HYDROCARBONS have been central to Nigeria’s economic growth story for the past five decades, and oil and gas revenues continue to be a massive contributor to the government budget. Expectedly, the Federal Government relies heavily on this industry as it looks to create jobs and opportunities, generate electricity and jump-start industrialization. Alongside this is a drive to ensure that local Nigerian businesses play a greater role across the extractive industries.
General Electric (GE), a leading global infrastructure company which recently signed a Country-to-Company agreement with the Federal Government to support infrastructure reforms across critical sectors is a key player in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas industry. In an interview, GE Nigeria Chief Operating Officer, Uzo Nwagwu, says GE besides supporting the oil and gas industry in the major deep-water developments, as well as in shallow water and onshore blocks, is bringing technical expertise and technology solutions for Nigerian companies as they invest in gas infrastructure for the sustainable development of the country.
According to him: “GE is committed to localization as a strategy. We in GE Nigeria focus on capacity-building – in human capital growth, supply chain development and partnership with local organizations and businesses for talent and infrastructure development and support. As a global company, GE has the unique opportunity to have a well-rounded economic impact on the regions where we operate. For Nigerians that means hiring local staff and have Nigerian Leaders (like me) provide development opportunities to Nigerian SMEs.
“GE is also committed to increasing its footprint, developing Nigerian enterprises so that they can participate in the company’s oil and gas supply chain. A huge $1 billion investment in an assembly plant in Calabar will also eventually assemble equipment for exploration and production locally, creating jobs and transferring technical expertise to the Nigerian workforce. “
For a multinational company with an American heritage, what is GE’s view about the Federal Government’s local content laws especially as it affects the Oil and Gas industry? Uzo Nwagwu says GE continues to drive Localization not only because Local Content is stipulated by law but because GE clearly believes that this is the right thing to do. Any investment in any local economy that does not translate to creating jobs, technology transfer and building skills cannot guaranty an attendant boom in the local economy. Localization enables growth in the communities in which we work, while increasing our productivity.
“It may interest you to know that GE in Nigeria alone employs over 500 Nigerians occupying very senior executive and technical roles. Over 90 percent of our Field service engineers are indigenous Nigerians. A couple of months ago, another 15 engineers, machinists and welders that will support the planned multi modal manufacturing and assembly plant in Calabar were employed. They are currently being trained within and outside the country,” says Uzo.
For an organisation at the initial stages of building the Calabar facility, one would not ordinarily expect a strong commitment in Corporate Social Responsibility in Calabar for now but GE has done just that with the Government Technical College Ikot Iffanga in Cross River state. In March this year, GE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cross River State Government where it committed $2m to Upgrade of the institution. The funds will be used to equip the school with modern training facilities/workshops, train the teachers within and outside the country and upgrade the curriculum to meet the standards of similar institutions around the world. “Clearly this school will be a training ground for technicians to feed into the GE factory in Calabar.
The GE Chief Operating Officer says this is not unusual for GE as it aligns to the overall GE philosophy of training and talent development: “We invest significant research and development resources every year and maintain Centers of Excellence (COE) around the world, each dedicated to delivering the highest quality for its particular technology area. We also have the unique advantage of drawing on GE’s strengths in other key technology areas like Aviation, Energy and Healthcare. By casting a much wider net than most companies, we are able to identify and apply solutions that improve performance in all oil and gas applications. We cast a similarly wide net for innovative thinkers. In addition to recruiting top graduates in every region where we do business, we also have a variety of training programs for experienced technical and managerial recruits from other industries. Because of these unparalleled training and career development programs, as well as the high levels of integrity we bring to all other aspects of the way we work, GE Oil & Gas is recognized as an employer of choice,” concludes the GE Executive.
Every year GE spends over $1billion on training and capacity building. Lazarus Angbazo, GE President and CEO who himself is another Nigerian says this commitment is based on a philosophy that places a high premium on human capital: “The greatest asset that this company has today is its people, not the technology, not the financial resources. In Nigeria we have a department focussed solely on talent development.”
“Again, the GE portfolio of technology solutions is well aligned with Nigeria’s infrastructure needs. These solutions help us in maximizing efficiency, productivity and reliability, thereby helping customers adapt to increasingly complex challenges at the same time as the local industry goes through unprecedented growth in terms of product demand, human resources, supply networks and infrastructure.”