Ushered into the Technology Incubation and Innovation Centre (TIIC) on the 4th Floor of the NCT, the Minister was literally overwhelmed by products and services as well as screen displays by innovators who have undergone mentoring and concept development and also developed prototypes of their innovations under guidance by experts drawn from Founder Institute, Abuja, which is partnering the NCDMB in the accelerator programme.

These energy industry startups, as the innovators are known, have products and prototypes in fields as diverse as pipeline protection technology, gas penetration technology, drilling fluid additives, embedded systems, electric-powered engines for inland water transportation, and tele-medicine, among others.

As the Executive Secretary, Engr. Wabote, explained at an earlier event, the TIIC serves as “resource centre for obtaining data on priority research areas in the oil and gas industry;” “low-cost transition platform to incubate research ideas into tangible products;” “ecosystem for innovators to think through new ideas for technology adaptation or process improvement,” and “networking between researchers, investors and end-users in the oil and gas sector.”

Equipped and staffed to meet the highest standards of similar facilities elsewhere in the industrialised world, the TIIC is indeed one of the “brilliant initiatives” of the Management of the NCDMB in capacity development. And the Minister was highly impressed, stating that he was very proud to know that such topflight human resources have been groomed locally.

The Fire Station at the NCDMB, where the Minister had the rare privilege to inspect a Guard of Honour mounted by firefighters, made some great impression on him as well; so were the on-site Creche, the multibillion-naira three-star NCDMB Conference Hotel (billed for completion within 24 months), and the 10-megawatt Power Plant, Elebele, owned by the Board. He saw in these projects the resourcefulness of the Management.

Elated at all he had experienced at the corporate headquarters in Yenagoa, he was sufficiently energised to continue the tour for several kilometres to Emeyal-1 in Ogbia Local Government Area, site of NCDMB’s customised industrial park, the Nigeria Oil and Gas Park Scheme (NOGaPS), and further to the NCDMB Gas Hub, Polaku, in Yenagoa Local Government Area. In these two facilities, by the reckoning of the Minister, are the groundwork for future self-reliance in equipment manufacture and rapid industrialization.

NOGaPS, Emeyal-1, covering a land area of 24 hectares, comprises manufacturing shop floors and warehouses, an expansive car park and truck holding area, a capacity training centre, a site clinic, a multistorey administrative block, a water treatment plant, ab mini estate and hostels, and ample land spaces for development of customized facilities, filling stations and oil and gas processing. A dedicated gas-fired power plant guarantees uninterrupted power supply.

Having gone round the Park, the Minister described what was on ground as “a world-class concept,” which he predicted would be “a game changer when completed.” “Am highly impressed with what I’ve seen and I cannot wait for it to be completed for the benefit of Nigerians,” he enthused.

Turning to the NCDMB boss, he assured: “We’ll give to you support in any way that we can to ensure that you complete everything in time…so that we’ll be able to make this facility available to those who want to manufacture different products not only for the oil industry but for the entire economy, and create jobs.”

As attention shifted to Engr. Wabote, the questions were about completion timeline, vendor uptake and the like. He said earlier timelines had been missed because of unanticipated adverse developments like the devastating flood of 2022. “Building things in Bayelsa is not a piece of cake,” he explained, noting that “It takes time.” “We were impacted by the flood of 2022,” he added.

On uptake, he told the audience that “Substantial interest” had been shown by prospective manufacturers and that the Board was carrying out screening. “A lot of people have indicated interest but you have to screen them,” he stated. “Indeed, at the appropriate time, we will allocate to those who will come and set up manufacturing here,” he assured.

The visit of the Honourable Minister is of immense significance as it signals continued favourable rating of the NCDMB under the new Administration, just as the Federal Government is assured and confident, from the firsthand knowledge gained by the Minister, that the country is on course toward attainment of the strategic objectives of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, 2010, and establishment of the Board.

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