Moses Siloko Siasia is the chief executive officer (CEO), Mosilo Global and chairman/founder of the Nigeria Young Professionals Forum (NYPF). In this interview with OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, he speaks on the Egina Oil Field Project and the non-implementation of the programmes with regard to the Local Content Act. Excerpts:
What are the challenges you have concerning the Egina project?
I am excited about the Egina FPSO project by Total and by extension, the NNPC because this is a project that will further boost efficiency and service delivery in the oil and gas industry and would also attract possible Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). We are a sovereign country and it gives me a lot concern that after signing the Local Content Act, such kind of project cannot be fully implemented in terms of achieving the local content drive that we have. So, the challenges are very enormous. To me, fighting for this kind of irregularities in the system is not for my selfish interest and if you look at me, I am very comfortable by the grace of God, so why will I give my attention to such things? On the other hand, we are talking about safeguarding the unborn generation, we are talking about speaking the truth to things that are happening in our country, we are talking about how our kinsmen have actually compromised the collective aspiration of the Nigerian people with their positions, pens. So, a lot of irregularities went on with the project which I am not so comfortable with. It is an issue we are dealing with. My own passion is to see how we can generate concrete employment for our young people. How we transfer knowledge from foreign companies to our local people because all these are obtainable elsewhere in the world, even in Africa. So why is Nigeria different? My passion is to ensure we create job opportunities for our young people and also to ensure that we follow through the implementation process of the Local Content Act so that we can build capacity of our people and this is what the Act is all about.
Another issue of concern is the greed of some people, even the foreigners conniving with government officials, some private sectors to ensure that the role they are going to play in terms of building capacity is not being followed. There have been a lot of issues and this is why we are fighting to ensure that we get result at the end of the day.
Talking about the Local Content Act, I am aware some companies participated in the project, contributing about 30 percent. But if you look at it critically, you will know that there is a lot of falsehood in the outer expression that people are getting. Let me tell you, it is not enough to come and say 30 percent was contributed and a lot of companies were empowered. No doubt there are some companies genuinely that were empowered in the process that also built capacity, but are these processes up to the standard obtainable elsewhere? In America or Asia, you cannot come in as a company and start doing things that do not conform to the moral standards and principles, but in Nigeria, they get away with it and when they say 30 per cent I begin to laugh. Let me be sincere, the ratio of work in that project is about 1:4, one Nigerian and four expatriates from Korea and the Philippines. But it was because some Nigerian lawmakers who went there and saw people from the Philippines and they grumbled, that made the Philippinos return to their country. Check the expatriate quota that was brought in to work on that project, you will find out a lot of irregularities. You hear people saying that they want to create jobs for our youths, how can we be spending such resources as a nation and we are not even concerned about the jobs that could be created.
I do not know if we are thinking as a people. In some other oil producing countries and most times I use African countries as an example, look at Angola, Egypt, you cannot go and try all this nonsense. If you are saying that you are giving 40 per cent employment to the youths, you have to follow it up and monitor. You have to check there are indices, Key Performance Indexes (KPIs), you have to show that you do what you say and you will also agree with me that Samsung has been involved in some corruption issues.
These are information that we have at our disposal and there are some information that if we let out, Nigerians people will not sleep. For example, how can a South Korean tell a Nigerian to kneel down with his hands up and eyes closed? This happened and we have pictures and unknown to the South Koreans, our people were taking pictures. Nigerians being enslaved in their fatherland, let us call a spade a spade for once and this is my passion to ensure that the right things are done so that tomorrow when such projects are coming into the country we will not make the same mistakes again.
You spoke about implementation, that some things were not done according to laid down rules. Can you be specific?
Those are some of the things I have been mentioning here. Firstly, the local content element of the entire contract, the scope of work that needs to be done in Nigeria, the man hours that are needed for this project, did they come from the Nigerian people? These are some of the irregularities we are talking about and the variation they are asking for; is there any local content element in that variation? Even now, they are asking for over $200 million variation without any local content in it. Have you ever been to any Samsung office in Nigeria? People are saying that the $3.8 billion we are talking about is child’s play, but that job is well over $16 billion? The actual price was $3.3 billion, but how did it get to $16 billion? When we started this advocacy, we got a lot of calls and information that we did not even know about and even from some foreigners who have worked on the project advising us not to let this kind of thing happen in our country. The maltreatment they even give to Nigerians who are working on the project is very discouraging. The project has been commissioned, but why is it that the project has not sailed till today and even the local content company LADOL does not have access to the project? When good men keep quiet society gets bad, so that is why we have decided not to keep quiet and we have decided to speak. The Nigeria Young Professionals Forum and also connected development of organizations that have been following through the project are all part of advocacy. We are together in this and we must find the solution to this. We are doing this for our children and not for us as a people.
There were reports that you sought to get some contracts during the projects, based on the fact that you are also a stakeholder in the oil and gas industry and you were also fronting for some foreign countries. How true is this?
People can say anything, I do not care. They should go and do background check and bring evidence and records. I have never sought for a pin in that project. I do not have any interest in that project, my interest is the critical mass of young people who are unemployed. Do you know the pressure I go through as Chairman of the Forum? Frustration of young people, some have committed suicide. Doctorate degree holders becoming taxi drivers and we are spending billions of dollars in the oil and gas industry. I cannot keep quiet and not in my generation. I do not want a situation where my children will ask questions, so those who are criticizing and I understand that my own generation are the people who are castigating this, but mind you, I am not doing it for them, but for the generation unborn. All this nonsense must stop and this cannot happen elsewhere. What is the population of Angola, Egypt and Algeria? Nigeria is the highest producer of crude oil with over 2.4 million barrels per day and we are not creating jobs for our people. In the past, do you know how many jobs that have been awarded; have you ever asked how many youths were employed in the project? Do you know that other oil producing countries in the world, their biggest cash cow in terms of engagement and employment is the oil and gas industry, but in Nigeria is that the case? Meanwhile, you see people who are supposed to be protecting the interest of our generation are the ones killing us because of selfishness.
We must say no. I do not have interest in the Egina project everybody knows. People feel I know about Hyundai, they have an investment in Bayelsa, they were building a fabrication yard. Go there and see the kind of investment and they have even put over $50 million in that place. They have a school where they train young people and when you have a group of young people that are industrious, they give you information and you are well satisfied with some of these companies who have good intentions to empower our people, you must give them kudos. What has Samsung done? In this job, the lowest bidder was Hyundai, but why was the job taken from Hyundai to Samsung? Have you ever asked this question as a journalist? Why was this job taken from Hyundai as the lowest bidder to Samsung and what has Samsung done? Look at KPMG, is that not an investment, is that not a physical investment that can even pay tax, let alone the number of people employed in that building, but where is Samsung office? We cannot continue like this as a nation and that is why we have poverty everywhere.
What is the solution to these problems going forward?
The solution to these problems is that a lot of irregularities have taken place in this project, let us tell ourselves the truth. That is why I am sending a strong message to Samsung, they should come out and realise that they have made mistakes so that people can help them, but when they meet with some of these political bigwigs, some of our representatives in the oil and gas industry with government appointments and bribe them, it does not help us as a country. The only thing is that every company who has genuine interest should always stand by the truth. I am not fighting anybody and I cannot say that the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) is not trying its best, but it has to be a collective effort because they cannot be everywhere and when we have information like this, they should understand that such information and advocacy is to further strengthen the efficiency and capacity of that institution. I understand that investigations are going on in the EFCC, DSS, National Assembly but what are the outcomes of these investigations? So let us also try our own, being the worst hit and try and see if we will not achieve results because right now ,as I speak to you, a lot of international media are interested in this matter and I have also made myself available to speak because I want them to do the right thing and tomorrow another project bigger than Egina is coming up, are we still going to make the same mistake if this one is not corrected? I am very passionate about this country and I have no other country to call my own. I am from the streets and today God willing, I cannot beg for food because I have worked very hard. Look at my antecedents, I have always been speaking for people, I have always been doing things that are selfless, so once you know a man and his capacity, ability, sense of direction, you will understand where he is going to and this one, I will ensure that the right thing is done.
People feel the Egina project is an advancement to what was obtainable in the past ,considering the fact that some of the projects were carried out here, so some persons should not complain, so going forward in the future ,perhaps more percentage will be done locally. So if for example, you went to a party and someone cooked food and everybody died after eating the food, then another party was done where few people died, will you say because people died in one party and only few died in the other? My brother, death is death; let us tell ourselves the truth. Yes, there are some improvements and I give credit, but we could have done more as a nation. Nigeria is the most populated, the giant of Africa and we cannot call ourselves giants without doing the right thing and most of the information we have were given to us by foreigners who are involved in the project and if they are not passionate will they be giving us that kind of information? We need foreigners to come, we need companies to come, but with genuine intentions not to reap the country. What is happening now is portfolio companies coming into the country without any sense of investment and this are not done anywhere else in the world. The children that we are giving birth to today are already asking questions and I remember when I was growing up I could not even look at my father, but these children are asking questions and one day they will ask you and say ‘Daddy did you speak?’ And I will tell my son that I spoke.
During former president Jonathan’s administration, it was reported that he wrote to those handling the project that they should shift their yard to Bayelsa. Could this be another reason you and your people are in this?
I do not know if he wrote a letter that the project should be transferred to Bayelsa State and that is my sincere truth. What we are doing is not a Bayelsa thing. We are doing a Nigerian thing and not a Bayelsa thing and that project is not employing only Niger Delta people but Nigerians. There are Igbos, Yorubas and Hausas working in that project. Okay, the project was awarded during Jonathan’s time why didn’t they ask if I was talking during Jonathan’s time, Hyundai won the bid, why is it that they gave it to Samsung during Jonathan’s time and why are they not asking that question? When people start getting employment in the oil and gas industry that is when they will come and start celebrating with you and these are people that are criticizing you. I want you to send this message to Nigerians, when the country was going through colonialism, slave trade and when the white men were dealing with our forefathers with chains, there were some Nigerians that were applauding their acts but when it stopped, there was a celebration and those who also applauded the whites came for the celebration and also when Nigeria was going through dictatorship people were applauding the regime. But when there was a transition from military rule to democracy the same people celebrated, so I do not care about what people say but focus on the message.
What can we do to attract investments into the oil and gas industry?
The oil and gas industry is very important. The foundation of everything matters and even the foundation of your home. Although there are some improvements, more needs to be done. I am talking about setting up standards, procedures, programme management processes, monitoring. Let me also ask, some of the equipment and materials used in that project, who monitored them to be sure that they are up to standard to stand the test of time? This is the problem we have. There is no proper monitoring process and for example in the project, most times they will say National Assembly members are coming to inspect and when they come, they hide all the expatriates, I have pictures and when I show you as a journalist you will cry for our country and when we bring it out people will not sleep. The only thing Samsung needs to do is to realise that they have made mistakes and look for ways to sort it out and the $300 million they are looking for, we want to know the local content element and how Nigerians will benefit from it and not for them to give it to South Korea. And you are also aware that the Samsung Chairman is in jail.
I get so worried that companies who are struggling in their countries to survive are being revived with our resources because we have stupid people in positions. Let me go religious, either Muslims or Christians who are they praying to when they have sold their conscience and the unborn generations because of their selfish aim? I will not do that and if I have a position tomorrow I will not tolerate it. They must ensure that they do what is right and this is what Nigeria is not doing. This is my passion and we will ensure that people do the right thing.
On the 28th of August, we are taking a detailed petition to the EFCC and we are bringing the world’s attention to it and this is something that has never happened before and the only thing is that we are praying for Samsung to come out to accept that they have made mistakes and let all stakeholders come together to seek ways to do the right thing. The Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base (LADOL) was used as a face. Why is it that the project has not moved on since it was commissioned? Let me also state that some media houses are not helping Nigeria to achieve its cause to be developed because they do not carry out investigative journalism