President Goodluck Jonathan
By Patrick Ugeh
President Goodluck Jonathan Monday announced some measures to revamp the development of the country, which includes extra steps to involve indigenous contractors and professionals in the process as Nigerians must be encouraged to play a more active role in the process.
He also declared that the Federal Government was about starting a national integrated development master plan to drive development in the next 30 years, a plan that had already been approved by the Economic Management Team.
He also said at the appropriate time, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) and other professional bodies would be invited to participate.
Jonathan, who spoke through the Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onelomemen, said as a matter of deliberate policy, the present government was prepared to give jobs to local manufacturers and contractors even if their quotations were 10 to 15 per cent higher than those of expatriates.
He said government would use such contractors, especially for jobs that relate to the attainment of Vision 2020.
“In some cases, as a matter of deliberate policy, we are even prepared, as an administration, even if the quotation of a local provider of a particular service is within 10 to 15 per cent over and above the quotation of the foreign competitor, to patronise the local companies,” he said.
Based on this, he added: “I want to put on record that this administration more than any other has continued to encourage local and indigenous contractors and manufacturers. At the end of our procurement cycle this year, it will be clear to you that we are giving projects in brown fields to local contractors to the tune of N2 billion, but many of them are doing contracts in the range of N5 billion to N10 billion, instead of N2 billion.”
According to him, the need to encourage the local contractors was because government recognised that foreigners could not develop the country more that Nigerians.
Jonathan, who spoke when the president of the NSE, Mustafa Balarabe Shehu, led officials on a courtesy visit during which he called for all contracts below N2 billion to be reserved for Nigerians.
The President urged the NSE to do more than it was currently doing to enforce standards in the profession “because one of the banes of indigenous participation in the construction sector has to do with poor quality of work among some of the local contractors – not all of them – but some of them.”
He lamented that surprisingly most of them were also registered with the professional body.
“So there is need for enforcement of standards not just in construction but also in consultancy and that is even more damaging to government because it leads to excessive budgeting, budget overrun and cost overrun of projects,” he said.
“In extreme cases, you find out that it leads to abandonment of projects across the landscape of our country.”
Jonathan continued: “So we appeal to the NSE to do all you can to ensure that there is enforcement, that erring firms are brought to book.”
He said as a consequence of lack of enforcement of standards, people carry on with impunity.
“I want to assure you that as a deliberate policy, Mr President has consistently reminded ministers of the need to patronise local professionals to the extent that while we recognise the need for competition, if we see any area where we find local capabilities we are duty-bound to patronise the local company,” he said.
The only caveat, he added, was that local professionals would be engaged for so long as they were able to satisfactorily deliver on the job which the government wants to execute.
On the NSE’s plea to be involved in the Federal Government’s transformation agenda, he promised to convey it to President Jonathan.
He also promised to support the engineering body in Nigeria to be able to host the world engineering conference scheduled for 2014 because “we understand the role of engineering in the building of a nation.”
Shehu lamented Nigeria’s open door policy with regard to its procurement laws, saying it was undermining the engagement of young engineers, technologists and other professionals.
“We observe that procurement laws in other developing countries or even in those that have developed do not leave their doors open... to foreigners. The protective measures put in place by China, Malaysia, India, South Korea, Singapore are what made them technological powers and exporters of expertise even to Nigeria today,” he said.