Lagos — From the time prehistoric cave men invented the wheel to the time American Indians first used a travois to haul their possessions and scientists created the spaceship, engineers have played a major role in our destiny. Reports say that in ancient times, engineers built roads and structures by trial and error, learning from their own mistakes. Today, college training prepares an engineer to work in a certain branch or field of engineering.
Engineers apply the theories and principles of science and mathematics to the economical solution of practical technical problems. Often their work is the link between a scientific discovery and its application. Engineering is the application of mathematics and science to create something of value from our natural resources. Theodore Von Karman, an aerospace engineer, once said that "Scientists discover the world that exists; engineers create the world that never was."
Engineers as a group are probably the most creative people. They synthesize, solve problems, and innovate, meaning that they make new things and make old things better. Engineers are problem solvers.
Solution to problems is what the Association of Consulting Engineers, Nigeria (ACEN) decided to proffer when it organised its annual conference recently at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos.
ACEN is an association of qualified and experienced engineers who are registered by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and they work full time in the area of consulting engineering.
Their primary objective is to practise the profession of independent consulting engineering under a unified body in a professional manner.
Speaking at the event, the president of ACEN, Mrs. Mayen Adetiba said the theme 'Success Story To Date of the Nation's Local Content Policy' was deliberately selected to take stock and evolve new approaches to the opportunities provided by the government. "We must take this opportunity to evolve new strategies and directions which can assist government to fine tune the policy framework, where necessary and establish clear and sufficient bench marks to measure progress in future", she said.
Most importantly, she added, it is important that the engineering professionals cadre must continue to work together to share ideas and develop skills. This is to enable them jointly evolve platforms to maximally utilise the opportunities that are available.
The keynote address entitled 'Nigerian Content Development: The Journey So Far', by Engr. J. A. Akande, Group General Manager, Nigerian Local Content, NNPC, was delivered by his representative, Mr. Awoyemi Johnson.
He said he was pleased to be associated with ACEN because he wanted to identify with the association's goals and aspirations. He also commended them for their contribution to the development of the Nigerian Economy.
The Nigerian economy, he said, was largely dependent on the petroleum sector that contributes to national revenue in excess of 70 per cent and more than 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. The Nigerian content in the sector is now about 33 per cent through the deliberate efforts of NNPC/NCD.
According to him, the Federal Government came out with a comprehensive Nigerian Content Policy, which set targets of achieving 45 per cent Nigerian content by the end of 2006 and 70 per cent by the end of 2010.
The major highlights so far, he said, were the creation of Nigerian Content Division (NCD) in NNPC, development of Nigerian content directives, creation of capacity building projects, creation of Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) and the Defined Broad Metrics for measuring Nigerian Content.
On the creation of the Nigerian Content Division, Akande said that in order to achieve the set targets of the government, the division was set up in NNPC. The division's mandate, he added, is to transform the oil and gas industry by developing in-country capacity and capabilities in order to make Nigeria the hub for energy service delivery in Africa.
"The activities of the division include identification of opportunities in the oil and gas industry along the value for local content scoping, development of Nigerian content directives, and review of contract documents to ensure the domiciliation of goods and services that can be done in-country. Also, he said, it included working with external stakeholders and operators to develop relevant capacity building programme to improve the competence levels in the industry, carry out periodic gap analysis of materials and human resources requirements of the industry," he said.
According to him, the current directives for the development of the Nigerian content are that the field and detailed engineering design for all projects are to be domiciled in Nigeria, project management teams and procurement centres for all projects in the industry must be located in Nigeria. "Henceforth, all operators and project promoters must forecast procurement items required for projects and operational activities and forward the materials list to NCD on or before 31st of January of every year. Also, a Master Procurement Plan (MPP) for ongoing and approved projects should be submitted to the NCD. Henceforth, fabrication of all piles, decks, anchors, buoys, jackets, pipe, racks, bridges, flare booms and storage tanks including all galvanising works for LNG and process plants are to be done in Nigeria. All operators and project promoters must ensure that recommendations for contract awards in respect of all major projects being forwarded to NNPC-constituted boards of such oil and gas companies for approval must include evidence of binding agreement by the main contractor with Nigerian contract sub-contractors", he stated.
On the creation of capacity building projects, Akande said that in order to create employment, NNPC/PTDF has embarked on aggressive training of 250 engineers per quarter in the design engineering software packages. This will ensure employment both by operators and other service providers in the industry.
NNPC/PTDF, he said, was partnering with INTSOK to upgrade local yards for the fabrication of topsides and pressure vessels. An upgrade programme, he stated, to develop capabilities of local suppliers and manufacturers to produce materials that meet industry needs was in progress.
According to him, a $350 million Nigerian Content Support Fund was being created to provide the much required financing for oil and gas service companies by the end of November. It is noteworthy, he added, to say that the support was sourced substantially as a result of the present consolidation in the banking sector.
Speaking on NCCF, Akande said that through the NCCF, a strong linkage between the oil industry and other sectors of the economy such as manufacturing and banking has been created.
On measuring the Nigerian Content, he said a uniform standard has been developed and agreed with operators. This forms the basis for monitoring and measuring Nigerian Content achievements.
World class engineering companies, he added, were setting up businesses in Nigeria. Also, there has been a remarkable increase in engineering man-hours being awarded to Nigerian engineering companies. "The engineering man hour performed in Nigeria used to be 250,000, it is now about three million. For example, the OK LNG engineering design contract has been awarded to an indigenous engineering firm, Delta Afrik and about 145,000 man hours of engineering designs is being carried out in Nigeria," he said.