Minister of Communications, Mrs Omobola Johnson
By Emma Okonji
Worried by the low patronage of locally manufactured computers and its accessories, the Federal Government has promised to protect all Information Technology (IT) products, through new policy formulation and implementation.
National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The government agency responsible for the implementation of IT policies for the country, dropped the hint in Lagos at a one-day retreat on IT Hardware Standards Development, organised by NTDA.
Director-General of NITDA, Prof Cleopas Angaye, in his remarks, said there was need to benchmark practices and processes against international standards to make local IT products competitive and marketable within and outside the country.
The retreat, he said, was NITDA’s initiative to give impetus to the buy-made-in-Nigeria policy of the Federal Government, which made it mandatory for all government agencies to patronise locally developed hardware and software.
The directive was however blatantly violated because of government’s weak action towards the development local hardware and software.
According to Angaye, “At the end of the retreat, there will be issuance of new guidelines that will protect local IT products, and it will be regarded as economic sabotage if government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) do not patronise Nigerian IT products.”
He said after the issuance of the new policy, it would become an offence punishable by a prison term and fine under the NITDA Act, for public procurement of non-made-in-Nigeria computers and IT products, where certified local brands exist.
Angaye insisted that public funds should only be expended on locally manufactured products, and that for Nigerians to benefit from the planned policy, multinational companies would be invited to set up production or assembly plants in Nigeria.
“With more than half the population of West Africa Nigeria has a large enough market to justify foreign direct investment in Information Technology. Instead, one finds that all the multinational firms operate only marketing and sales promotion offices. The transformation of Nigeria into a developed economy cannot be achieved by being a consumer nation,” he said.
Between 2002 and 2007 several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) were accredited by government to operate in the Nigerian IT manufacturing spectrum, but owing to the expediency of the time, no strict guidelines or standards were prescribed for them.
According to Angaye “the landscape has since changed, as the industry has since grown and the operating Federal Government accreditation of local OEMs and computer assembly plants has since expired. New companies have also joined the industry. There is need therefore to review the guidelines under which they operate and under which new entrants are admitted.”
Angaye said, in giving accreditation to local OEMs, the intention of the Federal Government was to develop the indigenous IT industry, create employment through local assembly of computers and build the capacity of IT entrepreneurs, but this can only be achieved if Nigerians patronise local brands, explaining that the policy was mandatory for the public sector where the products to be procured were manufactured or assembled in Nigeria.
Angaye who frowned at the display and use of non-made-in-Nigeria computers in government offices and for government business where certified local brands are available, said the action was not only an unpatriotic act but also an act of sabotage and disregard for both government policy and extant statute.
He said a monitoring unit had been created within NITDA to undertake regular checks to ensure compliance to the regulation throughout the Federal Public Service.
NITDA, he said, would seek the collaboration of the Federal Ministry of Education to ensure that the accreditation of schools and renewal of accreditation would depend partly on the establishment of Information Technology laboratories equipped with locally manufactured IT products.