Hon. Tam Brisibe is definitely not a neophyte around the Nigerian apex sector, the oil and gas industry; with over 30years experience in government; he was Chairman House Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream), Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC), and Chairman of the Sub-Committee on Local Content in the Petroleum Industry, and also served on the House Committees on Petroleum Resources (Downstream). In this interview with our Abuja Bureau chief, SOLA AKINGBOYE, he sheds more light on the progress of the Nigerian Content Act in the light of his paper to be presented at the 10th Annual Global Local Content Summit to be held in London, this September. Hon Brisibe also speaks on the much touted Petroleum Industry Bill among others. Excerpt:

May we meet you sir and please tell us about your establishment – Tandice-B Solutions.

My name is Hon. Tam Brisibe; I am the CEO of Tandice-B Solution LTD. After living the National Assembly in 2010, we set up Tandice-B Solution because we felt that some kind of guidance will be needed for people to understand Local Content Law, which came to effect in 2010, and which we participated in.

What is the motive?

It was set up to act as an avenue to guide people on what Local Content is all about in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry. That is basically what we do; but we also work with NASS various committee in the industry, we organize conferences on their behalf, do some advocacy work for organisations that deals with National Assembly various committee on business.  Those are the things we do at Tandice-B.

Obviously, you have come a long way in matters associated with the oil and gas sector, most importantly on Local Content from your days as Former chairman, House Committee on Petroleum (upstream) and Sub-committee on local content respectively. As one of the lead proponents of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Bill, can you give a sketch of the motive behind its propagation back then?   

That was straight forward; we all know that since oil was discovered in Nigeria and we started exporting in 1959, for over fifty years, it was the industry that was predominantly dominated by foreign organizations. Then, around 1999 when this Republic started, some members of National Assembly felt that thing was not right and started a process of trying to put in a law that will encourage more Nigerians to participate in the industry, which is when the whole thing about the local content started in 2009. When we came on board in 2007, we only finished the race started by our predecessors.

The Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Act has been hailed as a vital instrument in salvaging the oil and gas industry, not just in Nigeria; but now globally. Having served as Chairman in a sub-committee on Local Content, what do you have to say about this?

Before the Nigerian Content Act came into existence, people have been talking about Local Content in various part of the world, it is not something that is new or started by Nigeria. Even when the Norwegian discovered oil, they had an aggressive policy on Local content without a Law. But the only thing we did as at the time we started looking at it in Nigeria, we felt that, going the way of Norway might not help us get to where we want to go to as quickly as possible, and we should not forget that Norway is an industrial developed country. So before they started talking about Local Content, they already had an industrial base to develop from; in our own case, we felt that in creating an enabling environment to encourage the Nigerian situation, we needed a law.

What follows?

What we then realized is that since Nigeria promulgated a Law recognizing Local Content, more countries of the world have started making laws guiding the development of local content, especially other African brothers who came unto the hydrocarbon field such as Ghana, Tanzania, Angola, and all those country now talking about having a Local Content Law, some have actually done that. So for Nigeria,  going the way we did has encouraged other oil producing countries in the world to accelerate their Local Content Laws and move away from leaving the industry to just run itself.

You are one of the key presenters at the 10TH Global Local Content summit in London. What does the summit stand to achieve?

The conference is a unique opportunity for local content leaders to discuss measurements of their policy and regulatory frameworks. I have been attending the Global Local Content for about eight years now. It has continuously brought together, participants from various part of the world. If you look at the Map of countries that participated in this year conference, it is up to twenty countries cut across the continents. It also encourages efforts to have more conferences of Local content, even locally. Part of what we are expecting in the next world summit, which is the talk on how to move the Local Content policy beyond the Oil and Gas industry into other sectors of the economy. As you know, this is what we have started talking about in Nigeria, hopefully in a few years; we should be able to develop policies on Local Content for other sectors of the Nigerian Economy.

As a veteran, how has the Local Content Act encouraged investment in the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector, and is it in line with global best practice?

I think it is. What you’d discover is that because the aggressive nature with which we have taken Local Content in Nigeria, a lot of countries are actually looking unto us to guide them on what to do with their Local content. In the last four years, we have move very far in achieving the objective of Local Content. Even the International Oil Companies, – IOCs, have embraced it and have a robust policy and philosophy to develop Local Content, and they are aggressive with what to do in line with Local Content Act.

With the level of attention the Nigerian Local Content policy is gaining, do you see Nigeria championing the cause of the global oil industry in this light?

At almost every forum that the Global Local Content forum is discussed, they always look for an input from Nigeria. In a way, we are part of what is leading the issue on Global Content globally.

Does that juxtapose reasons why two Nigerians at the same time, you and Eng. Nwapa, were selected among many nationals as key presenters at the London summit?

Of course you are correct, it is part of it because whatever it is we are doing, other countries want to learn from us, and that is why we are invited regularly to come and make such presentations due to our robust Local Content policy.

In what ways do you think the Nigerian Local Content policy has encouraged investment in Nigeria?                    

I think we should be very careful as what we are looking at when we are looking at achievement of the Local Content; it is not a direct benefit that we are looking for, but when more Nigerian companies are participating in the industry, it means that there are few numbers of things that foreign companies would give to their own people, the Nigerian companies would think first about Nigerians. The junior level manpower for instance will always be Nigerians, the grassroots will benefit in a more robust Oil and Gas sector and that will not come from Local Content alone, it will come from enabling environment in the Oil and Gas industry as a whole, and that merely goes to the issues we have been trying to deal with, the Petroleum Industry Bill. Because it has not been signed into law, it slows down investment in the industry. If we don’t have this kind of growth we cannot have the kind of development that we required. The Local Content Law has indeed increased Nigerians participation at various levels of the economy.

Some have accused the IOCs of shrouded Local Content implementation in some areas. What is your take on this?

I think the Local Content policy as handed to the IOCs has dealt with that issue. I will just give you an example; Caverton Helicopters is a wholly owned Nigerian company operating a sector that is capital intensive, which is transportation in the air for goods and personnel in the Oil and Gas industry. We only had one company in Nigeria that were doing this before now, Bristol Helicopters and the like, but because of the way IOCs have taken Local Content, Shell backed Caverton Helicopters by providing funds and the environment for the company to really get its foothold. Caverton Helicopters has now gone from a small company to the extent of being at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, that is a success story for the Local Content Law for the IOC and the indigenous company. That is an example of what the Nigerian Local Content policy has been able to do.

What areas do you consider the Local Content Act can be developed further?

A few things are very necessary, one is finance. I am not saying that government should provide finance, but there are certain things that government can do to encourage the financial institutions to provide the funds for transactions in the Oil and Gas industry. That is one way that indigenous companies can be encouraged. Part of what will be needed is, the contract process in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry also has to be revisited, because the transaction cycle have to be long enough to encourage banks to be confidence enough to lend to companies that are operating in the Oil and Gas industry. Those are the kinds of things government supposed to do. That will in turn, encourage the Oil companies to give out contracts to the Nigerian companies to participate in the industry.

What advise do you have for the Nigerian Content Board and other African Nations looking up to Nigeria to get their ‘Acts’ right?

My advice to the Board is for it to really maximize what can be in the Nigerian Oil and Gas sector, because IOCs are international in nature and they operate from different countries and from different environment. It would be useful for the Nigerian Content Board to reach out to other countries to discuss ways to harness the participation of IOCs in different countries and how they operate so that some things can be streamlined and made easy for the locals and operators in those countries to participate. Should Nigeria spearhead some of these things, it will then be to the benefit of the Board and the Nigerians.

This interview will not be complete without mentioning the PIB as an issue. You were quoted sometime back, saying the PIB has not been abandoned. How long does is take two separate National Assembly, (6th and 7th), to pass a bill as sacrosanct as the PIB, in twelve years?

The Law making process can be a tedious one, but it does not necessarily mean it should be as tedious as we seem to make it to be in Nigeria. I definitely will not be able to make categorical statement as to a definite time that the Bill will be signed into Law. What I can say is that I know that the present leadership of the NASS is bent on ensuring that the Bill does not go beyond the 7th NASS. I know they are still working on it.

The House is in the news with a promise that PIB will be passed before December. How feasible do you think that will be?

I won’t give a timeline, it is possible before December, when they resume next week and take up the process from where it is. It will be the best if it is passed before December, but it is very unlikely if this 7th NASS does not pass the Bill into Law.

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