The federal government has launched the National Policy on Welding and Welding-Related Fields to conserve about ten billion dollars (US$10,000,000,000) in capital flight from certified welder imports.
The Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji, while launching the policy, said that it would address the long-standing issue of neglect and lack of regulation in the welding sector.
He stated that the focus on foreign accreditation has marginalised local welding professionals, denying them opportunities to offer their skills.
“It is concerning that the lack of internationally recognised certification of industry practitioners has prevented our indigenous welding sector, which should be making a substantial contribution to Nigeria’s economy, from exploiting myriads of opportunities, particularly in the oil and gas industry and exporting them to an influx of foreign welding personnel.
“Because the global welding market emphasises international certification of its service suppliers, there is little room for our local welding professionals to showcase their talents and potential unless we consciously and progressively certify existing capacities and regulate the practice,” he said.
The minister added that the federal government will work with the Nigerian Institute of Welding to establish six Centres of Welding Excellence across the country’s six geopolitical zones, providing training and ISO certification to local welders and empowering them to work locally and internationally.
James Sule, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology, stated that welding practice around the world is vital since it has a direct impact on the economy of any nation, developed or developing.
“Welding is the bedrock of every socio-economic development and sustainability, and, therefore, as a country, there is the need to encourage and promote the welding practice to maximise the inherent potentials of this untapped sector of the Nigerian economy,” he remarked.
The permanent secretary recalled that the federal government recognizes the importance of welding in the nation’s economic development and, therefore, in 2014 approved the National Skills Qualification Framework in order to strengthen the sector.
The framework was designed to create a career path for persons willing to acquire necessary skills in welding and its related fields, which can receive national certification issued by the Nigerian Institute of Welding.
“As a ministry charged with the responsibilities on the application of Innovation, Science and Technology (IST), we are doing our very best to ensure that all sectors of the economy could benefit from our expertise.
“As a result of this, you may wish to know that we have developed many programmes and activities that endeared the utilization of the scientific and technological tools to make Nigeria the foremost in Africa and one of the best in the world,” he said.
The Board Secretary, Nigerian Institute of Welding, Dr. Solomon Edebiri, said that the policy will address the importation of various cadres of welding personnel into the country for some unjustifiable reasons.
“Lack of commitment to the law of the land. And when there are no requisite policies and laws to guide such system, you will find such things occuring.
“With this policy and with the agility and commitment of the honourable Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, all that will stop because that policy has been put together to address such issues,” Dr. Edebiri noted.
He denied the claims by contractors that Nigerians do not have the competencies needed in welding, adding that any one could equally be trained to fit in.
“If you come in with a project to Nigeria, and you think we don’t have the competencies, fine! But give us one competent person, who will train Nigerians within three to six months, and they will fill that position,” he asserted.
He revealed that with the involvement of the federal government over the last ten years in welding development, most of the competencies in welding have been achieved.