Even as public funds finance their trips, in the run of an aberrant tradition, most members of the Federal Government’s delegation to the just-concluded annual Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), which held in Houston, Texas, United States (US), were not there for reasons of intellectually-stimulating exercises or altruism, but for private businesses, notably shopping sprees.
Checks at this year’s conference revealed that, but for a negligible few, the greater number of the Nigerian Government delegates to the event, widely-acknowledged as the world’s biggest gathering of oil and gas as well as maritime sector stakeholders, were in the US for ulterior and selfish motives, their agenda far removed from that of the OTC 2013.
It was learnt that most members of the Nigerian Government delegation, as their culture have been over the past years of the OTC, promptly on arriving the US, ostensibly for the four-day event, vanished to pursue private businesses.
Consequently, it was gathered, only a quarter of these delegates were available at any of the the event’s venues.
The ugly trend was particularly-noticeable among officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Federal Ministry of Transport, and their respective parastatals – the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Discerning industry watchers have blamed these laickadaisical approach to international industry fora abroad for Nigeria’s inability to retain her International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Category ‘C’ membership position at the last election.
After running one of the most elaborate and expensive election campaign, NIMASA had packaged the largest delegation, including several cultural groups, to the election at the IMO Headquarters in London, United Kingdom (UK), and was subsequently trounced.
An industry analyst said that “for a maritime event, that particular outing by Nigeria at the IMO was a total flop.”
That may be the same trend of thought of one of the more conscientious officials at the OTC 2013, who lamented thus: “Look around this auditorium, how many Nigerian Government officials are here for the opening ceremony of the event, which is the most important of all the four days.”
The official, who sought anonymity, accused the NNPC of having turned the event to an annual jamboree, squandering several billions of taxpayers’ money annually.
Noting that the NNPC had failed to leverage on the numerous opportunities the OTC for the benefit of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector, he said: “One would have expected that at the end of each year’s event, the Corporation comes up with a report on the proceedings and activities at the global conference in which over 2,000 government and private organisations are in attendance and make a review to better the lot of the Nigerian industry.”
He added: “It is not proper for anybody to spend this quantum of public funds attending such an event for several years without a report. This leaves one with the impression that the event is a jamboree, where Nigerian Government officials come and squander public funds and go back without learning anything concrete from their attendance.”
Addressing journalists at the opening ceremony of the OTC 2013 last Monday, the NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, said that Nigerian oil and gas community was at the event basically to display the technology available in the sector in Nigeria and also tap from latest technology globally.
Yakubu explained that there had been increase in the volume of the Nigeria’s output of crude and other petroleum products, boosting the prospects of investment in the sector.
The Nigerian stand was declared open by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, who was represented by Yakubu.
He urged the international community to take advantage of the huge investment opportunities in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry.
Describing Nigeria’s oil and gas industry as very central and strategic to the global industry, he lamented the low level of indigenous participation in the sector.