On June 9 2015, the Eighth National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was inaugurated.
One of the elected members that took the mandatory oath of office was Hon. Emmanuel Ekon reelected for another term of four years to represent the people of Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State in the House of Representatives.Four months into the tenure, he was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Local Content.Immediately he was sworn in, the ebullient lawmaker continued his assignment from where he stopped in his first term when more than 60 indigenes of Abak, Etim Ekpo and Ika Local Government Areas got employments in the Federal and State public services as well as the private sector while he also redoubled his efforts towards ensuring that work on the Ukanafun-Ekparakwa-Iwukem-Azumini road continued despite the economic recession announced by the Federal Government.Proposed Youth Empowerment Centre in Abak L.G.A, Akwa Ibom StateTwo years down the line, Hon. Ekon has proven to his constituents and indeed the entire Akwa Ibom State and beyond that the second term mandate given to him was not misplaced.
His emergence as the Chairman of the Committee on Local Content became a plus to his already soaring profile. Even the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu had to acknowledge this during a Stakeholders meeting of key players in the industry that the fear of the Committee under Hon. Ekon was the beginning of wisdom within the oil and gas industry.To set his machinery in motion, Hon. Ekon first sponsored a Bill to amend the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, 2015. The Bill has already passed the Third Reading in the House. The essence of the amendment is to extend the waiver window, remove difficulties of access to funds as well as correct obvious heading errors that were noticeable in the 2010 Bill which was signed into Law in March 2010. He also sponsored another Bill to diversify the Local Content Law to other sectors like Power, Construction, Aviation, etc which has passed the First Reading in the House of Representatives.
Considering the hiccups and the many obstacles that posed challenges to the Committee in the Seventh Assembly, the new Committee began its assignment with a clear cut understanding that no establishment or organization would be victimized in the course of doing their legitimate business but warned that they would not at the same time fold their arms and watch the rights and privileges of Nigerians being desecrated or trampled upon.
They believe that the extant laws of the land should be respected by foreign companies just like Nigerians abroad obey the laws of the country they reside.
The Committee members were stunned when they discovered that some of the IOC’s brought in expatriates who were either not qualified for the positions given them or stayed in the country after the expiration of their quotas and work permits. The discovery indicted Hyundai Heavy Industries which culminated in the deportation of three of their expatriate staff in July 2016. These action of the Chairman reiterated his earlier pronouncement that with the new sheriff in town, it was never going to be business as usual for any company that violates the law and Nigerians who aid and abet the criminal act would equally be prosecuted.The Committee Chairman’s hard stance in dealing with the issue and others of like manner has endeared him to many Nigerians who believe that he is committed to restoring hope of Nigerians in the oil and gas industry after more than fifty years marginalization.
Beneficiaries of Oil and Gas Training in Lagos, Nigeria.Bayelsa State Governor Seriaki Dickson was all praises when the Committee stopped by in his office during an oversight tour of the state in May. He described Ekon as a true son of the Niger Delta and a great asset who has come to free the oil bearing states of the Niger Delta from bondage.
He said the Committee in the Eighth Assembly has addressed the injustices meted out to the oil producing states by the International Oil Companies and implored them not to rest on their oars until all the anomalies were corrected.His conduct of the affairs of the Committee without prejudice may also have been responsible for the numerous awards and accolades he has received in the past two years from corporate international and local organizations including the Imperial College London, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), African Youth Global Network (AYGN), Nigerian News Direct and Bayelsa State Government among others.As a representative of the people of Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency, Hon. Ekon has through his Committee initiated the training of over 250 Nigerian youths in various skills in oil and gas as a prelude to their being employed to hold sensitive positions and guarantee the future of Nigeria in the industry.Ukanafun-Ekparakwa-Iwukem-Azumini road continued despite the economic recession It is also to the credit of Hon. Ekon that the proposed multibillion Naira Industrial Park would be sited in Onna Local Government Area. When completed and operational, the Industrial Park would generate thousands of employment and other economic opportunities to the people of Akwa Ibom State. Through Hon. Ekon also, the Maritime Academy Oron would be a proud owner of a Sea Training Center. Furthermore, there is a proposed Oil and Gas Training Center at Government Technical College, Abak and another Oil and Gas Training Center in Akwa Ibom which would be jointly operated by Akwa Ibom State government and Halliburton Oil Servicing Company. The training which hitherto is done in the United States of America would provide Nigerians the opportunity to update their knowledge in oil and gas without having to pay huge sums in hard currency to acquire the skills needed to make Nigeria be at par with other countries of the world. There is also the Youth Empowerment Center located at Abak where work has reached an advanced stage. The Center has a functional Library, Event/Conference Hall, Recreational facility, a well-equipped ICT/Skills Acquisition Center and a Constituency Office.The idea is to create a platform where the youths would be meaningfully engaged in various skills of training like dress making, hairdressing and barbing, soap/ cosmetic production, poultry, fisheries and piggery farming. It would also serve as a rallying point for all indigenes of the three local government areas that make up the Federal Constituency.In two years, Hon. Ekon has impacted positively on the education sector in Abak/Etim Ekpo/Ika Federal Constituency when he purchased the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms for over 600 candidates in addition to school fees for undergraduates and post graduate students of the Federal Constituency. His performance so far is considered to be unprecedented in the history of the Federal Constituency.Hon Emmanuel Ekon with Committeemembers in an oversight function. A recent poll survey conducted by an Independent Media outfit in Uyo saw Hon. Ekon taking the lead as the most favoured candidate under reconsideration to serve the people again in 2019.When asked about the secret behind his success especially in the way he has piloted the affairs of the Committee so far, the Lawmaker said the Committee looked at issues on merit and this was done by bringing all parties to the round table for discussion. “Dialogue is a very strong weapon. When you discuss, you are bound to find solution that would lead to a compromise. It is only when the parties fail to agree that we apply the full weight of the law but anybody who accepts the path of peace and is willing to negotiate for the other person to take something home does not need to be put under pressure. We encourage companies to come to Nigeria and carry out legitimate businesses to improve our economy but that is not to say they should come and take advantage of our precarious situation to cheat us. That would be unacceptable as far as I still remain the Chairman of the Local Content Committee.” Iniodu is a renowned Public Affairs analyst based in Abuja, Nigeria.