In the News:
Informing the Nigerian Dredging sub-sector.
The Nigerian dredging industry is coming of age and this showed clearly during the recently concluded 2 nd Nigerian Dredging Summit 2008 held at Protea Hotel from August 4-6. The thirst for knowledge is coming to the fore and many investors and sundry businessmen who would want to venture into dredging do not just jump in anyhow anymore.
We had quite a few well-heeled businessmen who were neophytes in the trade but who wanted to just come and learn more about dredging before putting large sums of money into it. More financial institutions also showed more interest and their delegates attended the full three days and participated actively in the robust debates and discussions that marked the quest for knowledge and the zeal to understand the underpinnings of a trade that constantly calls on them to deploy huge sums in forex to procure equipment.
The Lagos State government deserves very good commendation for coming out wholesale to speak to the delegates and to learn themselves; for, as a top official in one of the relevant agencies confided in DDH, they were out to learn all there is to know so that their regulatory activities can be well-informed. There is no doubt that the following days are going to see more hands-on approaches by their agencies that are charged with overseeing the sector. Since the end of the summit, quite a lot has happened with the Lagos State government as they have now rolled out the guidelines that will under gird dredging activities in the state and especially such regulations as would cater for their concern for the environment and for infrastructures like roads, etc.
But we must all acknowledge the serious debt we owe the foreign dredge manufacturing companies and vendors of similar equipment and dry plants. One thing that will be in the past from now on is buying in the dark, which some few Nigerians were doing in the past. Buying in the dark could mean that the importer is buying some expensive but brightly painted junk. In many cases such a path to equipment acquisition has rendered many a contractor financially comatose as more funds were then needed to bring the procured equipment up to good form to deliver on the project. But for the readiness to come forward and join in raising the consciousness of their customers, we doff our hats to our present American firms and other foreign equipment suppliers and future potential suppliers raring to have a go at the Nigerian market.
Overall, we are happy to be a part of this progress, and hope to sustain the momentum of this essential dialogue. This is because the task is hardly half done. During our recent tour of parts of the Niger Delta, we can confirm that the dredging needs of the Niger Delta has not even begun to be met. Most of the equipment on ground are devoted to chasing oil company work. But the hard truth is that the future of those oil company operations depend on installing some socio-political peace on ground and meeting the long-denied needs for amenities all across the Niger Delta. Without hardening the ground and tarring roads or deepening creeks that are now being exploited by criminals to impose themselves on society, the spectre of crime, kidnapping, community skirmishes and suchlike anomalies cannot go away. The only machinery fit for this task is the dredgers and their accompanying dry plants. In truth, there are many dredge contractors on ground especially in Port Harcourt, Warri and surrounding towns and cities. But the task before them is gargantuan; the men and materiel on ground is inadequate. They can hardly cope if the public sector commissions a good dose of the essential public works that needs to be done. Many communities contact us from time to time to inquire for willing dredge owners to partner with them. Although many reasons are cited why they cannot be honoured, a good part of the reason is really the lack of dredgers, period.
We shall henceforth expand the scope of our seminars, workshops, summits and suchlike approaches to get a massive awareness of the skill and knowledge gap to become known to all significant persons from the lowest to the highest quarters. Our tuition plan shall now target unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled hands with the aim of refresher courses for all who already know the way and are skilled; and entry-level introductory orientation courses for those just off the streets or those desiring change of jobs. In many of the seminars already held in Lagos, attendees have sought to saddle equipment suppliers with this responsibility but it doesn’t quite jell. We must do something to educate our own citizens and nationals to take their destiny in their own hands. Nigerian dredging companies must see to the responsibility of training and re-training their manpower to whom they entrust equipment that are worth millions of dollars in aggregate value.
Manpower development in the dredging sub-sector is key to attaining the next level of management for Nigerian indigenous firms and this is closely related to the call by many operators for some organization to be put into the way the industry currently runs. These are some of the themes of this edition of the magazine as we profiled two companies that speak to the issue. Chief Shahimi Jamal, chief executive officer of MFW Dredging of Port Harcourt dwelt at length on the imperatives of such organization and its benefits. On the other hand, Mr Jeph Okoro, chief executive officer of Jeph Kebbi International gave us a tour of his yard in Warri where he has developed a dredge building and operating enterprise. That speaks to the need for local skills development. Readers views on these topics and the themes being canvassed are welcome and may be published in subsequent editions.