By Adewole Ojo
IT is easy to dismiss, with a wave of the left hand, government’s policy enunciation and vision of a better tomorrow for Nigerians and the country. Successive governments have been long on promises and abysmally short on delivery. And in this season of politicking, envisioning a grand vision is even easier to dismiss as what it could possibly be, husting. In a political season, politicians can say and do anything to win elections. However, Project 100, which is expected to industrialise Nigeria modelled after the South Korean economic development template, shows early signs that perhaps, this time around, a grand vision of development will be implemented. This is principally because of the agency which is driving the project, the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB.
Selected companies are expected to benefit from government’s special interventions: capacity-building, access to finance and markets among others. As these companies grow, they will create wealth, lots of jobs and consequently lead to Nigeria’s socio-economic growth and development. The companies are all indigenous. It is an exciting prospect. This is more or less the South Korean economic development model.
One of the major factors why Project 100 holds a lot of promise is its foundation. The selection process, which was conducted by KPMG, was rigorous and transparent. Companies that made the shortlist were selected from NOGIC JQS, NCDMB’s portal for companies operating in the oil and gas sector. At the end of the process, only 60 companies qualified. What this means is that briefcase companies did not make it; influence peddling was completely removed from the process. The companies that made the list did so on their own steam.
Second is the government agency anchoring the project, the NCDMB. In the last couple of years, the agency has shown an uncommon fervour in deepening local content in the oil and gas sector. The results of its efforts are manifest in the ever growing contribution of Nigerians in oil and gas, an industry they had perennially played a marginal role – oil and gas contribute more than 90 per cent of the country’s income yet is less than 10 per cent of its GDP. NCDMB has shown over the last few years what dedicated leadership can achieve going by the strategic role Nigerians and indigenous companies are playing in oil and gas. The height of this was the 70 per cent contribution of Nigerians – in man-hours, production and fabrication – to building Egina, the biggest floating production storage and offloading platform in Africa. In previous era, Nigeria’s participation would have been almost zero. The agency is zealous in ensuring that any job Nigerians can do must not be given to non-Nigerians and any service Nigerians can offer cannot be given to non-indigenous companies. With its records as precedents, the agency will most certainly deliver Project 100.
Third, beneficiary companies are some of the best run in the oil and gas industry. Only companies with good corporate governance ensure they fulfill all regulatory requirements, pay their taxes and other dues on time even when they are not being compelled to so do and continue to invest and reinvest in their enterprises while seeking opportunities for growth. When these companies are given opportunities, they will be better placed to optimise such opportunities. When they have less cumbersome access to finance, their promoters will not divert monies to fund indulgences.
The third factor is perhaps the most important, for not just the growth and survival of these organisations, but contributing to achieving the grand objectives of Project 100.
Nigerians have in time past been given huge opportunities such as import licences, preferential treatment by the government, among many others that availed advantages over their foreign competitors. Only a few, like Aliko Dangote and Mike Adenuga, have used such preferential treatment well: the former is building possibly the biggest petrochemical plant in the world and the latter a telecoms company with close to 50 million subscribers. If 10 of the 100 companies in Project 100 utilise the opportunities the way Dangote and Adenuga did theirs, then Nigeria will truly be on its way to replicating the South Korean model.
Beyond the aforementioned is the importance of having a vision and matching it with the ability to bring the vision to life. Project 100 is the vision of Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources who has long seen the riches in the oil and gas sector but pained by the peripheral role Nigerians hitherto played. He is of the view that Nigeria’s oil and gas resources can serve as a fulcrum for development, and not funding consumption of luxury goods and services. Although the industry is not anywhere close to achieving its potential, the minister cannot be accused of not trying. He has matched his words with actions. The greatest asset he brings to the industry is envisioning a better future, for without such visions, the country and its people will forever be bogged down with the mundane. Since his appointment, particularly in the last one and a half years, processes in the industry are no longer as laborious as they used to be and agencies have become more supportive of companies. When you get the little things right, bigger targets come into focus.
When Project 100 is placed on the canvas of some policies of the current government, the future of beneficiary companies is bright and the chances of replicating the South Korean model, high. Executive orders three and five, which mandate ministries and agencies to give preferential treatment to Nigerians in employment as well as procurement of goods and services, will engender an environment conducive for indigenous companies to thrive. If half of MDAs’ procurement budget is chanelled to indigenous companies, Innosson Motors, for instance, will likely be catapulted to the top of automobile companies in Africa. So also many other indigenous companies will be elevated on the strength of the Nigerian economy.
Adewole Ojo is with Four Points Communications Ltd, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org