Senate panel walks out representatives of Ngige, IOCs from investigative hearing



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Senate panel walks out representatives of Ngige, IOCs from investigative hearing

By Sanni Onogu, Abuja



The Senate Committee on Local Content on Thursday walked out the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Yerim Tarfa, from its investigative hearing on abuse of diving regulations by International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the country.

Dr. Tarfa had represented the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige at the session.



Other representatives of IOCs sent out of the meeting included the Director of External Affairs of Chevron Nigeria Limited, Mr. E.J. Okorie, Mr. Udobong Ntia (Director – Exxonmobil), Ozemoya Okordion (Exxonmobil), Aderemi Karkat (Exxonmobil), Meziechi Nwogu (TOTAL Nigeria Limited) and Onwuka P. Oreh (TOTAL), among others.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Teslim Folarin, who gave the marching orders in Abuja, said invitations were extended by the panel to the Chief Executive Officers of the various organizations to appear before it and they were not expected to delegate their responsibilities.

Folarin, had in his opening remarks, said that the session was borne of a motion titled: “Urgent need to ensure strict compliance with statutory regulations and provisions regarding the Nigerian Diving Sector and also to urge the Federal Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity to as a matter of urgency inaugurate the Diving Advisory Board to ensure the regulation of its operation in the sector.”

He said that the hearing was targeted at addressing the inherent shortcomings associated with the diving sector in Nigeria.

Folarin later told reporters that it was utterly condescending and a show of monumental disrespect for the institution of the National Assembly for the invited CEOs of the Ministry of Labour and the various IOCs to delegate other officers to represent them at the hearing.

He frowned at a situation where IOCs have continued to abuse and disregard the nation’s diving regulations in a sector he said is worth about $1billion annually.

He wondered if legislatures in the home countries of the IOCs would tolerate representations by lower cadre officers of foreign organizations if they have cause to invite them.

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He lamented that while the Schedule to the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010, provided that in order to encourage local participation in all aspects of oil operations, 70 per cent of Diving or Submersible operations, must go to Nigerians, the reverse has been the case.

He said while the Federal Government spends huge funds in training divers annually, the IOCs have continued to deny Nigerian Divers employment by engaging foreign divers for their operations.

He insisted that the actions of the IOCs in deny Nigerian Divers jobs contributed in the growing unemployment in the Labour market part of which led to the recent #EndSARS protests and other forms of agitations across the country.

He said the plight of local divers was further worsened by the Minister of Labour and Employment, who hitherto neglected to inaugurate the Divers Advisory Board meant to regulate and oversee the activities of diving in the country.

He said that the Minister of Labour and Employment hurriedly inaugurated the Divers Advisory Board few days after receiving the summons of the Committee to appear before it on the matter.

Earlier in his welcome address, Folarin said: “Part of this shortcomings, as espoused in the Motion, is traceable to the inability of the Federal Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity to inaugurate the Divers Advisory Board, in line with the provision of the Diving At Work Regulations, 2018, to ensure that the operations of the sector is properly regulated in view of its strategic importance to the oil and gas sector.

“As we all know, this sector remains the fulcrum of the country’s revenue.

“It is imperative to also state that in the Schedule to the Nigerian oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2010, it was provided that in order to encourage local participation in all aspects of oil operations, 70 per cent of Diving or Submersible operations, must go to Nigerians.

“This provision, according to the sponsor of the Motion (Senator Umar Sadiq Suleiman – Kwara North) is being breached.

“Similarly, section 28 (1) of the aforesaid Act provides that Nigerians should be accorded first consideration for employment and training in any project to be executed by any operator in the oil and gas industry.

“However, foreign dominance is alleged to have deprived indigenous Divers their rightful place in line with the provisions of the Law.

“The above challenges, among others, are the reasons why Nigerians are being denied employment opportunities in this viable sector.

“There is no way this sector can meet the expectations of Nigerians without proper regulatory mechanisms in line with extant Act(s) on the subject matter of diving.

This is because offshore oil and gas exploration, involve drilling in shallow or deep-waters, which is often associated with a lot of hazards. Therefore, this Investigative Hearing is apt as it has provided the needed platform to proffer solutions amongst relevant stakeholders, on how best to address the challenges affecting this important sector of our economy.

Senate panel walks out representatives of Ngige, IOCs from investigative hearing

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