‘As long as we help to produce one graduate, we are contributing to development of Nigeria’
Isa Inuwa, Deputy Managing Director, Nigeria LNG Limited in an exclusive interview with Frank Uzuegbunam, editor, West Africa Energy, spoke on NLNG’s University Support Programme. Excerpts:
What is NLNG University Support Programme about?
The NLNG University Support Programme is an integral part our corporate social responsibility agenda guided by NLNG overarching vision of helping build a better Nigeria. We have taken education as one of the most important levers of development and also an area that we should put a lot of efforts, attention and resources into.
The University Support Programme is essentially a programme whereby we fund the provision of infrastructure and equipment in the area of science and engineering. We do that not only because of our love for education guided by our vision but also because we realize that there is a gap both in quality and delivery that we can help in fixing.
Accordingly, NLNG decided to set aside $12 million and on the basis of transparent and factual criteria selected 6 universities in Nigeria but importantly, one in each geopolitical zone to support in the provision of infrastructure in the areas of engineering and technology education.
We started the programme over a year ago in the 6 universities; Ilorin, Maiduguri, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Zaria and Nsukka. Already, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU) has commissioned its project, a multi-functional laboratory, big complex with modern equipment for research and teaching. We are hoping that early in the New Year, we will commission another 2 but definitely, before the end of the first quarter of 2016, we would have commissioned all the projects.
What are the features of project?
Each university has its own peculiarity. There are areas where they are strong and other areas where they are not so strong. Essentially, we asked them to go and choose what they want to do but we gave them guidelines in science, engineering and technology. If you go to ABU for instance, they have equipment not only around IT for teaching and research but also in the area of research for the production of catalysts used in refining. If you go to University of Port Harcourt, apart from the infrastructure, the buildings and offices, they are concentrating on process engineering and refining. Part of the funding that we provided was for the purchase and installation of a refining model that can be used to teach students how to refine petroleum products. The point is that every university is different; for some it is IT, others its process engineering or refining.
How were the universities selected?
The criteria used in selecting the universities were the university rating as provided by the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) in addition to need assessment. Some universities are more developed than others while some are rich, relatively speaking, not that they have endless amount of money. The funds were shared equally at $2 million for each university.
Did NLNG execute the projects or were the funds disbursed to the universities to implement?
Everything that was done from contracting to payment was open and transparent in keeping with our tradition as NLNG. The universities did the contracting, the scoping, the costing and they followed the provisions of Public Procurement Act in awarding the contracts. We then set up a joint technical team between each university and NLNG. Periodically, we inspect the projects, we listen to the consultants and contractors, we listen to the university; we look at the valuation of work done, our representatives on the joint technical team will come back to NLNG and confirm to us on work done and we pay for that. We did not just take $2 million and gave to each university. We follow through, supervise the projects and make payments on the basis of certified work done from the beginning to the end. Now we have commissioned the project at ABU because it was done to the satisfaction of NLNG and the university. We have had the final sign off and final payment made for the project at ABU.
Will NLNG play further role after completion of the projects?
Not really. What we have is a commitment on the part of the recipient university that they would use those facilities for the purposes intended and that they would maintain them to the best of their ability.
What of the pace and quality of work?
We are satisfied with the quality of work but the pace of work is different. You cannot compare for instance University of Maiduguri with that of University of Ilorin. Ilorin is peaceful, they can build but in Maiduguri, once you hear a gunshot, workers disperse. But generally speaking, we are within target; we are satisfied with the quality and pace of work given the circumstance of each university.
Is it a one-off project?
It is not a one off project. Our CSR policy and actions are dynamic. We will never stop incorporating CSR for as long as there is NLNG. We would look down the road and see what areas we need to intervene, maybe other universities, maybe outside education.
Is this NLNG’s first intervention in education?
By and large, NLNG has adopted education as its flagship in CSR particularly outside of our community. In our community, it is different matter as we provide all kinds of things from water, electricity to healthcare and other infrastructure. We have been involved in education primarily providing scholarships at all levels, local and international; we run school quiz programme, we extend support in terms of equipment to schools, we run a vocational centre in Bonny and of course do not forget our literature and science prize. We are in the gamut of education from financing to infrastructure to providing a better system.
What does NLNG stand to gain from this intervention?
The impact does not have to be direct. As long as we help to produce one graduate, we are contributing to development of Nigeria and maybe down the road, we may also be an employer. But directly, all types of education provide the funnel of manpower for NLNG and of course other companies and you can say that our survival is partly dependent on how on a continuous basis the company is able to attract talent; talent that will manage processes, talent that will provide leadership, talent that will ensure that the company continues to perform as excellent as it has always performed. We see it not only as our contribution indirectly but also directly to the extent that if we provide about 100 scholarships and even if it is one graduate that ends up working for NLNG, that is great for us.