NATONY is one of the very successful stories of indigenous firms that have grown over time to the level of being able to compete internationally. In this interview with the Managing Director of the firm, Mr. Nath Agbonifo, in an interview told Godwin Oritse that the government is trying to politicize the law by using it to patronize its cronies. He warned that until government allowed firms that are truly involved in the oil and gas business, the law may not achieve the purpose of building indigenous capacity. Excerpts:
The local content law is meant to protect local players like yours, what do you see as the major challenges local contractors are facing in the oil and gas industry?
The truth is that, if the government wants to help in implementing the local content law, they should be able to reach out to existing indigenous firms who have capacity to execute jobs in this industry. But, what I have come to realize, is that government has in collaboration with some players, use jobs in the oil and gas sector to pay their friends for political patronage and most times these people have never been in business that has to do with the industry while those of in us the business are left out because we do not have political god fathers.
Has the Local Content Law enhanced your business since it came into being?
I will say no because, there was a bid in one of these International Oil Companies and in that bid, we partnered with another firm after assembling all our documents together, we won the bid at the end of the day, but, the IOC refused to give us the contract, because, they already had a foreign firm they wanted to give the job to.
After series of meetings, they said that we could not do the job we had put in a bid for and won, and they finally give the job to the foreign firm and offered to give my partner a Commission. After we went to NAPIMS to complain, NAPIMS said that “if they are ready to give a Commission, it is better for you”.
Has ISO certification helped your business in any way?
The difference is very clear after the certification, because with the certification, you access any document you want from our office without sweat. Before the certification, when you come here and ask for any document, we will be running helter-skelter to get you the document.
Has the certification brought about any increased patronage?
I would say Yes, because, Shell has given us more recognition than before the ISO certification, the certification has improved our system.
What are the major challenges for local contractors like yours and what do you think the government can do to ease some of these challenges?
There is really no challenge except that the government should allow the system to run on its own and stop interfering and the entire process to be as competitive as possible. It is not fair for a bidder to bid for a job and after wards run up and down to see the power that be with a view to influencing the bid. For me, let everything be official and competitive, but because we are a greedy, some people do not want to give others, opportunities.
With the experience of losing a job you bided for and won, what can the government do to ensure that local firms benefit from the system using the Local Content Law?
The government should ensure that indigenous firms are involved in every major projects in the oil and gas industry. Involving local firms in these projects will not only enhance the capacity of indigenous firms, it will also allow them to gain experience from the execution of such mega projects. In Malaysia, no foreign firm comes into that country to work, without partnering with an indigenous company to work with.