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PIB will have an Impact on Youth Employment, Development in the Oil, Gas Industry — Isihak

In this interview, Mr. Salisu Isihak, an energy professional who was recently appointed as Chairman of the Future Energy Leaders (FEL-Nigeria), sheds light on his plans to shape the energy future of Nigeria, contribute towards solutions to the country’s energy challenges as well as deliver innovative projects that will bring future energy leaders together. Excerpts:

Tell us more about the Future Energy Leaders (FEL-Nigeria) and it’s relevance to Nigerian economy?

Almost a decade ago, the World Energy Council (WEC) London initiated a body called Future Energy Leaders (FEL) in all its member states. This is to ensure that young professionals who are the future leaders play critical roles in sustainable energy development. Nigeria being a member of WEC immediately established the Future Energy Leaders initiative called FEL-Nigeria.

FEL-Nigeria was established to play key roles in growing and shaping energy leaders and of course transformational leaders of tomorrow. The FEL-Nigeria aspires to inspire young professionals become the next generation energy leaders capable of solving Nigeria’s energy and developmental challenges. Today, FEL-Nigeria undertakes wide-ranging initiatives to promote its objectives through stakeholder engagement, workshops, publications and innovative projects with the goal of delivering impact to the Nigerian energy industry with tangible outputs.

FEL-Nigeria is crucial to the realization of Nigeria’s energy security and sustainability through its wide-range initiatives.
FEL-Nigeria is therefore a platform for young professionals to contribute towards innovative and strategic efforts for building the future energy ecosystem. It is a collaborative, national and global forum for young people in the energy industry across the 92 member countries of the World Energy Council (WEC).

WEC was founded in 1923 as an official UN-accredited non-governmental organization and strategic partner dedicated to promoting the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all. WEC partners with other leading energy related organizations to ensure adequate and dependable quantities of fuel and energy in diverse forms, which are essential to improving the global energy security, economy and standard of living. Nigeria has been a member since 1960.

How do you feel on your emergence as chairman of the executive members of the Future Energy Leaders (FEL-Nigeria)?

First, I thank God for everything. I am deeply touched and inspired with boundless gratitude for the confidence and trust placed in me by the Nigerian National Committee of the World Energy Council (NNC-WEC) to serve as the Chair of the FEL-Nigeria. I have to say that I have been deeply involved in the energy sector in Nigeria for well over a decade now. I have considerable knowledge of the sector and the role young professionals play in the industry. I see the appointment as a recognition of my professional competence, commitment and passion for the energy industry and young professionals. With the appointment comes a new set of challenges and expectations; and with the other executive members, I have a strong conviction that we will deliver on the mandate given to us.

What are the specific targets or goals you have set for yourself and team to achieve in the next two years?

Well, our mandate is first and foremost to support the Nigerian National Committee to achieve its goals. So we will do this meticulously. Our priority is to build on the solid foundation laid by the previous executive members. The energy sector, apart from being a capital-intensive sector is also a knowledge-intensive sector. We would develop programmes focusing on school age children to inculcate in them the culture of sustainability and energy conservation techniques so that they can grow up and be the ideal citizens who are sensitive and protective of the environment. Further, as young professionals, we will focus on our area of strength; active thinking, sensitivity to new issues, innovative potential and vitality to deliver on our core mandates which include:
• Shaping the vision of tomorrows energy system in Nigeria
• Bridging the generation gap
• Contributing to the NNC-WECs studies and programmes
• Developing projects that will unlock the potentials of young professionals
• Creating a platform for incubating innovative solutions.

Are there energy policies or schemes you want government to review or going forward what specific energy policies do you think should be reconsidered as they impact the young generation?

Nigeria has a population of about 200million with almost 75% of the population below the ages of 35 years. The youth are therefore the people of today and tomorrow and are desirous of living a modern life that 21st century offers. They are also the ones to shape the future of the country. Energy is today a major driver of economic development and quality of life across the world including Nigeria. However, we are stuck in a decision gridlock that relegated our country to a state of resource-rich country and energy-poor nation.

Today, the energy sector is faced with major challenges, from low in-country refining capacity to near collapse of power generation, transmission and distributions. Despite the privatization of the generation and distribution assets, the stability of the power sub-sector has remained in the balance.

Nigeria has the potential to develop renewable energy to complement grid generation and achieve 100% universal energy access so as drive socio-economic development and unlock unprecedented economic growth.

Off-grid generation is key to achieving the right energy mix that will guarantee sustainability. The government has the responsibility to provide necessary incentives to promote off-grid electrification. Currently, Nigeria imports almost 100% of the solar home systems for off-grid electrification due to a lack of policy direction on the domestic manufacturing of off-grid electrification equipment.

There is need for the Nigerian government to do more to promote the use of modern energy resources and develop policies and programmes that will expand domestic gas utilization, end gas flaring and save the environment.

For the electricity sub-sector to develop, the government need to review tariffs to make it competitive, cost-reflective and market-driven while at the same time supporting low income households to afford energy.

Energy access can only be achieved when people can afford a market-driven tariff. However, low income households in Nigeria are likely to be completely excluded if electricity tariff is competitive, therefore, it is the responsibility of the government to develop programmes and initiatives that will ensure affordability by low-income households and lift them out of energy poverty.

In my opinion, this can be done by way of optimizing returns in the entire value chain from power generation to distribution, increasing efficiency, embracing innovation and implementing pro-poor energy policies.

In the area of petroleum sub-sector, the lingering Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which promises to overhaul the petroleum industry, entrench efficiency and transparency across the value chain and bring industry operations in line with international standards has put investment and growth of the industry in slow mode. When passed into law either in whole or in parts, the PIB will refocus the direction of the industry and replace laws that were written in the 1960s which do not conform to the current realities and aspirations of young people in the sector.

This has an overwhelming impact on youth employment and professional development in the oil and gas industry.

There is also need for the government to support young entrepreneurs with the capacity to add value or produce energy equipment domestically rather than encouraging businesses that engage foreign firms to supply equipment or provide services. Businesses that engage foreign firms deprive the country of job opportunities and value retentions. The government needs to strengthen its policies to ensure brief-case companies that