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businessdayonline.com: Shell’s staff policy stalls oil sector’s growth

11 February, 2008 12:00:00
SOLA SHITTU

After 40 years of oil exploration in Nigeria, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) is still largely run by Dutch expatriates holding key positions in the company while Nigerians are relegated to the background.

This state of affairs is of concern to the House of Representatives and the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) which yesterday insisted that Nigerians must be at the helm of affairs in the multi-national oil corporation.

At a public hearing by the House of Representatives committee on petroleum (upstream), both the NNPC and its group managing director, Abubakar Yar’Adua as well as the committee chairman, Tam Brisibe, regretted that after 40 years of oil exploration in Nigeria, expatriates have continued to dominate all managerial and technical positions.

They therefore called for the suspension of the planned restructuring during which up to 3,000 Nigerians are expected to be disengaged.

But SPDC’s managing director, Mutiu Sunmonu, told the committee that if allowed to proceed with its planned restructuring and downsizing of the company it will save not less than $200 million (N24 billion) in personnel costs.

Sumonu said performance and productivity are the key criteria in determining the category of personnel that may be eased out of the company, adding that where the company feels that some staff have not been pulling their weight and would not be able to compete in the new world, they would surely go.

When you have people who are not performing, who are not delivering on their target and who are not contributing to the wealth of the organisation there is no reason for keeping them on. All you can do for them is to help them so that they can indeed make life outside the organisation. There would be people who are certainly reluctant to go but they had gotten to the list for good reason and the reason may likely be that they are not performing and to continue to keep such people in the organisation will only drag the organisation down,” he said.

The chief executive said they are undertaking the restructuring in a humane manner, revealing that the company is overstaffed by between 20 and 25 percent compared with sister offices in Omar and Qatar.

Sumonu told the committee that right now expatriates represent nine percent of the workers population across the two Shell companies in the country.

He said the SPDC is committed to making sure that the percentage does not increase after the exercise.

But NNPC frowned at Shell’s position saying what Nigerians are demanding is more than cost savings but that capable indigenes be allowed to be in charge of the exploration of natural resources found in their country.

He disclosed that apart from Mutiu Sumonu the only Nigerian in SPDC is DP logistics while there was nobody in the technical department.

NNPC demanded that SPDC should go back and present a plan of SPDC where Nigerians holding key roles not just for logistics and infrastructure.

“These are some of the reasons that cause NNPC to ask to put its restructuring on hold because they believe the issue of SPDC is not just with OPECs. Shell have to equally go back to the drawing board on how they do their contracts, how they execute their projects. We have seen that in the way they do their projects in terms of scoping and in terms of execution” he said.

Yar’Adua explained that at the moment what SPDC has in Nigeria is a regional office run by a Dutch lady called Anne.

Committee Chairman, Brisibe said the committee would give all its support to ensure that a Nigerian oil industry is run by Nigerians.

He deployed a situation whereby the country is celebrating fifty years of oil exploration and its citizens are not hundred percent in charge of operations in the country.

Brisibe said the committee is bent on achieving that goal and will be a part of the restructuring at Shell so that at the end of the day they will come out with a Shell that is Nigeria.

“The major issue is that what is the responsibility level of Nigerians vis a vis the expatriates that are in the organisation. Is it that we have Nigerians but whose functions are being done by some other persons who are not necessarily staff of shell Nigeria?” he said.

http://www.businessdayonline.com/national/4005.html

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