Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji, has said Nigeria loses $10 billion yearly to imported certified welders engaged in various sectors of the economy.

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The minister disclosed this in Abuja,m at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for academic and industry collaborations between National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM), the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMINNA) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming Limited.

Nnaji called for sustained efforts towards developing local content in the country and changing the trend.

According to him, newly-commissioned Dangote Refinery employed about 11,000 welders, lamenting that none was Nigerian.

He said although Nigeria has over one million welders, none had international certification, which would enable them to work in the oil and gas sectors of the economy.

“We are lacking in manpower. We are lacking in skillful artisans, not just digital people. Looking at the Dangote Refinery, it employed about 11,000 artisans, welders. But none of those welders came from Nigeria. They were all imported. A job as small as welding, of which we have over one million welders here, none of them has ISO certification.

“And part of our move in this ministry is to partner with the Nigerian Welding Association and set up a hub in the six geopolitical zones, where we would train welders and give them ISO certification, so that they will have that permit to work both within and outside Nigeria. And if we have enough welders in this country, there will be no need to start importing welders.

“And what Nigeria is losing in not doing that is over $10 billion every year, because a welder is paid about $150 a day. The same way, if you look at the AKK pipeline that is going on now, most of them came from Pakistan, India, China, not one from Nigeria,” he said.

Director General of NACETEM, Olusola Odusanya, said the academic programme will help develop technological skills that would earn candidates international recognition.

Also, the Vice Chancellor, FUT Minna, Faruk Kuta, expressed delight at the development, adding that the university is glad to partner with the agency to train middle and high level manpower in the sector.