Thursday, 8 December 2016

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST NIGERIA PROFESSIONALS BY BIG FOREIGN OIL AND CONSTRUCTION FIRMS

There is an old practice amongst multination­al companies operat­ing in Nigeria which is still holding sway to this day. This anachronism stems from the fact that in almost all the big foreign companies operating in the coun­try, Nigerians are never allowed to work in certain management posi­tions. Despite their qualifications and competence, these Nigerians working in these organizations are not even made to understudy their foreign counterparts with negligi­ble remuneration while the expatri­ates are paid huge sums of money in foreign currencies here in Ni­geria.

This development was what compelled the Sixth Senate to issue a threat that some multinational oil exploration and construction companies, including Halliburton and Shell would appear before it over violation of expatriate regu­lations. More than five years after that threat, nothing has been heard about the matter. According to the then Chairman of Senate Commit­tee on Employment, Labour and Productivity, Senator Wilson Ake, some of these erring companies which are accused of flagrant abuse of expatriate laws, are expected to give details of their compliance to expatriate and labour laws in Nige­ria.

It is an old gambit. The observa­tion by the Senate committee that over 60 per cent of these companies are guilty of this charge is rather soft on them as all the oil and construc­tion companies operating in Nige­ria are into this mess. We recall that in 2004, as part of a 19-point deal reached at a stakeholders meeting involving government, oil compa­nies and organised Labour to avert a planned nationwide strike, the ministry of Internal Affairs and the Department of Petroleum Resourc­es, DPR, pledged to work out ways of effective policing and implemen­tation of the under-study clause in the expatriate quata approval, to forestall the endemic cases of abuse in the nation’s over-violated oil and gas sector. Twelve years down the road, we are still on the musical chair. There is a big racket here as our Immigration Service is kept on a fixed retainership.

The deliberate refusal of expatri­ate personnel to place Nigerians in under-study capacities has under­mined the advancement of semi-skilled Nigerian workers and the objective of technology transfer. It is appalling that over the years not a few of these foreign companies would take over even functions that Nigerians can conveniently per­form. Since 1963 when the Nigeri­an Immigration Service was carved out of the Nigeria Police, expecta­tions that expatriate quota regula­tions would be effectively enforced have yet to be met.

In consequence, foreigners have oftentimes been deployed by com­panies to positions whose respon­sibilities could be efficiently dis­charged by skilled Nigerians. This remains a factor in the high unem­ployment situation in the country, especially in regard to Nigerian graduates in Engineering and re­lated technical specialism. The Senate may however have to review aspects of the aforesaid regulations in the light of the current drive for foreign investments and the pursuit of full liberalisation. Government should look for more forward-looking policies that would make foreign investments as mutually beneficial to prospective investors and the country at large. Why, for instance, must the butcher at Good­ies, Ikeja in Lagos be a foreigner?

Notwithstanding the provisions of the law at the Investment Pro­motion Council that every investor is expected to have a specific num­ber of expatriates, structures and institutions must be put in place for the abuse not to subsist. We must note that a new trade and in­vestment philosophy has emerged as part of the New World Order. Countries now have several conces­sions they want from each other to hope for progress without a single broad negotiation. The more horses there are to trade, the more logical it becomes to trade them within the same market without prejudice. If the Nigerian government should have the political will to invest in human capital development and give Nigerians the needed techni­cal and vocational education and training necessary to change our environment, the need to under­study expatriates will not arise as many Nigerians would definitely perform better than their foreign counterparts.

The extraordinary accomplish­ments of thousands of Nigerian scientists, including Professor Phillip Emeagwali and Professor Gabriel Oy­ibo who have conquered their worlds and even surpassed their white equals, readily come to mind. It is therefore not altogether desir­able to insist that Nigerians should continue to be in understudy posi­tions even when it is obvious that some of the so-called expatriates are less heeled than their Nigerian subordinates. We know that this was yet another charade the Senate had embarked on. The Eight Sen­ate should summon the courage to invite the Minister of Interior and top Immigration officials to ex­plain the roles of their ministry and agency in the mess, for government is a continuum. For once, let their report be made public. Also, casu­alisation must be stopped in the Ni­gerian Labour market. (Authority)