5th from left: Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chairman Board of NNPC Limited, Senator Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, Engr. Simbi Wabote, Executive Secretary of NCDMB and other dignitaries at the Nigeria Women in Oil and Gas Conference in Lagos.
…Government has been deliberate in gender- friendly policies and support for research and development in the interest of women in oil and gas industry.
…NCDMB-NEXIM bank partnership, has rolled out $40 million fund to empower women in the oil industry
…Women are capable and competent to carry out oil and gas activities.
-By Felix Douglas
At the Nigeria Women in Oil and Gas conference organised by the Nigerian Content Consultative Forum (NCCF) supported by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and relevant Women Groups in the industry, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, Executive Secretary of NCDMB and Chairman, Board of Directors, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Senator Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, took their turns to extol the virtues of women in oil and gas industry.
Sylva pointed out that the oil and gas industry plays a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of the world and will continue to play this key role in spite of the growing call for energy transition. Harnessing the natural endowment, strength, intuition, knowledge and expertise of women for the growth of the industry has become a fundamental truth.
Historically, women have shown to be very organized and in uniting to form a common front, they have many times accomplished what seemed to be impossible or much difficult to achieve.
For example in 1929, women in Aba in the defunct Calabar province of colonial Nigeria, organized one of the most successful protests in the history of Nigeria. The protest, which is known in history as Aba Women Riot, brought something new to the political dynamics of the region. The women challenged the British indirect rule system, which empowered Warrant Chiefs as British representatives or middlemen between the people and the colonial government. The protest forced the colonial government to jettison the Warrant Chief system in the region, after several weeks of negotiation with the women.
Recognizing the importance of women in nation building, and specifically in the growth and development of the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry, NCDMB has taken a commendable step in inaugurating the Diversity Sectorial Working Group under NCCF as provided in Section 58 of the NOGICD Act.
“It is that group that is today gathering these beautiful, professional women of this industry under one roof. Although women make up 48 percent of the global work force, they only account for 22 percent of the labour force in the oil and gas sector.”
However, the Nigerian government has been deliberate in gender- friendly policies aimed at increasing access to funding, award of contracts and support for research and development in the interest of women operators in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
Sylva said the government, through its NCDMB – Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) partnership, has rolled out a $40 million fund to empower women in the oil industry, separate from the Nigerian Content Initiative (NCI) Fund which is equally available to women (and men) who meet the criteria.
Still, women need one another to survive the realities of this sector, whether locally or internationally. It is estimated that women occupy about 50 percent of non-technical positions at entry level compared to only 15 percent of technical and field role positions.
Gender diversity and inclusion decreases with seniority. There is only a tiny proportion of women in executive positions. “The percentage of women in the industry drops over time from 36 percent to 24 percent between the middle and executive level,” a recent study by Global Energy Talent Index Report has indicated.
The Minister added that there have been commendable achievements, but more can be achieved if women groups in the industry embrace one another. The time has come for the Association of Professional Women Engineers (APWEN) to join hands with the Women in Energy, Oil and Gas (WEOG). This is that platform where Commonwealth Business Women of Nigeria (CBWN) and the Women in Energy Network (WIEN) should work together in championing the course of women in the industry. As these groups rally around the Diversity SWG, it will lead to increased participation of women in the industry and make them influential stakeholders.
According to Sylva, a new dawn began in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry when Elohor Aiboni became the Managing Director of SNEPCo and when Margrey Okadigbo became the pioneering chairperson in NNPC Limited. When Elohor’s foundation in STEM played a critical part, and that is why I am an advocate of STEM today.
“We need to be deliberate in getting more girls into STEM and I am happy to note that this is one of the key focus areas of the Diversity Sectorial Working Group.”
“Furthermore, as technology evolves becoming more sophisticated, more women via STEM are moving into technology globally. You will agree with me that there’s a meeting point between tech and oil & gas. A classical case is robotics. It is common knowledge that the oil sector has since embraced bots and advanced automations such that unmanned platforms are fast becoming the norm.”
“To take advantage of the changing landscape, women in the Nigerian Oil and Gas industry must work together towards increasing women participation in the industry, engendering growth, building capacities and capabilities, identifying opportunities, mentoring and coaching, in order for the industry to progress as a whole.
“In order for all these to happen, we need the buy-in, commitment and sponsorship of all players across the various segments of the oil and gas value chain to support the diversity and inclusion agenda.”
The Minister enjoined women operating in oil and gas industry to use the platform to charge organizations to review their policies so that opportunities are created for qualified women in technical and C-Level positions.
“In addition, we cannot over-emphasise the need for supplier diversity across all sections of the oil and gas supply chain and now is the time for affirmative action in this regard.”
Wabote on his part made it known that NCDMB gave free-hand to the Group to put together the Women Conference and commended them for putting together a remarkable event. The theme of the conference, “Leveraging Opportunities for Women in the Oil & Gas Industry” is very appropriate as it is coming at a time when the nation is repositioning the industry for greater in-country value addition, efficiency, transparency, and investments.
The NCDMB Executive Secretary hinged on some facts about female gender in terms of numbers and roles they have played over the ages in the society.
The term Leverage can be defined as “the ability to influence situations or people or utilize something to maximum advantage” while Opportunity is “a time or set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something”
Wabote said females represent a significant proportion of mankind and it is imperative that creative inclusive environment for them to thrive and take maximum advantage of such inclusion. It is a fact that the female population comprises about half of the entire population of humans. In Europe and Central Asia for instance, females make up about 51.5% of the entire population
“This trend is not different from what obtains in Nigeria as females make up 49.3% of the Nigerian population. These facts underscore the need for womenfolk to take center stage in many areas of professional and societal activities. According to Justine Greening who says ‘No country can truly develop if half of its population is left behind’.”
The importance of women in world affairs has been recognized and overtime significant measures have been taken – and is still being taken – to bring the womenfolk to centre stage where they can be availed the same opportunities with their male counterparts.
For instance, Article 1 of the United Nations Charter advocates “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
Similarly, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal SDG-5 advocates for the need to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” This is indeed essential for achieving sustainable development across all areas.
According to Wabote, Federal Government of Nigeria adopted the National Gender Policy in 2006 which requires the government to be proactive in its commitment in addressing problems affecting women and to ensure the mainstreaming of women issues in the formulation and implementation of all policies and programs. There are various laws and agencies in place to provide institutional backing for these requirements.
All these global and national declarations are in recognition of the unique roles women play in the society covering governance, advocacy, investments, capacity building, and many more.
The Executive Secretary emphasized that these roles are very vital in the oil and gas industry and NCDMB has therefore seen the need to leverage on these qualities to attract, involve, engage, and empower females in the oil and gas industry.
He stated further that in the area of governance, examples abound of women who have consistently proven their mettle as diligent, result-oriented, and savvy hard workers in leadership positions.
For instance, some countries in Africa such as Tanzania and Ethiopia are being led by women. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been run since 2011 to date by women. Since last year, Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been at the helms of affairs at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Women have made their marks as CEO’s of global companies such as PepsiCo, GM Motors, Yahoo, Citigroup, and many others.
Closer home, Wabote stated that in the last 23 years of the return of democracy, women have been occupying position of Federal Minister of Finance for sixteen 16 years. Dr. Mrs. Folashade Yemi-Esan is the amiable Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. She left very indelible marks during her posting as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources where her tenacity and professionalism were noticed in the entire industry.
In the oil and gas industry, Senator Mrs. Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, the pioneer Chairperson of the Board of Directors of NNPC Limited. The Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company is currently headed by Elohor Aiboni, a seasoned professional in the oil and gas industry.
Wabote said many other women are holding forth in several areas of the industry which attests to the fact that women are capable and competent to carry out oil and gas activities.
Within NCDMB, there is a woman as a member of the Governing Council. The Board has also include a female staff as a member of the Top Management Committee and Parastatal Tenders Board to deliberately provide platform for female perspectives in NCDMB governance and decision-making process.
As the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA 2021) is in place, one of the opportunity areas that should be leveraged on as regards governance is the inclusion of women in the administration of the various Trusts and Funds contained in PIA 2021.
Wabote revealed that the Act provides for establishment of Host Community Development Trust and the Host Community Development Trust Fund for communities. PIA 2021 also prescribed financial contribution to an environmental remediation fund for the rehabilitation or management of negative environmental impacts of the petroleum operation. These opportunities require the active involvement of women.
The efforts aimed at repositioning women as formidable players in key areas including the oil and gas industry is already yielding positive result and this this fact is underscored by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) 2020 survey which placed Nigeria in the 2nd position among countries where a woman may likely be one’s boss.
The NCDMB boss was of the view that one of the unique skill sets of womenfolk is advocacy. Whether in the selection of school for enrolment or in the next destination for family holidays, they possess the tact and the convincing power to secure alignment of purpose.
Advocacy is defined as public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. We require the advocacy skills of our womenfolk in one of the key programs of the present administration.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari launched the ‘Decade of Gas’ program in March 2021 to leverage on the nation’s huge gas reserves to become not just a major exporter, but to become a major gas consuming nation.
One of the initiatives put in place by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in line with the Decade of Gas declaration is the National Gas Expansion Program (NGEP) with three key elements namely Domestic Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Expansion, Autogas, and Power Generation. The Domestic LPG Expansion and the Autogas elements of the program require four intervention focus areas namely Availability, Affordability, Accessibility, and Acceptability.
While the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and its agencies have been working on various programs to make the LPG products available, accessible, and affordable the women are best placed to be at the fore-front of LPG acceptability.
Thus: “I see huge role for our women to eliminate hindrances to adoption resulting from dangerous perception of LPG cooking gas. Beyond the switch, safety awareness programs via home-to-home and kitchen-to-kitchen peer assists are also best deployed via the primary users of the products.”
The Executive Secretary highlighted some touch points of the Board in the LPG value chain covering inland LPG production, LPG jetties/terminals, storage facilities, inland transportation, cylinders manufacturing, bottling and retail.
NCDMB partnership investments in the gas value-chain includes:
*Partnership with NEDO Gas Processing Company in Kwale, Delta State for the establishment of 80MMscfd of Gas Processing Plant and a 300MMscfd Kwale Gas Gathering hub.
* Partnership with Triansel Gas Limited in Koko, Delta State for the 5,000MT LPG Storage and Loading Terminal Facility.
* Partnership with Rungas for the production of 1.2million LPG cylinders per annum in Bayelsa and Lagos States.
* Partnership with Brass Fertiliser for the development of a 10,000MT/day Methanol Plant at Odiama in Brass
* Partnership with Butane Energy to roll out LPG Bottling Plants and Depots in Abuja and ten (10) Northern States of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Bauchi, Nassarawa, Zamfara, Niger, Plateau, Gombe, and Jigawa states
* Partnership with Southfield Petroleum for the establishment of 200MMscfd gas processing plant at Utorogu, Delta State to produce 123,000MTPA of LPG. This represents about 10% of current LPG demand nationwide which will be produced in-country instead of being imported.
* Partnership with MOB Integrated Services for the construction of the 500MT Inland LPG terminal which is currently in operation at Dikko, Niger State. The partnership includes the construction of a Cylinder Refurbishment plant, procurement of 80,000bottles of LPG Cylinders and acquisition of distribution assets consisting of Bridgers, bobtails and cylinder distribution trucks to enhance LPG penetration across the target catchment areas.
* Partnership with Amal Technologies to set up plant in Abuja for the production of Smart Gas/Smoke Detector Alarm devices that monitors and detects smoke and all types of gas leakages thereby enhancing the safe usage of LPG in our homes.
He added that capacity building is one additional area of strength that the Board needs to leverage on as it co-opt with women into the oil and gas industry.
According to Wabote, the old African proverb states that: “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation.”
“Based on the various successes recorded in other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, commerce, education, and others, it is our belief that nurturing the career and businesses of women in oil and gas is one of the ways we could further enhance the participation of Nigerians in the oil and gas industry.”
This is particularly important as the world seeks answers to it Energy transition journey. Nigerian women in Energy is a strategic response to build a robust and sustainable stream of professionals and businesses that are adaptable to changing needs in the energy landscape.
NCDMB has been deliberate in its infusion of females into Human Capacity Development programs in STEM education, Sea-time training for marine cadets, ICT Labs, Technical Training with Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Vocational skills acquisition, Center of Excellence in Universities, Research and Development, Technology Incubation Centers, Project Management Training and Certification, and many other intervention programs.
Also, as one of the key challenges that hinder participation of women in the oil and gas industry activities is unavailability of funding, the Board partnered with NEXIM Bank to establish a $40 million Women in Energy Fund. This is in addition to the $300million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund (NCI Fund) which also provides a long term, single digit interest rate funding available.
The Oil and Gas Industrial Parks in Bayelsa State and Cross River state are getting ready for completion and will commence operation next year. The industrial parks have been developed as a low-cost manufacturing hub for equipment, component parts, spare parts, chemicals, consumables and other products.
Look out for the adverts in the newspapers inviting applicants for allocation of plots to set up manufacturing outfits. Women owned businesses with workable proposals are hereby encouraged to apply as you will be given special consideration as part our commitment to mainstream women into the oil and gas industry.
Wabote appreciated Ministry of Petroleum Resources for recognizing the Board’s efforts to lead the womenfolk into the mainstream of the Nigerian oil and gas industry via the award given to it as the “Best Gender Support Agency in the Energy Space” at the 5th Nigerian International Energy Summit (NIES) in Abuja.
The Board will keep the flag flying in its focus to empower women in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria.
“We promise to continuously leverage on your numbers to start a movement in the oil and gas industry. We cannot afford to leave behind half of our populace. We will leverage on your advocacy skills to influence policy direction, leverage on your intellect to deepen Nigerian Content, and leverage on your intuition to make the right judgement call when it matters most.”
An elated Senator Margery Chuba- Okadigbo, who is the first woman to be appointed into NNPC Board, said women should strive to attain success not minding their gender status.
Okadigbo added that she took up the challenge to venture into politics and ensured that she sat in her late husband’s seat as a senator in Nigeria and she made it.
She advised women to do same and avoid taking the back seat but struggle to make it to the top.