Members of the Nigerian Institute of Welders (NIW) have raised the alarm over exclusion in the Trans-Sahara $13billion Gas Pipeline Project.
The late President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, had pumped huge sums into the project, but foreign welders are said to have taken over in the construction of 4,128 km Trans-Sahara Gas pipeline Project (TSGPP).
Prof Shehu Abdullahi Ma’aji of the Federal University of Technology, Minna and a member of the Institute raised the alarm during their national stakeholders’ conference in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
About 1,037km of the construction project are said to be in Nigeria while 841km is in Niger Republic and 2,310 km is in Algeria.
Final agreement was signed in 2019 while actual construction has started in Nigeria. Many European companies and countries such as Russia’s GASPROM, India’s GAIL, France’s Total S.A, Italy’s Eni-SpA and Shell have asked to participate in the project expected to create another gas supply route to Europe by delivering over 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year.
Construction work starts in Warri in Nigeria to run through Ajaokuta, Kaduna, Kano to Niger Republic from where it is expected to get to Hassi R’Mel in Algeria and connect to the existing Trans- Mediterranean, Maghreb-Europe, Medgaz and Galsi pipeline.
In his remarks, Prof Ma’aji complained that Nigerian welders and other technicians have been shut out. He said imported workforce has taken over while many well trained Nigerian welders and other technicians are roaming about.
He said it was time to summon the meeting of stakeholders in the welding technology in Nigeria to discuss the threat.
He said: “God forbid that this gas pipeline from Ajaokuta to Kaduna, to Kano, to Niger, Morocco to Algeria will not involve Nigerian technicians. This kind of thing won’t happen in India or China. They are ready to do training overnight and get the required manpower. The funding is from foreign loans. They will siphon the money back through this way. We must find the way forward.”
The technologist, who said he alone has trained over 500 certified welders revealed how the late president saw a proposal from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the size of money that was to go to foreign welders and technicians and allegedly screamed.
He further revealed how the late Yar’Adua demanded to know why Nigerian welders were not to be involved and that he was told the Nigerians were not internationally certified.
Ma’aji said that was how the late Yar’Adua directed that everything must be done to get Nigerian welders on the project by setting machinery in motion to train and certify them fast.
He further disclosed how Yar’Adua funded the Nigerian Institute of Welders and insisted it must register with international welders and to certify Nigerian youths in welding so they can take over.
He said Yar’Adua had queried thus: “How can we have all these youths and we cannot engage them.” That thus started the scheme to make Nigerian welders take upper hand in the $13billion pipeline project.
He said Nigeria recently signed agreement with other countries for the Trans-Sahara gas pipelines and that the Ukrainian crisis has heightened the international appetite for gas from Nigeria.
“Then, there was an agreement to lay this pipeline. Go and see who are the technicians working there! Foreigners! It means the Yar’Adua intervention failed.”
The expert wondered what went wrong. “Is it because of in-house management lapses that NIW cannot take up this challenge? The trained youths are crying. The money that should sit at home is fleeing abroad. That is one of the reasons of this stakeholders workshop which is to reassess ourselves and find out the challenge why we can’t take up the slots in the welding industry” Prof Ma’aji added.
Speaking with THISDAY, Ayo Adeniyi, CEO of Nigeria ANB (personnel certification body known as Authorised National Body), said the objective of the stakeholders’ meeting was to revive members who have declined interest and participation in the organisation.
Adeniyi stressed: “It is to give members a chance to air their views because the Institute is a commonwealth, not a limited liability company for a person. When members air their grievances, the healing process begins. One of the objectives of this meeting is to address the source of the decay, eliminate it, and give members more commitment and get more impact.”