Wabote's glorious era at NCDMB ends as Ogbe becomes new executive secretary

Fri, Dec 8, 2023
By publisher

Oil & Gas

President Bola Tinubu appoints new board members for the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board as Felix Omatsola Ogbe, an engineer, takes over from Simbi Wabote, also an engineer, as the executive secretary.

By Maureen Chigbo

SIMBI Kesiye Wabote, former executive secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, at the Practical Nigerian Content forum that ended December 7, spoke like he knew the curtains of his leadership of the board will soon fall. He said his welcome address on that occasion may sound like a “valedictory”. He was actually right because on the evening of the last day of the PNC, precisely two days after his speech, Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced new members of the NCDMB board with Felix Omatsola Ogbe, an engineer, to immediately replace Wabote even though he still has about six months left to the end of his second tenure to complete eight years in office.

According to a statement by Ajuri Ngelale, media aide to Tinubu, on Thursday, December 7, the appointment of Ogbe is “In conformity with Sections 71(1), 72, and 73 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act (2010)”, President Bola Tinubu has also approved the appointment of qualified Nigerians to serve on the Governing Council and Management team of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB)”.

President Bola Tinubu

The other appointees are Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, minister of State for Petroleum Resources, as chairman; Oritsemyiwa Eyesan, executive vice president, EVP, Upstream, NNPCL, Gbenga Komolafe, chief executive officer, CEO, NUPRC and Bekearedebo Augusta Warrens.

Other members of the board are Nicolas Odinuwe, Rapheal Samuel, Sadiq Abubakar, and Olorundare Sunday Thomas.

“President Tinubu expects this highly qualified body of experts to discharge their duties with his patriotic resolve to significantly enhance indigenous industry participation in the energy sector as part of the Renewed Hope Agenda’s mandate to achieve the goal of 70% indigenous content and participation in the nation’s energy industry during the lifespan of this administration,” the statement said.

Notwithstanding, Realnews recalls that Wabote like someone, who had a sixth sense of what was to come, judiciously used the occasion of the just-ended Practical Nigerian Content, PNC, in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State, December 5 to 7, to review the 10-year Strategic Roadmap with only three years left to get into 2027. Wabote’s epic welcome address, laced with oratory, received a resounding standing applause from about 1000 audience in the conference hall of the 17-storey NCDMB Towers, which was constructed under his leadership in three years without variation of contract, and chronicled NCDMB’s achievements under his leadership.

Heineken Lokpobiri

Expressing his gratitude for the wonderful support he got across board to uplift local content in the last seven and a half years, he recalled that at the end of the year 2017, NCDMB launched the 10-year strategic roadmap aimed at increasing Nigerian Content in the oil and gas industry to 70% by the year 2027. The NCDMB rolled out five pillars and four enablers to drive the focus areas under the roadmap, each supported with short, medium, and long-term initiatives. According to him, “the journey has been transformational from where we started to the point where we are now.”

Part of the success story is that NCDMB completed 83% of the 96 initiatives under the strategic roadmap with focus now shifting to others that require some heavy lifting to bring into fruition. “With the support of the industry, our sponsors, principals, advocates, staff, contractors, host communities, and even critics, the transformational impact of the delivery of these initiatives has been of resounding success”, he said.

Realnews reports that under the roadmap, the technical operations data in NOGIC-JQS shows that the number of registered industry operators moved from 53 in 2018 to 114 in 2023 representing about 100% increase. Within the same period, service companies increased from 8,000 to 11,000 while individual registrations increased from 140,000 to almost 400,000.H

Certification of national content, NC, plans increased from 178 in 2022 to 255 in 2023 while the approved NC Compliance Certificates dropped from 197 in 2022 to 168 in 2023. “We believe the higher certified NC Plans in 2023 will soon translate to approved contracts with NC Compliance Certificates as the industry get accustomed to the policy directins of the new government. To shorten contracting cycle to a max of 6 months, a new SLA-MOU has been signed with industry operators and NNPC Limited,” Wabote said, adding: “A total of 889 EQs were approved in 2022 while 179 EQs were rejected. The expatriate quota approval is trending down in the last five years.”

This year, a total of 1,156 EQs were approved at the end of November compared to 889 approved in 2022. 328 EQs were compared 179 rejected last year. The expatriate quota approval has been trending down from up till 2021 when it started an upward trend largely due attributed to the post-COVID-19 business recovery, newly sanctioned projects such as Train-7, and the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) of 2021.

Under the Technical Capability Development pillar of the roadmap, Nigeria’s in-country fabrication capacity moved from 60,000tons per year to 250,000tons/year. Under this pillar, NCDMB transformed two of our portfolio of NOGAPS sites from bare land to industrial parks to support in-country manufacturing and assembly of equipment and input materials required for exploration and production activities. While these two NOGAPS sites are essentially ready for inauguration, “we are keen to operationalize it by having manufacturing activities in place which is scheduled for first half of next year,” Wabote said.

NCDMB has received a total of 37 applications for allocation of service plots and or shop floors so far and the process of allocation of serviced plots to manufacturers is in top-gear and so far, service plots/ shop floors have been allocated to six companies. At the moment, NCDMB have reached an advanced stage in our review of the business plans of intending tenants and another batch of allocations will soon be made.

Also, under the strategic roadmap, NCDMB set up a dedicated $50million fund to co-finance industry research and development activities.

The Research and Development Fund led to the development of Amal Tech Smoke Alarm Detector Facility that will be commissioned next week in Abuja.

Under Wabote’s leadership, NCDMB created centers of excellence for research and development in six Nigerian Universities as well as created the Technology Incubation and Innovation Center to incubate innovative ideas/startups. There are also seventeen start-up companies successfully concluded Training at the NCDMB Technology Incubation and Innovation Centre (TIIC).

On human capacity development, NCDMB identified existing technical/vocational or craft centers and carried out intervention programmes to strengthen the institutions such as Government Technical College in Abak, Akwa Ibom State, GTC Port Harcourt, GTC Amoli, University of Ibadan, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State University, University of Lagos, Nigerian Maritime University, and many others.

The HCD programmes has enabled training and provision of sea-time exposure to marine cadets, underwater divers, boat builders, NDT Level-3 certified engineers. NCDMB ICT Intervention programmes in secondary schools in promotion of STEM education remain very popular and in high demand with over 100 ICT and Science Labs completed to date. The teachers are not left out with almost 2,000 of teachers trained on STEM Education and use of K-YAN Device.

Under the roadmap, NCDMB trained over 7,000 youths in Bayelsa, Kano, Kaduna, Cross River, and Yobe states on GSM hardware repairs and software development.

Regarding commercial ventures portfolio, NCDMB partnered with Waltersmith to establish a 5,000bpd modular refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State. This year alone, the refinery has produced and sold over 170 million liters or about 3,000 trucks of petroleum products that would have been hitherto imported using our scarce forex. Site works for the expansion of the refinery to 10,000bpd refinery commenced in September 2023.

There are three other modular refineries that being progressed to completion and start-up. For example, the financial close to get the remaining funding for Azikel Refinery is nearing completion with the great support from AFREXIM bank. While Duport Refiney in Edo State is essentially complete, NCDMB is looking at various options and offers before us to bring closure to the partnership in line with its investment policy.

Wemimo Oyelana country director, DMG Nigeria Events at the closing ceremony of the 12th Practical Content Forum in Yenegoa receiving plaque from Simbi Wabote, executive secretary at the NCDMB, in Yenegoa on December 7.

The jetty and the FAT for the Inside Battery Limit, ISBL, of the Atlantic Refinery modular refinery have been completed. “We are now focused on taking delivery of the ISBL while exploring all the options open to address the funding challenges hindering the completion of the project”, he said.

In the area of gas utilization, one of NCDMB’s partnerships has enabled the utilization of part of the OB-3 pipeline with the commissioning of NEDO Gas plant currently injecting lean gas into the gas pipeline infrastructure. The partnership has also opened export outlets for other gas operators within the Kwale axis thus eliminating the need for gas flaring.

Other active sites under NCDMB’s partnerships with local businesses include Butane Energy for LPG storage and distribution in 10 norther states, Bunorr for the production for base oil, Eraskon for lube oil blending plant, and Triansel for construction LPG Terminal and 5,000MT storage tank.

Financial close required by our partners in Brass Fertiliser for 10,000TPD methanol plant, Rungas for the manufacturing of LPG cylinders, and SPL Utorogu for gas processing for LPG extraction remain area of concern. NCDMB has commenced discussions on key steps required to cure the issues around the partnerships. These will be presented for consideration and approval to our governing council once re-constituted, he said.

2023 Wabote (middle) flanked by industry operators at the just-ended PNC

Wabote also shared NCDMB’s remarkable success in the area of enabling business environment. “Under the roadmap initiatives, we challenged ourselves to move from the 27th position in 2019 on the Ease of Doing Business Ranking from MDAs to the 1st position last year and still maintained this position this year.

The board completed, inaugurated, and commenced utilization of its iconic new headquarters building (Nigerian Content Tower). “Since the official commissioning in 2020, we have put in place strategies to ensure the facilities are well maintained and in good condition.  We have an operational 10MW power plant put in conceived as a CDI Project with one of the NAOC JV. We have never defaulted in settling the bills for the fuel gas consumed and we also ensure that the routine and preventive maintenance is carried out to the letter,” he said.

The portfolio of Nigerian Content Intervention Funds being managed by BOI and NEXIM Bank has grown to $500 million with various product offerings for assets acquisition, project finance, manufacturing, and others. Under the Strategic Roadmap Initiatives, NCDMB made substantial recoveries from the third-party forensic audit of the NCDF remittances instituted to determine, track and recover outstanding statutory remittances into the Fund.

Apart from the flagship Practical Nigerian Content (PNC) Forum, NCDMB introduced other sponsored events to deepen the conversation around the practice of Nigerian Content such as the Nigerian Oil & Gas Opportunity Fair, NOGOF, Research and Development Fair, NCCF Retreat, NC Managers Retreat, Women in Oil & Gas Workshop, APPO African Local Content Roundtable, Midstream & Downstream Workshop, HCD Workshop, and Nigerian Content Sensitization Workshops. Other highlights include the Project-100 wherein five beneficiaries accessed funding and its impact assessment of the programme shows that the Project-100 companies on average, grew by 15% annually between 2019 and 2022.

NCDMB also made progress in the various collaboration projects with other MDAs and state governments such as the Oloibiri Museum and Research Center, PTDF Skills Development Center, and others.

“As we carry out various intervention across the industry, we also ensure that our staffs are not left behind as we continue to develop the capacity and capability of our staff via training and exposure and assignment to job roles that bring out commensurate talents. We continue to provide the best-in-class work environment and tools for our staff in the various locations which contributes to our recognition as the reigning No1 MDA in the country,” he said.

As a gender-friendly organization, NCDMB under Wabote completed and inaugurated a creche for its staff as part of the efforts to foster a conducive work environment for the female staff.

Furthermore, NCDMB have constructed a fire station that is now fully operational with trained personnel.

At the PNC forum, Wabote provided update on some other demanding deliverables such as launching of e-marketplace for industry supply chain transactions; facilitating delivery of dry dock facility on the back of E&P projects; delivering additional four (4) NOGAPS Industrial Parks under the Phase-2. According to him, Section 106 of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act 2010 defines the “Oil and Gas e-market Place” as a virtual platform for buyers and sellers of goods and services in the oil and gas industry, that allows for speedy and transparent transactions. Section 54 of the NOGICD Act gives the Board the mandate to establish the E-Marketplace.

As part of strategies to implement this provision of the Act, the NCDMB has elected to roll out the project in phases starting with tender opportunities from NLNG. Subsequent phases of the project will be rolled out to include OPTS, IPPG, and the other stakeholder groups. “I signed the E-marketplace Phase-1 blueprint framework with the MD of NLNG last month in Bonny Island. I commend NLNG once again for taking the bold step in promotion of transparency, efficiency, and compliance, he said, adding: “It is my expectation that the E-marketplace pilot phase will become fully functional next year so that we can apply the learnings and adapt it for wider industry application in line with the provision of the NOGICD Act (2010).”

Regarding the Brass Island Shipyard, NCDMB has commenced the engineering design even though its focus is now on building the facility for ship maintenance, repairs, and overhaul. It is envisaged that when completed, the shipyard will be able to capture about 30% of the market share for repair and maintenance of LNG carriers and cargo ships.

“The permits and consents plan for the shipyard is being progressed with NIWA, NIMASA, NUPRC, NPA, NIGS, OGFZA, and several other stakeholders. As we firm up the technical and regulatory aspects of the project, we are preparing the commercial framework for the project to ensure there is clarity on funding, ownership, and efficient operations of the facility,” the former executive secretary said.

NCDMB is delighted that it is already being contacted by reputable firms interested in the construction of the shipyard while offering their technical and financial expertise to bring the project to reality.

On the construction of additional NOGAPS industrial parks, NCDMB  currently has eight in its portfolio including the two planned to commence operations next year. The other six are in Akwa Ibom, Imo, Ondo, Delta, Edo, and Abia states, which are at various stages on engineering design and site preparation works.

The 2023 Nigerian Content level in the Nigerian oil and gas industry is 54% based on our monitoring and evaluation of industry activities. This is similar to the 54% Nigerian Content, NC, level achieved last year. This performance is well above the minimum target of 47% NC set for 2023 by the board’s Project Management Office, PMO, just like it outperformed the 42% NC target set for 2022 by achieving 54% Nigerian Content. Further analysis of this year’s NC level performance shows that the top three performers of in-country spend are Shipping, Surveying/ Positioning services, and Inspection/ Testing and Certification with each at 100% NC level.

On the other hand, the bottom three performers are modification and maintenance at 26% NC level; Health, Safety and Environment at 31% NC level; and materials and procurement at 32% NC level.

While the 54% NC Level achieved in 2023 is commendable, it calls for industry stakeholders to reflect if this is a sign of stagnation or the inflection point leading to the decline in NC level in the oil and gas industry. “From where I sit, I see some disturbing signs pointing to that direction and I believe we can counter these emerging dynamics as this is not the first time we have faced such onslaught on local content practice,” he said.

As Wabote remarked, “getting the industry to this level of Nigerian Content is not a walk in the park.” He believes “all discerning stakeholders in the industry will play their part to prevent us from going back to the dark days of implementing Nigerian Content as a token of consolation. The nexus between high Nigerian Content levels and the relative peace in the industry must not be lost on us.”

In more than seven years of being in the saddle, Wabote served under two  presidents and three ministers of State, with oversights from seven committee chairmen spanned over the 8th, 9th, and now the 10th National Assembly not to mention the interactions several chief executive officers CEOs, of international and indigenous operators. “We have managed to adapt our workstyles and initiatives to derive the support of our principals and various stakeholders while enabling their various programs and policy initiatives such as 7 Big Wins, Economic Sustainability Program, Year of Gas, Decade of Gas, and several others,” he said.

As the industry applauds the achievements, Wabote shared some thoughts and reflections on the implementation of the strategic roadmap going forward. He is of the view that clear and well communicated goals and targets are very important in any organization; the goals and targets will need considerations and approvals from governance authorities at various levels otherwise they will not be realized; NCDMB’s success would not have been possible without the endorsement and approval of our top management committee, tenders board, ministerial tenders board, governing council, Bureau of Public Procurement, National Assembly, and the Federal Executive Council.

As he hands over the baton to Ogbe to continue the race of NCDMB, Wabote marvels how “time truly flies and the imperative to finish off initiatives met on ground, aim to finish what you started, and pass the rest to the next dispensation for completion”.

As he puts it, “Momentum is underrated; It is important to utilize timely decisions to sustain momentum otherwise things grind to a halt, and you will require extra efforts to re-start. There is a saying amongst project managers that procrastination eats project commencement for breakfast while indecision eats project completion for dinner.”

For him, local content growth is directly proportional to its being prioritized as a national agenda. “Once there is a lack of leadership backing at all levels, it opens the door for the practice to take the back seat. Needless to add that this has its consequences which are not usually immediate”, he warned.

Wabote seized the moment to dispel some narratives out there about the board and its activities, dismissing the false belief that NCDMB is awash with money. The fact is that the 1% NCDF remittance on contracts awarded is dwindling due to the lull in the industry. “Through prudent and judicious use of the fund, we have grown it to a sizeable amount such that it could be leveraged for intervention and our operational needs.” The Fund has 68% of it placed with BOI and NEXIM Bank as intervention funds and 32% utilized for its partnerships. These placements have enabled it to attract some yields and capital appreciation while still fulfilling its mandate.

Also, he dismissed the false idea that the 17-storey headquarters building is wasteful and under-utilized? NCDMB have only three floors out of the 17-storey building available for let. There are discussions with one of the telecom companies, a bank, and a well-known operator with a huge footprint in Bayelsa for office space to let within the NC Tower. “This narrative about under-utilization reminds me of the story about the Federal Secretariat in Abuja, which is now congested even though it was considered too big at the time of construction,” he said.

He also described as definitely false belief that NCDMB plans to relocate its headquarters to Abuja, noting: “We are still here seven years after some people took us to court on the unsubstantiated rumor. We are also building a 200-room Conference Hotel next door to the headquarters that is ‘penciled’ for relocation,” he said.

While in office, Wabote received hundreds of letters all the time asking, and even demanding for employment as there is the perception that NCDMB could employ staff as it likes. “This is incorrect. Please know that as an agency of the federal government, we cannot carry out employ as we like. There are several layers of approvals required to employ individuals into the Public Service,” he said.

17-storey NCDMB Towers in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State

Similarly, he described as false that NCDMB is partaking in areas outside its mandate, citing Section 70 of the NOGICD Act (2010) that is very unambiguous on the functions of NCDMB. Sixteen functions of the Board are listed under the provision and  including  evaluation of NC Plans, Monitoring of NC Performance, Carry our research and investigations, organize conferences and workshops, develop capacities and capabilities of local contractors, implement Ministerial Regulations, delegate any of its functions to any agent or operative, and do anything legally necessary to enable the Board to carry out its function. Hence, he said that “It is therefore not true that we carry out activities outside our mandate as contained in the NOGICD Act.”

The Last PNC he attended as executive secretary provided opportunity for Wabote to express his gratitude to the various stakeholders across the nation including the presidency, National Assembly, operators, service companies, sister agencies, associations, civil society organizations, the media, and several others for the support provided to the NCDMB in the past years of being in the saddle.

As the curtain finally draws on Wabote’s leadership of NCDMB, his well-known views on divestments, domestication, and decarbonization would serve as a guide for Ogbe, the newly appointed executive secretary to listen to the various perspectives and agree way forward as NCDMB strives to deepen Nigerian Content in the oil and gas industry.