EXECUTIVE ORDER ON LOCAL CONTENT

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The order, if well implemented, will enhance increased participation of local firms in the economy
Barely nine months after directing all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to give preference to local manufacturers of goods and services in their procurement processes, President Muhammadu Buhari last week signed another executive order aimed at steering the nation away from foreign dependence. Aside emphasising preference for Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, the latest order is expected to also promote local content in the application of science, technology and innovation towards “achieving Nigeria’s developmental goals across all sectors of the nation’s economy.”

For sure, Nigeria is not doing anything dramatically different. Every country adopts a local content policy and strategies to grow its economy. And if implemented, there is no doubt that the nation will reap bountifully from the new measures. But the challenge has always been with the enforcement of our laws. Indeed, the order only reinforces and broadens the Nigerian Content Law of 2010 in the oil and gas sector of the economy. Even though some indigenous oil companies are now playing significant roles and in the process building local skills, there is still much more to do to realise the objectives behind the law.

It is noteworthy that some of the local oil firms are now big enough to run on their own steam with the technical know-how that allow them to buy assets in the oil and gas industry, and manage their resources. Some of them are also into the exploration and production as well as fabrication, engineering, and marine transportation. It is therefore commendable that item four of the latest executive order bars the Ministry of Interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria. This is where the abuse is located to the detriment of our people.

However, by the time the MDAs begin to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of national security projects and other related issues, as directed by the new order, the socio-economic impact on the nation will be all-embracing. Similarly, the new executive order, if properly enforced, will enhance increased participation of local indigenous firms in science and engineering-related field and increasingly build up their capacity in terms of manpower and infrastructure, all to the wellbeing of the nation.

Of particular significance is the inclusion in the executive order that consideration shall only be given to a foreign professional, “where it is certified by the appropriate authority that such expertise is not available in Nigeria.’’ This is the discretionary power that is at the heart of the problem. All over the country today, there are numerous “expatriates” from several countries who are no better than certificated illiterates, but were granted express entries and work permits by dubious and corrupt immigration officials.

It is even more painful that many of these so-called “expatriates” learn the rudiments of what they are employed to do from Nigerians who are at the rung of the ladder. This is particularly disheartening because the country has professionals in almost every field who can stand their own, but ironically walking the street for lack of employment. Thus, an effective implementation of the order will ease, no matter how little, the unemployment burden on the nation.

Therefore, all factors considered, we endorse the executive order because we believe that if faithfully implemented, it will enhance increased participation of local firms in the economy, create more job openings and minimise capital flight. It will also serve as another conscious step by the government to protect an important segment of the society and empower them to pull out of poverty. But this is only possible if government does the needful – by enforcing and implementing the new order to the letter.