The lack of synergy among government agencies in the monitoring of Expatriate Quota(EQ) approval has, in no small measure robbed about 16 million Nigerians of employment opportunities.
Indeed, stakeholders, including the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NDCMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, recently joined the clamour against the rising unemployment rate in the country.
Quoting statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Wabote noted that the number of unemployed people in the country could equal the total population of about three African countries, including Sierra Leone, Togo and Liberia.
He revealed that Nigerian tertiary institutions churn out about 500,000 graduates yearly without jobs for them to be engaged in.
A major phenomenon contributing to the increasing rate of unemployment is unarguably the abuse of expatriate quota in the oil and gas industry. For instance at a time other countries are raising their borders to curtail the influx of foreign personnel to the detriment of locals, the Nigerian government continues to falter in this elementary test of responsibility to citizens.
A 2017 report sighted by Daily Sun, alleged expatriate quota racket by some international oil companies (IOCs).The figures, said to have been supplied by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) revealed that the agency, which monitors expatriates’ inflow recorded 5,159 expatriate quota applications in 11 months.
Of particular interest however is the allegation by a management staff of NCDMB that expatriate quota applications by oil firms actually surged at a time Nigerians were losing jobs due to rightsizing by IOCs. “The expatriate quota racket is real and it has been denying competent Nigerians jobs and robbing the country of million dollars annually.”
Two weeks ago, the leadership of Fitters Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (FISSAN), had petitioned the Minister of Labour and Employment on the effect of expatriate quota abuse on the economy.
The union claimed that out of about 650 staff of Sterling Global Oil company operating an LPG project in Kwale, Delta State, no fewer than 500 are expatriates.
To address the imbalance, the Ministry of Interior and the NCDMB had in October 2018, inaugurated a joint committee to strategise and collaborate towards effective administration of expatriate quota in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector and to grow Nigerian participation in the oil and gas industry sustainably. The committee, which was inaugurated at the NCDMB Abuja liaison office, was to share information and recommend sanction levels for violators of quota approvals.
Part of the committee’s terms of reference was also to develop strategies for the issuance of Temporary Work Permit and stemming of EQ abuse by oil and gas companies. The joint committee has completed its task and has come up with new set of resolution that will help mitigate the effect of expatriate quota abuse.
NCDMB rejects 1,494 expatriate quota application
The NCDMB in March, rejected a total of 1,494 expatriate quota applications, according to industry data obtained from the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources. It was also gathered that the NDCMB, also approved 2,584 expatriate quota applications and that the rejections and approvals happened between 2016 and 2018.
Further data from the FMPR on the authorisations and certifications that were done by the NCDMB during the review period showed that the board did the biometric capture of 1,396 expatriates within the two-year period.
The Federal Government has been pushing for the prioritisation of Nigerian professionals when carrying out jobs that can be done by citizens of Nigeria, as against the excessive use of foreigners to the detriment of locals.
The NCDMB is one of the agencies of government championing this course. In October last year, the board inaugurated a committee that was made up of its personnel and representatives of the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigeria Immigration Service with the intent to forge close collaborations in the management of expatriate quota and to grow Nigerian participation in the oil and gas industry sustainably.
Union alleges EQ abuse
FISSAN in the petition to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr.Chris Ngige, alleged that of about 650 staff of Sterling Global Oil company, no fewer than 500 are expatriates.
In the petition titled “Nigerian jobs have been hijacked by foreigners; your urgent intervention is needed.”, FISSAN General Secretary, Morrister Idibra, recalled that the issue of expatriate quota was brought to the notice of the Minister during a recent courtesy call by leaders of United Labour Congress of Nigeria, (ULC.) He noted that Sterling Global a company involved in the construction of a giant LPG plant in Delta State was one of the companies officially cited.
According to the petition: “At present, Sterling Global Oil Company operates an LPG project in Kwale Delta State which has about 650 workers. 500 of the workers are expatriates. The company has about 350 fitters and welders, but the sad story is that only one fitter and two welders are Nigerians. The rest are foreigners. Our efforts at having a meeting on how qualified Nigerians can be employed have fallen on deaf ears as the management has continued to display utmost impunity.
However, whenever government functionaries schedule visit to the site, the management always hide these foreigners in their offices within the yard and hire some persons who they will present as Nigerians that are doing the work.’’ On the issues around EQ abuse , Ngige, had while emerging from a parley with the oil industry unions – the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and some contractors in the oil and gas sector, expressed his misgivings on the situation hinted of his ministry’s resolve to “check the abuse of the nation’s immigration/labour laws” while pledging that “the displacement of qualified Nigerians by foreigners will soon become a thing of the past.”
NCDMB, Ministry provides leeway
To address the shortcomings and give Nigerians their rightful place, the NCDMB and the Ministry of Interior recently came up with new set of resolutions on EQ administration for the oil and gas industry as a fall out of the joint committee set up in October 2018;
1) Any company or business entity which intends to deploy expatriates for work in the Nigerian oil and gas industry must obtain EQ recommendations from NCDMB before proceeding to obtain same from MI or any other agency of Ministry, Government, in compliance with the provisions of Section 33of the NOGICD Act (2010)
2) Any company or business entity which involves ‘’1’’ above, shall be penalized in line with extant MI and NCDMB guidelines and provisions for such violations, as may be applicable.
3) MI and NCDMB shall facilitate seamless sharing of information between both parties for the purpose of effective implementation and administration of expatriate quota in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
4) Companies in the oil and gas industry that intend to utilize expatriates on Temporary Work Permits(TWP) basis are required to obtain recommendations from the Board, which must be submitted to Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) before TWP is issued.
5) All expatriates doing business in Nigerian oil and gas industry should ensure they carry out biometric capture with the Board (NCDMB)
6) All companies seeking to apply for expatriates should be duly registered on the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Joint Qualification System (NOGICJQS).
7) All companies applying for expatriates for new positions must advertise the positions and skill sets of the expatriates in national dailies to ensure that Nigerians are given first consideration as required by the NOGICD Act 2010.