Pesident Muhammadu Buhari will again address Nigerians today to give an update on the outbreak of Coronavirus in the country.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the address would be broadcast by 8:00pm.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari will address the nation Monday, April 27, 2020 at 8:00pm.
“Television, radio and other electronic media stations are enjoined to hook up to the network services of the Nigerian Television Authority and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria respectively for the broadcast.”
During his last broadcast two weeks ago, Buhari ordered the extension of the lockdown by 14-days but not many Nigerians adhered to that directive.
Shell’s history-making strides in Nigerian content development
September 1, 2004, was like any other Wednesday in the Niger Delta. But it was strikingly different for one man and his company. The man walked into his office in Port Harcourt and took his seat, and Nigerians rose to their feet to celebrate history. Mr. Basil Omiyi had just spent his first minutes in office as the pioneer Nigerian Managing Director of The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC.) It was the first time a Nigerian would assume the leadership of a Nigerian subsidiary of an international oil and gas company and the media and other industry watchers hailed the appointment as a good omen for developing Nigerian muscle in the industry.
The meaning of the moment was also not lost on Mr. Omiyi, an industry veteran who joined SPDC in 1970 as trainee petroleum engineer. “I am honoured to be the first of what I expect will be many Nigerians to hold the post,” he said. He and other Nigerians calling for more of the same have not been disappointed. Some 18 years after he walked into the C-Suite, the third Nigerian is in place as the MD of Nigeria’s premier oil and gas company. Not only that, the two other Shell companies in Nigeria, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo) and Shell Nigeria Gas (SNG) are also headed by Nigerians.
The appointment of Nigerians into key posts is only one aspect of a deliberate effort by Shell to encourage Nigerian content development, which for the over 60 years of Shell’s operations in Nigeria, has ranged from developing talents and supporting contractors and suppliers to provide services in critical areas of the upstream businesses. The socio-economic spin-offs include employment creation, enterprise development in the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole. In May last year, Shell companies were named the International Oil Company with the most impactful local content initiatives at the Nigerian Oil and Gas Opportunity Fair.
The Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) honoured Shell Companies in Nigeria as the best local content operators at its 2022 industry dinner and awards held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital, last month. The Managing Director of SNEPCo, Mrs. Elohor Aiboni, was also named sole recipient of the PETAN Chairman Outstanding Achievement Award, while her predecessor, Mr. Bayo Ojulari, clinched the PETAN Distinguished Achievement Award.
PETAN should know. Based in Port Harcourt, this association of more than 80 indigenous technical oilfield service companies in the upstream and downstream sectors with a combined annual revenue of more than $500 million, promotes the development of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria through their services and contributions to policy ideas and formulation. “Shell companies have always stood by local service companies, and they have been part of our local content journey right from the beginning, and have been consistent,” PETAN Chairman Nicholas Odinuwe, said while handing the award to Shell’s representatives. Mr. Odinuwe described Shell companies as a major pillar to the growth of local content in Nigeria by driving the pre-legislation initiatives and providing funding intervention to give opportunity to even start-ups in the service sector to play in the oil and gas supply chain.
Efforts by Shell companies to develop Nigerian content in their operations pre-date the establishment of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in 2010. These efforts have facilitated the growth of Nigerian businesses in the manufacture of tools and technical kits, operation of helicopter flights in the Niger Delta and strategic partnerships between foreign and local companies to stimulate technology transfer and capacity development. Thus, the Nigerian content development strategy of Shell companies is consistent with the framework of the NCDMB with strong emphasis on research and development, promotion of local manufacturing, indigenous asset ownership and human capacity development. Among other achievements, Shell Nigeria deployed contractor support fund to enable indigenous entrepreneurs to gain access to credit and sponsoring research in Nigerian universities with the objective of creating local alternatives to imported fluids and additives.
In 2021, Shell Companies in Nigeria awarded contracts worth $800 million (the same as in 2020) to Nigerian-registered companies, of which 92% was to companies where the Nigerian ownership was at least 51%. Also in 2021, More than 8,500 contractors supported the operations of the companies last year. Recognising the global nature and standards of oil and gas production, Shell does not just award contracts to Nigerians and leave them on their own to struggle for the necessary certifications and improvement of skills. It works with such companies to improve management systems and technical capacity and achieve the necessary certification for their products and services so that they can qualify for tenders and contracts to provide goods and services not only across Shell’s operations and the Nigerian oil and gas sector but also in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, Caverton Nigeria Ltd which operates in West Africa benefitted from Shell’s support for developing standards to global levels when it started helicopter services for Shell Nigeria. Apart from technical support, Shell Companies in Nigeria have helped to solve the challenge of contract financing by establishing the Shell Contractor Support Fund in 2012. Nearly $1.6 billion has been provided as loans to 901 Nigerian vendors since the inception of the Fund.
But it is in deep water that Shell’s efforts at Nigerian content development have been very pronounced. The development of the Bonga field by SNEPCo in 2005 gave rise to the first generation of Nigerian deep-water oil and gas engineers. SNEPCo hired Nigerian engineers who cut their teeth on this project, developing knowledge and skills that would advance the country’s oil and gas production and exploration capacity. The company awarded major engineering and construction contracts to indigenous companies which were involved in the installation of new production manifolds, subsea umbilical systems, oil production and water injection flowlines. In 2019, a local company refurbished one of Bonga’s subsea wellhead control systems, known as a Christmas tree. Today, wholly indigenous companies manufacture and rebuild hydraulic flying leads (HFLs) in-country in a major technical breakthrough. A Nigerian company also continues to refurbish old subsea Christmas trees. Nigerian companies also played key roles in the seventh turnaround maintenance of the Bonga field which was successfully undertaken in October 2022.
In recognition of these efforts, the NCDMB Executive Secretary, Mr. Simbi Wabote, paid glowing tribute to Shell for being the first international oil company in Nigeria to demonstrate belief in the capabilities of Nigerian companies and give them the inroad to participate fully in the oil and gas industry. He was speaking at a local content workshop for the judiciary in Bayelsa State. No doubt, the pioneering efforts of Shell have helped the NCDMB to achieve nearly 50 per cent local content attainment in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. This translates to retention of over $8 billion of the $20 billion annual spending in the industry. The NCDMB is looking to achieve 70 per cent local content penetration by 2027. The Board and indeed Nigerians can continue to count on the history-making strides of Shell in Nigerian content development. This is a guarantee of more Mr. Omiyi moments.
Resuscitating dying Akwete creativity textile industry
Akwete is a town in Ukwa East Local Government Area of Abia, famous for creative handwoven textile industry. The industry dominated by women, predates the emergence of Nigeria as an independent nation.
Mazi Christian Uwaezuoke, the Secretary, Joint Council of UmuIhueze, Amakam and Umueze Autonomous Communities of Akwete clan, said the industry dates back to 1485. He also explained why the industry is dominated by women.
“Oral history says that the Akwete textile industry began about the 15th century.
“The creative endeavour that metamorphosed to the production of the Akwete cloth was first seen with one of the women married to an Akwete man, called Okere Egbe.
“Akwete people call the wife of Egbe, Daa-Ada Nwakata ( daa is a prefix for elderly women)
”We were told that Daa-Ada Nwakata was taught the weaving process in a dream and she started it with raffia palm fibers and later used sisal-hemp fibres.
“But as time progressed, those who learnt and practised the skill after her demise, began to acquire and use more sophisticated, industrially-processed synthetic fibre yarn for their weaving,” he explained.
Uwaezuoke said the implication of Daa-Ada Nwakata being taught the weaving art from the spirit realm, was that the production process and the gender to be involved, must follow the pattern showed her.
“ Against what Daa-Ada Nwakata was shown, many Akwete men learnt the skill, but on entering the business, the gods visited them with bitter experiences, including business failure.
“That is why today, our men are not allowed to be in the business, no full-fledged Akwete man is involved in the production or marketing of the cloth.
“Those men who tried it among us failed woefully,” he said.
Mrs Patience Okere, corroborated what Uwaezuoke said, stressing that the guidelines given by Daa Ada Nwakata was the reason Akwete women teach only their female children the art.
Okere, an Akwete weaver, born and married in Akwete, said the weaving business was the only business she knew.
“I started learning the weaving trade when I was about 12 years old, as is the tradition in Akwete, and I have been weaving till date, now I am in my early seventies,” she said.
Mrs Chizuru Nwulu, another weaver, said she knew no other means of livelihood since childhood except weaving,
She said that she learnt weaving at an adolescent age in 2010 through her mother.
“I don’t have a farm and do not know how to farm, this is the only thing I have ever done to earn a living.
“I will like to pass on the weaving skills to my daughters when they come of age, because engaging in weaving business is rewarding,” she said.
Like Nwulu, Okere acknowledged that the business was rewarding, but regretted that the business nosedived, as a result of high cost of production materials and low demand for the cloth.
She said that without serious intervention, the business may go into extinction, which she also attributed to high production cost, with resultant high cost of finished products.
Mrs Helen Ebere, the President, Akwete Cooperative Society, who spoke on the challenges facing the weaving business, put the membership of the cooperative society at 200.
She said that the cooperative society has survived for many decades, adding that for some time now, production has reduced.
She blamed rampant kidnapping in Abia from 2010 for being responsible to the misfortunes of the weaving industry.
Ebere described the Akwete cloth as collectors’ delight, hence majority of the buyers come from outside the country.
“Since the Europeans and Americans that visit Abia and Ukwa area before 2010 stopped coming following kidnapping incidences, the market nosedived badly.’’
Ebere, a retired teacher, said she engaged in the weaving to augment her poor and ‘inconsistent’ salary until her retirement in 2005.
Ebere, 75, however, is skeptical about the sustenance of the weaving trade in Akwete, without serious government’s intervention.
“It will not be easy to sustain the trade as things are now, but with assistance, we will encourage our children to continue to learn the trade.
“Our products, unfortunately are not in high demand now. We have been having few orders since 2010 because of the rise in cost of our production materials.
“Before then there was no kidnapping and the Europeans and Americans use to come around, and when they come they buy in large quantities.
“Nigerians were also buying our clothes, but now our clothes are sold in very low quantities, mostly bought by people from Rivers and Lagos states.
“The government, however, appears to be interested in sustaining our work and the creativity involved in our handwoven Akwete clothes.
“Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia and former Transition Committee Chairman, Mrs Stella Igbokwe of our local government (Ukwa East) had visited us once.
“But like previous governments, after their visits, and promises, nothing happened,” she lamented.
The weavers were unanimous that they have technological handicaps that confined them to only a handmade loom for production which takes between seven days to two weeks to produce a piece of the cloth.
They also pointed out that their marketing challenges had made them resort to the use of the Daa-Ada Nwakata method with only them and their relations marketing and selling the clothes.
They also lamented that the high cost of production materials especially the synthetic yarn, increased the price of a piece of the cloth to between N15,000 to N25,000, with resultant reduction in demand.
Stakeholders advocate government’s conscious policy to boost the creative Akwete textile industry as well as vigorous enlightenment campaign that men cannot survive in the Akwete weaving business.
Expanding the frontiers of relations between Nigeria and France
By Muhammadu Buhari
It is possible that the first contact was made in 1601 between the French and the peoples of “Guinee” – the name for the lands we know today as Nigeria. Only a few years before, the then Protestant King of France Henry had devised a plan for adventurer Francois Pyrard de Laval to navigate the “Ethiopian Sea,” then onwards around the Cape of Good Hope in search of new markets and trade.
Four hundred years later, much has changed. Today there are more Protestants amongst Nigeria’s 200 million population than there are people in France. Maps, and geography, have improved: east Africa’s landlocked Ethiopia no longer has named for it a west African sea.
Yet in other ways, much remains the same. Certainly, the exploration of possibilities between our two nations of Nigeria and France has only just begun.
As well-known as France’s historic ties with west Africa is the long-held belief some parts of it were off-limits. Until even the most recent decades, there were French spheres of west Africa, and their Anglophone equivalents – jealously guarded from each other and effectively closed to each other for investment, trade, and influence.
What it has taken to bring down these barriers both real and imagined is, in part, the passage of time: today’s generation of Africans have no personal experience of anything but independence – including most in government – so there is less automatic favouritism towards one European partner or another.
But it has also required a change in France. President Macron has been a prime mover in that task. As a far younger man than I, he is right not to allow respect for the France’s African past to confine relations of the future.
We can see how this position developed from the fact he chose, in his 20s, to define his African experience through working in Nigeria, rather than in a traditional francophone nation.
His experiences and determination have been vital in moving France and Nigeria closer together to where they are today.
Both our countries now start to taste the fruit from this tree as we gather this week in Paris for what is only the second France-Nigeria investment Summit. Only three years ago President Macron was the first president of the French republic to visit Nigeria.
Since then, French businesses have signed multi-billion euros contracts in construction, chemicals, and mobile technology; In France, long-established Nigerian financial institutions and disruptive fintechs seek transition from Parisian representative offices to French licences to operate and compete across Europe.
The President’s high-level France-Nigeria Business Council, first convened at the Elysee, has helped trade double in between our nations in the last three years.
This expansion only augurs more, given Nigeria’s population is projected to grow by 2050 to the same size as the European Union, and further to become the second largest in the world by the close of the century.
This great market is France’s opportunity. But, of course, some in Europe and in France see it purely as a threat. They fear a coming tide of immigrants from Africa. They view engagement as a partially open door that will only become wider – unless borders become walls, and Europe a fortress.
That is a mistake. Those who rail against “economic migrants” must realise few people anywhere wish to leave their communities to live in foreign lands. Most would rather stay at home, with the familiar. But the way to help them stay there is not force, or walls, or racism: it is investment and jobs where they live.
Those who come from France seeking opportunities in Nigeria are today welcomed with open arms. A growing and worldly-wise middle class wish to experience the best of European culture and products, with so much of that the produce of France; a young, restless, and educated population wish to work, but often what they do not have, through lack of investment, is the opportunity.
And just as we partner in prosperity, so our nations also have a duty to work together to make west Africa more secure. For decades France – the European power in the Sahel, and Nigeria – the African power to its south have not been coordinated.
Opportunity to crush the terrorists have between us too often have been missed.
As France draws down its troops, Nigeria’s can – in partnership with our Francophone African allies – step into the breach. From our increasing trade together comes another beneficial and deepening partnership and cooperation including : especially a more advanced sharing of ordnance, equipment and intelligence.
It is fair to say that French-Nigerian relations have advanced farther and faster in the last few years than, they have in hundreds. Much of that energy, and speed, comes from my determination and that of President Macron in the knowledge that – to borrow a phrase of King Henry’s: “Le Nigeria vaut bien essayé”.
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