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‘Nigerian contractors steadily dominating oil, gas sector’

Chairman of Lee Engineering & Construction Company Limited, an indigenous oil and gas engineering, procurement and construction company, Dr. Leemon A. Ikpea, in this interview…

Chairman of Lee Engineering & Construction Company Limited, an indigenous oil and gas engineering, procurement and construction company, Dr. Leemon A. Ikpea, in this interview discusses how the local content act called the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, signed into law in 2010, has helped indigenous oil and gas companies grow. Excerpts


Your company has been one of the success stories as far as the local content act in Nigeria is concerned. How has application of the law benefited local Nigerian companies?

If you look back 15 years ago, the oil and gas industry was dominated by foreign contractors but since the federal government enacted the local content, it has uplifted Nigerian indigenous companies.

Since the law came into force, we have trained so many people locally and above 50 internationally. Since the law was enacted it has encouraged Nigerian companies to work hard to be like their foreign counterparts. 

Recently, we started building a multinational factory that will manufacture various equipment that we used to buy in Europe and the United States, some of these things will now be done locally. That is the reason why we train some of our engineers abroad to learn the skill because no foreign company will transfer technology to you, we have to bring it to Nigeria and do it ourselves and that creates a lot of jobs for our people and capacity. Those who have been trained can also train other people and thus help to build the technology that we need for the industry. 


How has the NNPC been central to the operation of the Act and how has indigenous companies particularly your company interface with the corporation been like over the years?

Don’t forget NNPC is the face of oil and gas in Nigeria and we have been participating in various bids with the NNPC. We have won some and lost some which is normal. They have encouraged indigenous companies in the training of our personnel and I will say NNPC management’s role in local content has been enormous.


How do you see the participation of indigenous companies at international oil and gas fora?

International oil and gas conferences provide an avenue for us to see what the other parts of the world are doing. We ask them questions and from there local companies tap some experiences. In some cases we request for them to come and train our engineers. So, I will think that Nigerian companies going to international oil and gas events like the offshore technology conference (OTC) in Houston is the only way we can know the companies we can partner with to help us transfer this technology to Nigeria.


The minister of state for petroleum resources recently said that there was possibility that Nigeria would come up with its own version of the Offshore Technology Conference. What will this mean for indigenous companies?

It is morale booster for Nigerian companies and I am sure if a framework is in place, electricity and infrastructure problems are addressed, it is just a matter of time. Right now I don’t see any reason why we can’t host OTC Africa within the next five years.


Your company handles jobs related to engineering, procurement, construction and maintenance in the industry. Do you have plans to venture into drilling and other oil and gas related operations? 

Oil and gas has a lot of phases but we don’t want to go round the entire phase. Where we specialize is where we want to continue to be and that gives us the opportunity to train Nigerians on that field. Diverting to drilling is not in our books right now but as time goes on it could happen.


Lack of jobs has been a major challenge faced by local oil and gas companies. What efforts have you been making to attract partnership?

The problem is not particular to Nigerian indigenous companies but global recession that is affecting Nigeria and other countries. Normally there is always a phase in everything but as the economy improves I am sure everybody will be busy again but right now we have to look in-house to see how we can improve.

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