Conscious of the nexus between thriving indigenous businesses and job creation amongst others, President Buhari has signed two Executive Order’s – Executive Order 003 entitled “Support for Local Content in Public Procurement by The Federal Government” and Executive Order 005 entitled “Presidential Executive Order for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promoting of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology”.
Hitherto, Nigeria has only ever tried to bolster local content through the singular legislation that gave birth to the – Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 (NOGICDA).
The President’s intervention through Executive Order’s is a recognizable attempt to extend local content policy beyond the Oil and Gas industry to other sectors, thus translating the perceivable gains of indigenous businesses in that sector across other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
Following from the noticeable shortcomings of the President’s Executive Order’s to strengthen local content and putting it down to the Order’s limitations in scope and enforceability to the public procurement practices of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS) of the Federal Government – the National Assembly led in the House of Representatives by Rt Hon Legor Idagbo and in the Senate by Sen Teslim Folarin have sought to make local content aspirations enforceable through the – Nigerian Local Content Development and Enforcement Bill 2020.
I laud the foremost champions of this legislation, from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Femi Gbajabiamila through to Rt Hon Legor Idagbo, their colleagues – to Senator Teslim Folarin and other Senator’s in the Red Chamber.
However, I pose a salient question to them – why settle for 10 per cent, which in a score marking of up to a 100 per cent is something but still abysmal! Why settle for that when it is within your reach to aspire to a distinctive score of over 80 per cent and more! More than ever, the Nigerian people need a distinctive shot at job opportunities.
The NOGICDA template of the Oil and Gas industry cannot be copy and pasted onto other sectors of the economy. The Oil and Gas industry by it’s very nature is what can be classified as a heavy lifting sector, with high end investments that manifest periodically – in intervals of five and ten years.
The upstream segment, which is the most vibrant in the Oil and Gas sector is geared towards exportation. This industry cannot by any means be used as a measurement for any other sector in the economy as it’s peculiarities are uniquely it’s own!
I will argue that ours is not a problem of lack of laws for indeed we could just by accepted procedural policy enforce the strengthening of indigenous businesses as has been done in other climes. Alas, what inhibits us is the spectre of a legion of laws mined with trapdoors that practicing public actor illusionists will always find during acts of escapism. At the height of the lockdown brought on by COVID – 19, arising from a proclamation by the President directing patronage of Made-in-Nigeria – the echo of the President’s voice was barely gone, when the Federal Executive Council approved a procurement contract of foreign products for the NPA!
The omnibus Local Content 2020 Bill presently going through the processes, like both Executive Order’s – Signpost: convenience, preference, desire – the continuance of when it’s okay by us we go local content mantra. Therein lies the Crux of the matter – the ever present trapdoors for political actors and public officials to pervert laws at their whim and caprice.
There should be nothing discretional about strengthening our indigenous businesses. It should not even require laws for us to altruistically accept and propagate local content as it makes social, economic and political sense to do so.
It is not the multiplicity or lack of laws or Executive Orders or guidance that ails us. It is the preponderance of magicians who wander around our public spaces. The trapdoors must be taken out entirely.
There must be no ambiguity! There should be no trapdoors for anyone to wriggle through. The provisions of any new legislation must be iron clad – to compel the Federal Government – Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS) to mandatorily buy, source and contract made in Nigeria, save that it cannot be made, sourced or done locally.
Consequent upon any breach of this law, which should be considered as economic sabotage/terrorism, we propose that offenders should be liable to termination of employment/office – and for political office holders – a life ban from holding public office. A seven year term of imprisonment without the option of a fine should also be concurrently imposed. Without ambiguity, infringement of this law will be the easiest to prove – National Assembly and Citizen oversight will be a mite easier than is the norm in our country where laws are laden with – “trapdoors”!
The direct consequence of this legislation will be to lock in stone – backward linkage development, sustained creation of employment opportunities, infrastructure development, increased indigenous business participation and capacity building. It will also put us firmly on the path towards evolving forward linkages. The very nature of the legislation will force and bring about – sound regulatory policy monitoring and good resource management.
The President has shown his strong desire for the strengthening of indigenous businesses through good intentioned – Executive Order 003 and Executive Order 005. That is the extent to which he can go and in a country where political and public officials have not made it an art form to pervert the system – Presidential Executive Orders would ordinarily bring about swift policy compliance.
The National Assembly must pick up the gauntlet and at no time in our history – in these novel times of COVID 19 does that responsibility weigh more heavily.
As Ambassador of Nigerian Industry and Business and under the auspices of MyTribeNigeria Initiative I have written an open letter to Parliamentarians which was duly acknowledged by the Office of the Clerk of the National Assembly on 18/08/20 – An Open Letter To The National Assembly, Federal Republic Of Nigeria – Coronavirus Compliant Advocacy For A Law Compelling Government To Buy Made In Nigeria.
The urgent and critical imperative of this legislation is amply highlighted in the letter. To National Assembly members I say – this is not a time for cosmetic decisions but for hard and resolute decisions that will impactfully bring about lasting and beneficial change to the Nigerian people. It will be very timely indeed if this proposed legislation is incorporated into the revised Local Content Act presently in the works. Otherwise it will be a stand alone Bill – whichever way, it must come to be to give Nigerians a chance.
For Tribenians the mandate is as follows – to resolutely, with the support of fellow Nigerians continue the advocacy for this legislation at the resumption of Plenary of the National Assembly. To – at the fruition of an Act of the National Assembly compelling the Federal Government to buy made-in-Nigeria – move on to the next phase in advocating for the domestication of the Act by all sub – national federating units in the country.
We must grow capacity and grow jobs and government must be with and not by the Nigerian people in this lifetime endeavor. Our salvation and the sustainability of the Nigerian Enterprise demands it! We must open up sustainable pathways for job creation. We ask for the support of members of the National Assembly. We ask for the support of Nigerians as we march on.
[Victor Ikhatalor is the Ambassador of Nigerian Industry and Business. He is on twitter as: @MyTribeNigeria]