Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Ministry of Science Technology and Nigerian Institute of Welders (NIW) have pledged to build local capacity in the welding industry to replace foreign welders from Philippines and the Far East countries whose annual repatriation was put at $5billion.
Making the disclosure during a courtesy call by members of the Nigerian Institute of Welders (NIW), led by its President, Dr. Solomon Edebiri, in Abuja, the Minister of Science Technology, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said NBRRI will collaborate with the institute to build the much needed skills in that sector to gradually take over from both the foreigners and expatriates in the sector.
While underscoring, the importance of welding to Nigeria’s economic development, he said: “Welding technology is very important in all aspects of our economic life in fabrication, manufacturing and construction.
“You cannot have an aircraft industry without welding; you cannot have satellite technology and without welding cars cannot be on the road.
“You can see that welding is important to building vessels and communications mast, ships and vessels.”
According to him, if the country had in the past looked inward by manufacturing many of the things that are imported today, the country would have been creating large pool of jobs and wealth for its citizens, added that this will further assist in strengthening the economy out of its present state.
The minister said: “It is the responsibility of the ministry to support the institute, we shall collaborate with them and I commend them for the work that they are doing for the nation and everything that is necessary to make sure that we now build the capacity to have enough Welders that can help in the construction, fabrication and manufacturing sectors of the country.”
On foreigners’ domineering presence in the sensitive sector, he stressed, though the welding technology is not as simple or easy as some people think take it, because of the high level of advance and precision coupled with the quality that is required like in building aircraft, communications mast and satellites development.
He attributed the capital flight to lack of skills and capacity development is in the past, even as he noted that Nigeria didn’t have these skills, but “through this institute we will now develop the capacity to have the sort of skills needed for more complex vessels development, materials, products, equipment and machines chains.”
Onu added: “I will also want to say that once we have that capacity, the expatriates and the foreigners will no longer be needed to be doing these jobs in the country.
“If we look at building in the country today, very often,we don’t have the skills in the country and that is why we go to neighbouring countries to look for workmen.
“One of agencies under the supervision of the ministry, NBRRI, has been charged to come up with a curriculum on how we can build capacity to create jobs and making sure that the jobs that Nigerians should do, Nigerians will be doing it and the revenue will be conserved revenue in the country. Also it will help us to improve our productivity.”
On his part, Edebiri called on government to show more concern to the development of the sector, stressing that the ministry must regulate the sector through formal recognition of the institute.
According to him, lack of patronage of members of the institute is a big challenge. “This is one of the major challenges in the sector, government must show some support to the institute, the regulatory agencies that regulate the institute in the country must impress it on organisations to patronise members of the institute and they should be appropriately sanctioned if they fail to comply”, he said.
Edebiri, said the time has come for the big hammer to be used on companies that have refused to look inward rather than employ Nigerians look outside to bring in Filipinos, Asians, and farther Europe to take up jobs meant for Nigerians.
He said: “There is also the concern of quacks, as most of the welders are not certified. There is need to certify all the welders in this country and at the moment we are moving to harmonise, that every organisation who uses welder not certified must be made to face sanction.
Nigeria, he revealed, loses more than $5billion every year noting this is capital flight.
“This is because, these foreign oil companies do not patronise our local welders, they end up paying in hard currency to the foreign Welders they employ, if put the quantum of construction work going on in the country in oil and gas, communications, manufacturing and even marine industry.
“I can assure you that we lose nothing less than $5 billion dollars every year to capital flight. That can be retained in the country.”