Introduction Of Petroleum Studies In Our Education System Before It Is Too Late
I write this open letter to you today because of the urgency of the above subject matter and because of our resolve to see that petroleum exploration and production information becomes a common knowledge to every Nigerian.
Agriculture has not been the mainstay of the Nigerian economy in the last few years, yet agriculture is taught in every level of our education system. On the other hand, as if by conspiracy, petroleum training has been reserved for only a few persons who are often ostracised after being selected and profiled to work for major oil and gas corporations. Such people, by design, lack patriotism or have a hard time showing it by virtue of the internal dynamics of the industry, and have thus severed the bridges with their nation.
While outside the shores of this country, I have seen primary and secondary school children welcomed to undergo observational internship and industrial trainings at some of the world’s top petroleum exploration and production technical centres. These oil technology headquarters may or may not have oil and gas wells, but they have imbued the oil technology culture into their own people, to ever have the heritage of coming to developing oil host nations like Nigeria to exploit their resources. They will ever have the monopoly of the technology which is their key to the resources, in our stead, except we make the necessary changes towards independence.
The mistake of the past is still haunting us today. When exploration and production of oil started, the local host communities were not involved either by negligence or design. In a capitalistic economy, he who brings the capital takes the proceeds. In the oil and gas industry, expenditure spells profits, and the latter belongs to the party that controls and operates the fields. The only solution is to build internal capacity, and that should begin at the grassroots, in our primary and our secondary schools; before the candidates have lost the patriotism, which is why today, our elites who work for the multinationals, instead of becoming representatives, sometimes work against their own country.
Developed nations are turning away from oil and gas resources, focusing their newest research on alternatives. This is perhaps our last chance to revive and make the last use of our last resources. Like the Enugu coal, very soon, our oil will completely lose value and classed as non-conducive for the environment. Even with technologies such as coal liquefaction to produce petrol, coal gas drilling, polluting gas capture and sequestration, we did not think of revamping the tons of coal seams and other sources of unconventional hydrocarbons while they remained relevant. Rather, we fight among ourselves over the downstream oil and gas sector’s financial management and corruption. While issues of subsidy, allocation and petroleum bills dominate our everyday talk, the upstream technical competency and capacity have been relegated to the background. The elites in both the political arena and those serving the International Oil Companies have not recognized their role in salvaging the situation. After 60 years of internship in oil and gas training, they remain ever learning but never being able to run our own oil and gas sector.
Piecemeal trainings, skewed to teach you one fact or give you one tool at a time, cannot develop independent local capacity, or independent minds. This previous model has not worked. Beyond the corruption and diversion of oil revenue, the major part of the resources never gets to the nation’s coffers because no one really mastered what is happening offshore. Piecemeal training in the oil and gas is like teaching a child one letter of the alphabet per class. That child will finish university before he gets to letter Z. Outside the shores of this nation, their candidates are formed to have the overall scope to produce holistic recruits.
Sometimes, Nigerian students studying abroad stumble on useful Nigerian oil field technical information and use it for their work. They return and present their work at our national petroleum conferences. The indigenous institutions and even university professors are shocked and wonder how these students got the very data which otherwise are out of reach back home. The way the confidentiality clause is applied back home is a bane for the few select students of petroleum studies at tertiary levels. Indigenous institutions and organisations with the competence must be encouraged to collaborate with our schools at all levels.
Should the first nursery or primary school child start petroleum studies today, it will take about 20 years to complete the education and hands-on technical training necessary to make him an oil and gas specialist. That is why I think a lot of harm has already been done by inaction in this regard. Any further delay in introducing petroleum studies in our primary and secondary school levels and reinforcing the tertiary institution, opening the rigs and oil and gas company information, and technical training to them, will make us not only lose the chance, but to even not understand what happened to us when the time is over.
What makes major oil corporations and their nations powerful is the cataloguing of results, experience, knowledge and every detail they come across anywhere in the oil and gas developing nations. We have to be interested beyond the visible processes and bureaucracy. We have this duty to point to the reality of what is needed at the grassroots. The local oil and gas elites need to have a true role for the nation, not as stooges, but real persons who are involved. They and the schools will work together to have a national hub for the development and preservation of our oil and gas heritage. While the above challenges also highlight lacuna in other spheres of government and collective responsibility, we can start to make amends from the education sector.
How to achieve this integration of petroleum studies into our education system is what few, yet many progressive persons in both the industry and academia have been drafting all along. We have the course outlines, we have the technical skills and we can collaborate with regulating authorities to create a better relationship between the industry and the schools at all levels. We have to start all over again, from the grassroots, from the nursery, primary and secondary schools, all through to the higher institutions.
The onus is on you, Honourable Minister, to use your good offices, including the various parastatals that develop curriculum and syllabus at the national level, to include all aspects of petroleum studies, covering the chain from exploration through appraisal and development to production. Petroleum geoscience, for example, takes so long to pass on; technological transfer comes late except a nation integrates it into her system of basic and higher learning. By strategically including this in our education system, we will be running against time, turning the clock to reach our target. Yet, we can only count on providence and sustenance to meet the time and salvage the situation in the Nigerian petroleum sector.
Dear Honourable Minister, institute petroleum studies in all levels of our education now.
Dr Nosike is the author of the book: OVERVIEW OF THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY – A New Perspective in the Saga of the Oil and Gas Struggle. The book, now available in bookshops in every State of Nigeria: www.iesog.com/bookshops, expounds on why petroleum resources have not developed Nigeria. It turns out not to be because of corruption alone.
He is the Founder of IES Oil and Gas (iESog) , the first indigenous oil and gas platform with the aim of equipping every Nigerian with petroleum knowledge.