The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva says the nation lost many foreign workers in the oil and gas sector during the COVID-19 lockdown.
This is just as he revealed that the pandemic that rocked the global community has some positive impact on the energy industry.
The minister, who made this known at a forum in Abuja on Sunday, said COVID-19 made Nigerians take over the running of the oil and gas industry.
"As a country, the problem during the lockdown was that most of our workers in the oil and gas sector are expatriates; most of them went back to their countries because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
"They have to rush out so that they will lockdown in their countries and when that happened, it means that we lost a lot of expatriate personnel.
"But the good side of COVID-19 for us is that our Nigerians were able to step into their shoes.
"And now, we have discovered in the oil industry that Nigerians can run our industry and we have also realised that it is better to encourage Nigerians' participation because we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow.
"If another COVID-19 strikes again, how are we going to survive? So we deliberately encouraged Nigerians' participation in the industry, in case of any other disaster, we know that Nigerians will be there to run our industry,'' he said.
The minister noted that though COVID-19 hit other sectors of the economy, the oil and gas sector was the worst hit as the global price of oil crashed drastically.
"You know that one of the first things that happened with COVID-19 was the lockdowns and during the lockdowns, most people were not going out, planes were not flying, cars not running and you know that that is where our own business gets our market.
"If aeroplanes are not flying, if cars are not running, the demand for crude oil collapsed. So you can imagine that we really suffered. That is why the crude oil prices crashed.
"The refineries were not even evacuating their refined product because nobody was buying and driving their cars.
"So, the refineries shut down and nobody was buying crude oil; that was the effect COVID-19 had on our sector,'' he said.
The minister however assured that the sector would continue to promote ideas that would boost local content to enable Nigerians to effectively participate in the growth and development of the sector.