COMEG, Petroleum Ministry collaborate to improve regulation of extractive industry

The Nigerian Oil and Gas industry has joined the league of sectors that will benefit from the effort of the Federal Government to maximize the productivity of the Nigerian extractive industry by ensuring improved regulation of the industry by the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists, COMEG.

Francis Kadiri writes that apart from being able to stimulate an inter-ministerial collaboration involving three ministries, the Prof Zacchaeus Opafunso-led management of COMEG has also inspired a multi-agency collaboration involving the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Nigeria Mining Cadastre Office (MCO), Nigeria Geological Survey Agency (NGSA), National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON), among others.

COMEG has further collaborated with relevant professional societies such as the Nigeria Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), and the National Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), among others.

From Left: Chief of Staff and Special Technical Assistant to the Minister of State for Petroleum, Engr Moses Olamide who represented the minister; Registrar, Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists, Prof Zacchaeus Opafunso; and the Technical Assistant to the Chief of Staff/STA to the Minister of State, Mr Bamidele Dada, shortly after the meeting between the Management of COMEG and officials of the ministry, recently, in Abuja.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources has joined the league of sectors that will benefit from the effort of the Federal Government to maximize the productivity of the Nigerian extractive industry by ensuring improved regulation of the industry by the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists, COMEG.

THE TRUTH exclusively reports that the Management of the Council earlier secured the cooperation of the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, in the quest to launch sustained regulatory effort to fully professionalize the country’s extractive industry.

The Management of COMEG and some Officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, shortly after the meeting, in Abuja.

The inter-ministerial collaboration for which the Petroleum Resources Ministry has pledged support, is expected to signal a new era of progress in the country’s extractive industry, just as COMEG assures that it will move to enforce best practices, noting that service delivery will be top-notch if regulation is effective.

The partners agreed that the collaboration, which is in line with the mandate of COMEG to regulate extractive industry practice, will also fast track the realization of the Federal Government’s nine Priority Goals in the Oil and Gas sector as mandated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Registrar of the Council, Prof Zacchaeus Opafunso who led the management team of the Council to the Petroleum ministry discussed the goals saying: ‘The priority goals are to eradicate smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) across Nigerian boarders, complete gas flare commercialization program; increase crude oil production to three million b/d; Reduce the cost of crude oil extraction by at least 5%; Aggressively promote passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill; Aggressively promote passage of Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Amendment; increase domestic refining capacity; Create large number of well-paying jobs; and implement strategies that will bring one hundred million Nigerians out of poverty.

Discussing the importance of the desired collaboration, Prof Opafunso said: ‘For COMEG to actualize its mandate, we wish to seek a joint collaboration with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to ensure that professionals or companies who have business dealings with them are duly registered and financially up-to-date in their annual fees to COMEG, adding that professionals in the employ of the ministry should be registered with COMEG in order to make their professional practices lawful.’

The registrar called on the Minister to make COMEG registration a requirement for applicants during the ministry’s employment process as well as put in place, measures that will encourage COMEG-registered employees to settle their indebtedness to the Council.

Prof Opafunso explained that the Nigerian Extractive Industry is made up professionals that cut across the Mines and Steel, Water Resources, and Oil and Gas Sectors. He said the ‘role of COMEG as the apex regulatory body in the Nigerian Extractive Industry cannot be overemphasized because without a strong and virile COMEG, it would be difficult to monitor and regulate the professions including the elimination of quacks in the industry,’ stating that effective regulation is the key to success and growth of any sector of the economy.

Discussing the category of professionals who must be certified by COMEG, the registrar said: ‘The professionals include geoscientists, mining engineers, petroleum and gas engineers, metallurgical engineers, geotechnical engineers and others in the related professions,’ adding that through their practices, they all contribute to the bulk of foreign exchange earnings.

While saying that COMEG needs a befitting Head Office of its own, a need that could be considered the collective responsibility of relevant institutions working with extractive industry professionals, the registrar noted that the collaboration will significantly improve the quality of service delivery in the oil and gas sector.

Disusing the mandate of the Council, he said: ‘COMEG was ‘established by Decree No. 40 of 1990 now CAP C33 LFN 2004 to regulate and control the training and practices of professionals in the extractive industries,’ noting that the agency aims to drive government’s policy for the regulation and development of the practice of the professions associated with exploration, extraction and refining of the vital mineral resources of the nation.

He said the resources include solid minerals, petroleum, water and gas.

This, he said can be achieved by ensuring that professionals in the employ of the ministry are duly registered with the Council, stating that the law provides that ‘COMEG registration legalizes the practice of a professional member.’

Opafunso, who is the first Nigerian professor of mining engineering explained that ‘only competent COMEG-registered can endorse applications for mineral titles, adding that some State Governments have made COMEG registration a requirement for promotion beyond Grade level 10 in the Civil Service.

The registrar further explained that ‘in the academia, COMEG registration is required for the advancement of lecturers in relevant fields, adding that the Council is currently involved in promotion examinations for professionals in the Federal Civil Service.

He commended the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources for sustainably driving the administration’s nine-point agenda the oil and gas sector, stating that the sector will achieve additional milestones when the new auto gas is introduced – a time when gas will now become fuel for cars on Nigerian roads. ‘It is indeed no doubt that the Minister has such great vision for the oil and gas sector,’ he said.

‘I will like to thank the Honourable Minister of State for making this visit possible, we are optimistic that COMEG will soon become the foremost regulator in the Nigerian Extractive Industry.’

‘You are truly one of our greatest assets and we can’t accomplish what we are set to do without your support, and that is why we ask that you collaborate with us and together we will shape the future of our professionals, the profession and the industry,’ the registrar added.

In his response, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva who was represented by his Special Technical Assistant and Chief of Staff, Engr Moses Olamide, said COMEG needs to do more to attain the regulatory effectiveness of COREN, adding that the importance of publicity cannot be overemphasized in the quest for COMEG to be recognized by relevant authorities.

The minister pledged the readiness of his ministry to work with COMEG to achieve improved professionalism of the industry within the ability of the ministry.

While he agreed that numerous geoscientists rendering services in the country’s public and private sectors must be certified by COMEG as required by law, the minister assured that a special memo will be communicated to agencies of the ministry in order to drive COMEG’s quest for registration of relevant professionals in the sector.

While saying that there is always room for improvement, he agreed that individual staff of oil and gas industry establishments, as well as corporate organizations rendering services must be qualified and certified to achieve government’s set goals for the sector, and assured of the readiness of the ministry to work with COMEG to realize set goals.

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