Paper Presented by Professor Nimi Briggs, University of Port Harcourt at the 4th Annual Aret Adams Lecture Series 2007 on Thursday 1 March 2007
Nigeria’s current development vision is rooted in its wish to be among the world’s 20 largest economies by the year 2020. Judging from the key role that activities in the hydrocarbon industry have played in the affairs of the country, no one would doubt that operations in the petroleum sector of the nation’s economy are expected to constitute the main engine that should drive this anticipated phenomenal growth, should it materialize, despite the country’s renewed efforts at diversifying its economic base through several avenues. In order to enable the petroleum industry to continue to uphold the nation’s economy in this manner, there is a need to resource for its future through sustainable human capital development. A novel approach to growing international human capital for the petroleum industry is the establishment of the Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS) at the University of Port Harcourt in the hearth of the oil and gas industry. Founded in 2003, the Institute is a strategic tripartite international collaboration between two academic institutions, the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport) Nigeria and IFP School, Paris, France, and the pioneer industry sponsors, NNPC/EPNL Joint Venture. The Institute constitutes a bold intervention by industry in higher education that will guarantee quality manpower and productive applied research in the petroleum industry, a concept which is in keeping with Aret Adams’ vision of using education and manpower development as crucial factors for ensuring the future of the petroleum industry in Nigeria.
What else can one add to the account of the life and times of Chief Godwin Aretanekhai Adams, after that lucid and eloquent, yet succinct, narration by Basil Omiyi, a man who not only knew Aret well, but is currently at the head of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria, the largest conglomerate of businesses in the petroleum sector of the nation’s economy, where Aret himself once had a stint.
For indeed, Aret was a shooting star, a meteor, who departed this world at the fullness of time. And with all meteors, he shared those distinctive characteristics for which some hate them intensely while others love them passionately on account of their sharp intellect and analytical minds, unsurpassable appetite for hardwork and unparalled creative ingenuity, which, on occasions, contrast with their robust, if abrasive approach to issues. It was that passionate love and admiration that informed his appointment as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the then Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and conversely, the intense aversion, arising majorly from the inability of others to comprehend his ways, that predicated his premature retirement in 1990. But again like them all, he bounced back when Government had to swallow what it had regurgitated by appointing him Special Adviser (Petroleum Resources) to the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1998. The balance is history and there we must rest the case except perhaps to remind ourselves that Aret Adam’s disposition to education and training as critical factors for Resourcing for the Future and improving the fortunes of the petroleum industry was proverbial. Whether it was in his overhauling of the operations of the NNPC using well-trained professionals, or in his longing to establish chairs in petroleum engineering and related disciplines in higher educational institutions, or even while resourcing for the petroleum Industry in his personal capacity, Aret Adams was seized of the understanding of the fundamental role of these factors as the prime motivators for development.
And it is in this connection that I desire to espouse my little contribution to today’s discussion on Resourcing for the Future. In my text, I intend to do so with particular reference to the Petroleum Industry by affirming that human development through the acquisition of appropriate knowledge, skills and competences, constitutes the major pathway for assuring the future and for feeding and rejuvenating the petroleum industry. The plan in my short address is to review, briefly, education in Petroleum Engineering in Nigerian universities and to use the case of the Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS) of the University of Port Harcourt to illustrate the fact that good quality, internationally certified professionals, can be trained and resourced for the present and the future in Nigeria, for the petroleum industry.
Petroleum Engineering in Nigerian Universities
Nigeria’s current development vision is rooted in its wish to be among the world’s 20 largest economies by the year 2020 (20.20.20). Judging from the key role that activities in the hydrocarbon industry have played in the affairs of the country, no one would doubt that operations in the petroleum sector of the nation’s economy are expected to constitute the main engine that should drive this anticipated phenomenal growth, should it materialize, despite the country’s renewed efforts at diversifying its economic base through several avenues (1). But not many would have forecast such a pivotal role for petroleum in 1958 when the first barrel of oil was shipped out of the shores of Nigeria (2). For indeed since the forging of a Nigerian nation state through the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates by Lord Lugard in 1914, no other single commodity has influenced the course of events in the country, for good and for bad, as petroleum has done.
With the current proven crude oil reserves of 36 billion barrels, and with an average production of 2.6 million barrels per day (Mbopd), Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa, 6th in OPEC, and 11th largest supplier in the world (3). Furthermore, with gas reserves of 187 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), Nigeria has the 10th largest gas reserves in the world and 30% of Africa’s reserves (3). Additionally, Nigeria is the dominant nation in the Gulf of Guinea which importance in the global oil dynamics is on the increase following protracted and prolonged political instability in the Persian Gulf (4,5). With these remarkable assets, level of activities and promise, it is surprising that formal education and training in petroleum engineering in Nigerian universities only commenced fairly recently with the introduction of a post-graduate diploma in petroleum technology at the University of Ibadan (UI) in 1972. This is more so when one recalls that the first successful oil well was drilled in Nigeria, in Oloibiri in the then Eastern Region of the country, as far back as 1956!
Not unexpectedly therefore, the post graduate diploma in petroleum technology at UI quickly progressed into formal degree programmes and were followed by those from the Universities of Benin and Port Harcourt, in rapid succession. Currently 14 universities, conventional as well as universities of technology, teach petroleum engineering in Nigeria with similar philosophy – to produce graduates with high academic standards and having adequate practical background so as to be of immediate value to industry and the nation in general (6).
The structure and content of the petroleum engineering programmes are also similar in many of the Nigerian universities. They consist of a hybrid of extracts from the basic sciences of physics, chemistry and mathematics and those of the engineering specialties of mechanical, chemical, electrical, computer and civil, as well as inputs from the earth science of geology (2). Collectively, universities in Nigeria produce about 1500 petroleum engineering graduates every year at the first degree level, a number, far in excess of the requirements for exploration and production in the oil industry. After qualification, all engineers, including petroleum engineers, require certification by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).
Like other programmes in many Nigerian universities, Petroleum Engineering was not spared the damage and deleterious effect caused by the decay that was inflicted on the nation’s university system by the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of 1986. Funding of the universities plummeted in real terms from a combination of currency devaluation and diminished budgetary allocations. Consequentially, the universities became unable to maintain essential infrastructure and to equip laboratories with requisite hard and soft wares for teaching and research. Staff remuneration, poor ab initio, dipped further and triggered a general disinterest in academics and an exodus of many to greener pastures, within and outside the country. This dismantling of the system coincided with an increased intake of students from heightened demand for tertiary education resulting in severe stress in the operations of the institutions. With time, the corollary became manifest in multiple strike actions by staff, unruly behaviour by students and of course, not surprisingly, some decline in the quality of graduates especially in the professional disciplines where technical competence is of the essence.
If the concern and anxiety generated by this looming national catastrophe came from all stakeholders, the responses and suggested remedies also emanated from all interested parties, including the private sector, which constitutes a major employer of university graduates. For instance, the Federal Government, among many other ways, established the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) in 1973 and charged it with the mandate of developing the nation’s manpower capacity to effectively participate in the exploration and production of the abundant petroleum resources in Nigeria. Apart from the establishment of six professorial chairs, including one at the University of Port Harcourt, PTDF awarded foreign scholarships to aspiring Nigerians to undertake various courses of studies outside the country.
As for events in the private sector, worried by the apparent ineffectiveness of fresh petroleum engineering graduates to fit into industry as professionals, a number of organizations took steps to redress the situation and to improve the skills and technical capabilities of university graduates. Scholarships were awarded to assuage the additional complication of deprivation to the huge burden students had to carry and chairs of petroleum engineering were endowed in some universities to uplift the general tone of academic work. Furthermore, SPDC initiated a Shell Intensive Training Program (SITP) in 1988, in collaboration with the Robert Gordon University, UK, ostensibly to upgrade the standard of fresh graduates and technicians seeking placement in the Nigerian oil industry (1).
But all this, it was felt, did not strike at the heart of the matter i.e. the improvement of the learning environment of the students – the institutions themselves. A partnership understanding about the proprietors of the universities (government in most instances), the institutions and the private sector (major employers of products from the universities) was required to forge symbiotic arrangements that would benefit all stakeholders as is indeed the case in many advanced countries of the world where industrial experts teach part-time in universities and the more distinguished of them, hold academic chairs in institutions. In such arrangements, the universities themselves profit from industrial experience, have access to state-of–the–art tools and machineries and hence, enrich their curricula (6).
It is this thinking of direct intervention and partnership between industry and university that gave birth to the emergence of the Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS) of the University of Port Harcourt in 2003. However, due recognition must be given to the fact that in 2002, one year before the birth of IPS, the University of Ibadan was selected as the Schlumberger Ambassador University, south of the Sahara and the UI-Schlumberger Learning Centre, with full compliment of hard and soft wares, relevant to petroleum engineering training, put in place. That establishment thus became the first major direct intervention of industry in the university training of petroleum engineers in Nigeria (2).
The Institute of Petroleum Studies of the University of Port Harcourt
Providence, as it were, imposes on the University of Port Harcourt a compelling reason to embrace teaching and research in petroleum seriously. Port Harcourt, the location of the university, is a densely populated metropolis with intricate connections that link it to the rest of the country through roads, rail, seaport as well as an airport. The city serves as the seat of a State Government in Nigeria as well as a number of local governments which extend to its immediate environs. Additionally, all the major oil prospecting companies in the country either have their headquarters in the city or major branches which take care of their interests; though recent upheavals in the Niger Delta by militants may have rattled a number of the companies.
A university that is discerning and forward-looking which is located in the city of Port Harcourt must therefore see the hydrocarbon industry as one important area in which it can resource for the future and contribute substantially to the nation’s sustainable development through its training, educational and professional activities. The University of Port Harcourt was aware of this burden of responsibility right from the time of its inception in 1977. It established a Faculty of Engineering with two foundation programmes in petroleum as well as electrical engineering and quickly developed undergraduate and graduate programmes in petroleum engineering. In 2000, it went further to carve a niche for itself by expanding the programme in petroleum engineering to include gas engineering and so became the first university in the country to offer courses in that discipline and to be designated a Centre of Excellence in Gas Engineering by the Education Trust Fund. The Senate of the university also approved the establishment of a Petroleum Museum, the first of its kind in the Nigerian university system (4). Senate further directed that the 17 million years old fossil shell which the university received as gift from Jeroen van der Veer, the Chief Executive Officer and President of Shell International on the occasion of his investiture with the honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Port Harcourt in 2005, be deposited at the Petroleum Museum.
These activities placed the institution at an advantage and gave it a lead when the NNPC/EPNL sought for a university in the country which it would sponsor on an international collaboration as a strategic approach to human capital development and capacity enhancement in the petroleum industry. NNPC/EPNL Joint venture approved and supported the establishment of an Institute of Petroleum Studies (IPS) at the University of Port Harcourt and a partnership between it (the Joint venture), the University of Port Harcourt and Ecole du Petrol et des Moteurs (IFP School), Paris – an institution of immense standing which trains engineers in many countries of the world and had also trained a good number of persons who has occupied the higher echelons of the petroleum industry in France and Nigeria at one time or the other. Partly in appreciation of this critical intervention in the affairs of the university, the Univerisity of Port Harcourt honoured Mr. Thiery Desmarest, the President of Total International with an honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2005.
As directed by the Governing Council and Senate of the university, IPS is autonomous and functions outside the university’s School of Graduate Studies. Its mission is to meet the needs of the petroleum industry through a commitment to excellence in training, applied research, continuing education and capacity building.
In order to accomplish this mission the Institute offers opportunity to selected students to acquire high quality education with up-to-date technology in disciplines related to oil, gas, petrochemicals and internal combustion engines (as used in the oil and gas industry). It awards joint international degrees of the highest quality in the petroleum industry and improves the number and quality of professionals available for the upstream, midstream and downstream sectors of the petroleum industry as well as corporate management. Furthermore, it encourages and promotes scholarship and research in the field of Oil and Gas learning.
The partnership with Industry goes beyond mere support as Industry is actively involved in curriculum development as well as the admission process and profiling of students. There is an Advisory Board which is made up of experts representing various stakeholders in Industry within and outside the country. The Advisory Board reports to a Governing Council which in turn functions under a Board of Trustees. 80% of the lectures are shared by staff of the University of Port Harcourt and those of IFP, Paris, in equal proportions while the remaining 20% is delivered by professionals from the industries. Additionally, industry staff supervise students’ projects and presentation of seminars as well as field visits.
This mutually beneficial model of international collaboration and partnership with industry is internationalizing the educational activities of the Institute within the country thereby saving the industry and Government foreign earnings while at the same time developing internationally exposed and well-trained human capital.
The IPS is still evolving and when in full operation, will be made up of six specialized centres that will offer:
- operations- oriented post graduate programmes
- continuing education programmes
- applied research and services
- capacity building programmes
The six specialized centres of excellence for which arrangements have been concluded, except for funding, are
Centre for Oil & Gas Technology
This Centre which is already well established trains petroleum and gas engineers. It offers a Master’s of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering and Project Development to no more than 20 students who are admitted annually. The objective of the 12-month programme is to provide graduates in engineering with the broad- based training that is required for onshore and offshore oil and gas field development and management. The living and learning environments are ideal as accommodation is provided; also are individual computers and all day access to the internet as well as to virtual library.
The MSc degree that successful candidates receive at the end of the programme is jointly awarded by Ecole du Pétrole et des Moteurs (IFP School), Paris, and the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. In addition, the students are presented for the International Well Control Forum (IWCF) Certification and National Registry of Environmental Practitioners (NREP, USA) certification. In the IWCF certification, the success rate of the students has gone up from an initial 15% with the first batch, to 78% with the last batch (3rd batch). As for the NREP certification, all the students presented by IPS had passed and the Institute had scored 100% on the two occasions it had fielded candidates for the certification. What all this translates to is that students at the IPS, although studying at home, obtain certificates that are awarded by two top-rate universities-one in Nigeria and the other in Europe. In addition, they obtain internationally recognized professional certifications for various aspects of the work they had done while studying in Nigeria.
Centre for Petroleum Geosciences
This Centre is planned to train world class Geoscientists.
Centre for Information and Communication Technology
The petroleum industry depends heavily on software and ICT to optimize productivity and profitability. This Centre is planned to train world class ICT specialists.
Centre for Environmental Management
Training world-class environment experts is a major challenge in Nigeria. In order to ensure sustainable development of the eco-sensitive Niger Delta, environmental managers and practitioners must use the best available environmental-friendly technology. The need for local manpower that can handle environmental issues and studies has become urgent. The Centre for Environmental Management of the IPS therefore intends to develop human capital in environmental management.
Centre for Petroleum Economics, Policy and Strategic Studies
The University of Port Harcourt is about to conclude a collaboration arrangement with the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law & Policy (CEPMLP), of the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom to run programmes in Petroleum Economics and Management, Petroleum Policy and Law. Emerald Energy Resources has pledged to build the structure that will house the proposed centre which, on completion, will compliment yet another proposed venture of the university, the Port Harcourt Business School. There is also the need to mount courses in petroleum policy and strategic studies as countries go into bilateral cooperation agreements such as the Nigeria – Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Authority.
Centre for Petroleum Refining and Petrochemical Technology
Part of the strategic growth plan of the IPS is to establish a Centre for Petroleum Refining and Petrochemical Technology. This decision is in recognition of the fact that the availability of refined products has continued to constitute a major bottleneck in the economy of the nation. Given the liberalization of petroleum policy which has led to the privatization of refineries and petrochemical plants as well as the policy that fifty percent (50%) of crude oil produced in the country should be refined locally, it becomes expedient to vigorously pursue the establishment of the proposed Centre. With the licensing of new private refineries and petrochemical plants, the need for high quality manpower to operate these plants has assumed some degree of urgency.
Centre for Offshore Technology
Offshore West Africa (Gulf of Guinea) with its huge proven hydrocarbon reserves has become of strategic importance not just for countries in the Gulf of Guinea as well as multinational E & P companies, but also, globally. To develop such huge reserves in the deep offshore is a highly challenging prospect in its financing, human capital needs, as well as offshore technology. IPS plans to establish a world-class Offshore Technology Centre.
With an estimate of about 62 billion barrels of oil (25 billion barrels onshore and 37 billion barrels offshore) yet to be discovered in Nigeria (2), the strategic goal of the country in the petroleum industry is to grow its oil reserves to 40 billion barrels and gas to 200 Tcf with an average daily oil production of 4 million barrels by the year 2010. The country also intends to enhance the local content in the industry from the current 33% to 70% by the year 2010 (3).
In order to be able to achieve this goal, Nigeria must ensure the domestication of services which is aimed at promoting the local participation of Nigerian companies in the oil and gas sector. Additionally, it must put in place policies for Resourcing for the Future and growing human capital for the petroleum industry which will enable it develop in-country capacity and capabilities that will ultimately make it the hub for energy service delivery in Africa. Furthermore, Oil and gas companies advocate the view that to be able to achieve corporate goals, technical skills alone no longer constitute all that is required. Companies need multidisciplinary skills and other proficiencies such as are contained in the Health Safety and Environment (HSE) principles, as well as those of clear communication and team work for optimum productivity. Industry is also interested in cost-conscious staff to maximize profit. Whereas we recognize that Government and Industry are working towards all this in various ways, the recent establishment of the African Institute of Science and Technology (AIST), with particular emphasis on Studies on the Gulf of Guinea, being one of such actions, we affirm that the University – Industry partnership model that is being used in running the IPS of the University of Port Harcourt, has proven to be a reliable model to achieve these goals.
The proposed Centres at the IPS of the University of Port Harcourt, if sponsored and established by industry will be a welcome intervention that will serve not only the needs of Nigeria but also those of the Gulf of Guinea in training, continuing education, applied research and capacity building as the IPS now has the expertise to replicate the success story of its Centre for Oil and Gas Technology.
Furthermore, when fully established, IPS will have a Language School that will train non-English speaking students. The language programme will precede the professional programmes. At the moment, students and staff study French to broaden their horizons and to enhance their ability to integrate into the international community.
Since the establishment of educational or training institutions is not the core business of companies and industries, they should intervene directly in universities and should opt for the NNPC/EPNL model of funding international collaboration between national and foreign educational institutions. As a national Institute, the programmes at IPS should be supported as joint industry projects.
The intervention by companies in higher education has been shown to be mutually beneficial and a win-win situation. While companies provide up-to-date facilities, equipment and machineries for use by staff and students, universities offer training, continuing education and consultancy services to the companies. Serving and retired Industry staff also get involved in teaching as adjunct lecturers and visiting professors and so avail students of their wealth of field experience. Furthermore, companies fund academic chairs and finance teaching positions which enable universities to retain high quality staff that would have sought better remunerations and conditions of service elsewhere. On their part, university lecturers can spend long vacations and sabbatical leaves in industry in order to contribute to finding innovative solutions to field problems. For emphasis, it has to be stated that given the chronic problems that have plagued the Nigerian university system, especially those of poor funding, infrastructural decay and brain drain, one important way of ensuring sustainable human capital development, is through the medium of public-private partnership in which companies should be committed to establishing and funding research centres in universities, where research can be initiated and results tested before their application in industries. Because such centres will be dealing with actual problems, they will attract the best brains that are available in that field.
When the invitation was extended to me to contribute this little piece to today’s deliberations, I heartily and readily consented despite my anticipation of the audience as being essentially engineers- professionals belonging to a trade, to which I make no pretences whatsoever. My consent was based on the one hand to give honour and respect to the name of a most deserving gentleman and on the other, as someone who has had the wonderful privilege of looking after the affairs of a university that made the teaching of petroleum engineering, one of its forte. But there is a wider dimension to my presence here and indeed that of all of us, coming as we do, from our varied backgrounds and disciplines- a note on which I now wish to terminate and that is
the quest for knowledge in the application of the principles
of truth to the enhancement of man’s evolution towards
the quintessential nature and form of his creator, is universal
and without borders.
Probably no one amongst us appreciates this fact better than the late Aret Adams in whose honour this lecture is being held. I cannot thank you all sufficiently for asking me to be part of the celebration of the life of this great man.
1. Falade, GK; (2003) Effective Integration of the Petroleum and other sub- sectors of the Economy-A Key to true Socio-Economic Development of Nigeria.NAICE Panel Discussion, August 3-6,2003, Abuja, Nigeria.
2. Falade, GK and Onyekonwu M (2004).Globalization of Petroleum Engineering Education: The Nigerian Experience. Society for Petroleum Engineering (Nigeria) 2004 Forum on International Petroleum Engineering Education. October, 2004.
3. Egbogah, E. O (2006): 50 Years of Oil Production in Nigeria, IPS Monograph No. 2, 2006, Published by the Institute of Petroleum Studies, 20pp
4. Nimi D Briggs. (2006). Turning the Tide. Spectrum Books Limited publishers. pp 322. Nimi D Briggs ed.
5. Nimi D Briggs. (2006). Thoughts on University Education in Nigeria. Spectrum Books Limited publishers. pp 329.Williams Wodi ed.
6. Chi U Ikoku. ( 2000). Growing our Timber in Nigerian Universities. Paper presented at the 24th Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference held at Abuja, Nigeria, 7 – 9 August 2000.
– Paper Presented by Professor Nimi Briggs, University of Port Harcourt at the 4th Annual Aret Adams Lecture Series 2007 on Thursday 1 March 2007