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The Chairman of ELSHCON Nigeria Limited, an Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Installation (EPCI) and marine services company, Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji, has called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure that the country remain competitive in the global oil and gas business.
Membere-Otaji, who is also the 2nd Deputy President of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (PHCCIMA), told THISDAY at the weekend that gone were the days when Nigeria was the only oil and gas –producing country in the sub-Saharan Africa.
He stated that having lost the monopoly of being the only exporter of crude oil in Africa, Nigeria should make her operating environment competitive to attract the International Oil Companies (IOCs) by passing the PIB.
According to him, unless the PIB is passed, the IOCs now have alternative destinations for investment as other countries have joined the league of oil and gas producers.
“Look, few years ago, Nigeria was the only crude oil –producing country in the whole of south of Sahara. Angola joined us later. But today, if you look at the map of Africa, almost every country bordering on the Ocean is either producing oil or has hope to find oil even in East Africa – Kenya, Tanzania and others. What we are trying to say precisely is that it is obvious we have to compete now. We need the IOCs and they also need us. There will be a compromise and the PIB will be passed and investment will continue. But the worry is that there are competitors now. Angola is there; Ghana is there; almost every country is there. However, we have an advantage – we have an advantage of huge reserves; we also have an advantage of population and availability of infrastructure as a country. We have an advantage that these other countries do not have,” he said.
He said local companies were affected by the non-passage of the PIB as the IOCs were withholding major investments, pending the passage of the reform bill.
He said the non-passage of the bill had made the operating environment uncertain, hence the delay in major investment decisions.
“If you listen to all the IOCs, they will tell you that they are holding on investments because of the non-passage of the PIB. We are a service company. As an oil service company, we service the Exploration and Production (E & P) companies. So, if they are not doing major investments because of the non-passage of the PIB, it simply means that we will have fewer jobs. That is how the non-passage of the PIB affects us. But I believe that they will pass the PIB. We are investing more; we are buying more vessels; we are bringing more equipment into our fabrication yards because we believe it will be passed,” he added.
On the level of investment made by his company, he said he would soon spin off one division of his company to form a separate company because the two divisions are getting bigger and bigger.
“But to let you have an insight, we started Marine Division with only one vessel but today, we have 13 deep and shallow water vessels. We started with one fabrication/jetty but today we have two. We have acquired the third one but we are yet to dredge it because of community issues. So, this can give you an insight without mentioning the cost of the investment,” he added.