Emmanuel Addeh writes on last Thursday’s inauguration of the Local Content Building in Bayelsa, the tallest in the entire South-south and South-east
Not many Nigerians in the last few decades can confidently point to a handful of completed projects by federal government ministries, departments and parastatals that haven’t been negatively affected by a very limited range of vision or outright neglect.
Indeed, if anything, it had become almost the norm to abandon projects or allow their execution stretch for years unnecessarily for various unexplainable reasons.
But there seems to be a breath of fresh air with last week’s formal commissioning of the Local Content Tower, constructed by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), an edifice with 97 per cent overall local content.
From being a small department at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the NCDMB appears to have, like humans, gradually crawled and has now become a full-fledged adult, driving and achieving set targets.
Established just 10 years ago, precisely in 2010, under the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act, the board, by the law, guides, monitors, coordinates and implement the provisions of the Act which is basically to encourage the participation of Nigerians in the oil and gas sector.
The idea of a local content body was first mooted in 2001 when former President Olusegun Obasanjo inaugurated the Presidential Committee on Local Content in the Oil and Gas Industry.
He then directed the NNPC to drive the policy and set certain targets, prompting the corporation to set up the Nigerian Content Division within its system and issuing some Nigerian content directives to industry stakeholders.
But there was no force of law behind the directives, therefore, operators of the industry found it convenient to comply on ‘best endeavour’ basis.
It, therefore brought about the need for the NOGICD bill which was passed by the National Assembly under the succeeding administration of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, but was assented to by President Goodluck Jonathan in April, 2010.
Since then, the organisation, after its initial teething challenges under Dr. Ernest Nwapa, a former staff of the Nigerian content division of NNPC who became its first head and later, Mr. Denzel Kentebe, seems to have fully taken off and stabilised under Mr. Simbi Wabote, an engineer, who is the third and current substantive Executive Secretary of the board.
With the laying of the foundation of the board’s tower in 2015, which would serve as the permanent headquarters, NCDMB may have fully succeeded in weathering all the storms, culminating in last week’s official opening of the edifice in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Considering the much talked about difficult terrain in the Niger Delta region, where underground structures are usually as tall and cash-gulping as the one above the ground, the current management would have had enough excuses not to finish the project and even in record time compared with similar projects all over the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari while formally opening the building for use, pledged to spend more on infrastructure across the country and focus on finishing projects delivered by local contractors and technology that create jobs for thousands of Nigerians.
He described the 17-storey building known as the Nigerian Content Tower as iconic.
Buhari was joined on the platform by former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege; three ministers, federal legislators, managing directors of international oil and gas companies and heads of government agencies.
Other structures commissioned by the president included the 10MW power plant and 1000-seater conference centre as he reaffirmed his administration’s drive to provide infrastructure across the country to attract investments, create jobs and eradicate poverty.
He said: ‘‘With the commissioning of this project, I want to highlight that we have put in place a landmark of reference in the Niger Delta to reflect long lasting legacies that signpost the years of oil and gas exploitation and I assure you that there is more to come”
The president expressed delight that thousands of direct and indirect jobs were created during the execution of the project in addition to the various business opportunities.
‘‘That is why two of the executive orders issued under our government are related to enforcing local content in public procurement and contracts to further replicate the successes being realised in the oil and gas industry.
‘‘Local content and self-reliance are key principles of the recently approved N2.3 trillion National Economic Sustainability Plan. The plan is aimed at the promotion of local production, local services, local innovation, and the use of local materials,’’ he said.
He said that the edifice was a befitting birthday gift for the 10th anniversary of the NCDMB as a regulator and developer of local content in the oil and gas industry.
‘‘I am also pleased that this project has been delivered by local contractors supported by other local engineering and project consultants. We must all be proud that we finished what we started” he enthused.
In his address, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, described the building as evidence that the president was committed to infrastructural development in every part of the country.
“It shows that skyscrapers and other laudable infrastructures can be built in the Niger Delta and indigenous contractors can perform wonders when given the right opportunities and the people of Bayelsa and indeed the entire Niger Delta are receptive to development and that Nigerian Content is here to stay,” he added.
Wabote, who confirmed that the project was fully executed using the dexterity of Nigerian consultants to design and supervise the project execution, said several other Nigerian sub-contractors worked day and night to deliver the world-class building with impressive safety statistics.
“The materials used is 76 per cent Nigerian content with the tiles, electrical cables, granite, and many other building materials produced in Nigeria. The manpower used for services and labour is over 95 percent Nigerian content.
“The skills transferred to the local workforce in the construction of a high-rise building has been unprecedented,” Wabote said.
He expressed delight in the end-to-end thinking that went into the design and execution of this project which he said is typical of the Nigerian content board.
“That is why we also partnered with NAOC JV to provide the 10MW gas-fired power plant to provide reliable power supply to the new headquarters building,” he said.
He emphasised that the excellent technical background and experience of the current executive secretary helped ease the project, stressing that the project recorded a remarkable safety record, with zero Loss Time Injury (LTI), zero fatality, zero disability and zero road transport accident.
The building stands tall at 70 metres, with about half of what is seen on the surface buried below to keep the building standing and provide structural foundation support, using 207 piles, each at 800millimeter diameter, driven to 30meters depth, it was gathered.
The ground floor area of the main building is 30,000m2, equivalent to four football fields and able to accommodate more than 1,000 workspaces for the company’s own use and for the use of other occupants of the building.
Some of the specifics include the use of fire-retardant façade, intelligent Building Management System that cuts down power consumption by 25 per cent, the provision of an over-hanging cradle on the roof slab to clean the four sides of the building.
It also has zero voice transmission through the walls of the conference centre, scissors design in the ramp of the multi-level car park to avoid head-on collision, and many others.
Aside the Swali community, the Elebele Community and the Bayelsa state people that would benefit from it, companies operating in the Niger Delta now have a world class structure for office use.
In his speech, the Managing Director of Megastar Technical and Construction Company Limited, Mr. Harcourt Adukeh stated that it was remarkable that a project awarded during the administration of former President Jonathan had continued seamlessly to completion and commissioning under the Buhari’s administration.
He commended NCDMB for having clarity of intent regarding what it wanted to achieve with the project, which has also sealed a deal for continuous maintenance of the humongous structure.
“This clarity of intent and enthusiasm to develop Nigerian capacity engaged on this project was demonstrated seamlessly through corporate administration of four consecutive executive secretaries,” he said.
The feat has also drawn accolades from several quarters, especially from political leaders and traditional rulers from within and around the state.
Bayelsa State Governor, Senator Douye Diri, who commended Buhari for the completion and commissioning of the 17-storey said the imposing structure had not only significantly improved the aesthetics and landscape of the capital city, but also aligned with the urban renewal policy of his administration.
But while congratulating the team and Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NAOC) on the successful completion of the project, the governor particularly called on NAOC to relocate its headquarters to Yenagoa, saying a greater percentage of its operations were domiciled in the state.
“I wish to extend my sincere gratitude to the president and the federal government for providing the strong political will and backing, which is essential for such a humongous undertaking to be concluded so timeously.
“At the same time, let me express my warm congratulations to the Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, and his entire team for the successful completion of this magnificent tower, which I am informed is the tallest building in the South-South and South-East of Nigeria.
“Without doubt, this edifice is a clear testament to what we as a people can accomplish with judicious planning and focused execution. It was a bold and ambitious venture. But given the outstanding pedigree of Simbi, we could not have expected anything less.
“This structure not only significantly improves the aesthetics of our city and profoundly advances its landscape, it represents a useful benchmark to set our targets as a state against.
“It is further worth mentioning that this landmark project was executed by an indigenous construction company” he said.
On his part, the immediate past Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Seriake Dickson, commended the federal government for the structure which according to him has added to the beauty of the fast growing Yenagoa metropolis in addition to its economic benefits to the society.
Dickson said in a statement by his Media Advisor, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, said the state government under his leadership collaborated with the NCDMB by donating the land for the 10 MW Power plant designed to supply uninterrupted power to the building.
He said it was heart-warming that the Buhari administration saw to the completion of the project, the first of its kind in the oil industry in Bayelsa.
He called on the youth and indeed Bayelsa populace to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the new projects and joined Diri on his calls on the oil firms to relocate their headquarters to Bayelsa, stressing that the government had created the enabling environment for business growth in the state.
“Now that the state now has a golf course, an airport, good roads, peace and stability, and a befitting office complex, the oil firms have no excuse to stay away from the Bayelsa” he said.
Also, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chibudom Nwuche, said the inauguration of the tower was a right step towards achieving self-sustenance in the nation’s oil and maritime industry.
He said the tower had become a reference point in the Niger Delta to reflect the long-lasting legacies that signpost the years of oil and gas exploitation in the region.