NPower Project: Nigerian Manufacturers Cry Foul over Plot by Osinbajo’s Office to Favour Foreign Firm

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Davidson Iriekpen

As information and communication technology (ICT) companies in the country jostle for a fair share of the supply of 500,000 computers to empower Nigerian youths in the federal government-sponsored NPower project, some local firms have accused the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of trying to favour a foreign firm and its proxy.

The NPower programme is an ambitious project of the President Muhammadu Buhari government which hopes to buy 500,000 computers for the 500,000 unemployed graduates it is about to recruit and deploy to schools and other sectors. The Office for Nigerian Content in ICT as well as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) have voiced their preference for the patronage of local computer manufacturers in the course of executing the project, arguing that it would not only arrest capital flight but also help to create jobs within the country.

However, some members of the Certified Computers Manufacturers of Nigeria (CCMON), the umbrella body of indigenous computer manufacturers, have accused the office of vice president of orchestrating a plot to award the contract to a foreign firm through its Nigerian proxy.

Impeccable presidency sources said three firms namely: Brian Systems, Zinox and Softcom, had been shortlisted in the bid process.

While Brian and Zinox are members of CCMON, the third company is said to be fronting for Samsung of South Korea.

Industry sources said they have information that some persons in the vice president’s office are hatching a plot to award the contract to the agent of the foreign firm which has no known pedigree and experience in delivering critical jobs of this magnitude.

The plot to award the contract to a foreign company against the ongoing campaign of the Buhari government to patronise local manufacturers has enraged some indigenous firms.

A chief executive of an indigenous company (name withheld) which was not short-listed in the bid, said he was not bothered by the fact that his company did not make it in the bid process but he did not hide his disgust at the news that the promoters of the NPower project are contemplating awarding the contract to a foreign company.

“It will be a disaster and disgrace to the reputation of President Buhari if the office of the vice president goes ahead to involve a foreign company in a project in which there are qualified and certified indigenous companies who can effectively deliver world class products and support services. Giving the job or any part thereof to a foreign firm will only help to grow the economy of that country, create jobs for its youths while the Nigerian economy continues to shrink with attendant job losses. Whoever that is scheming to involve a foreign company in the deal is an enemy of Nigeria,” he said.

The federal government’s Npower project seeks to empower and engage Nigerian youths and build a new legion of technology-savvy Nigerians.

Osinbajo while promoting the programme recently at a forum, said: “The key to change and our future prosperity lies in innovation and is critical to our development.”

He said government would establish an Innovation Fund this year that would deploy significant resources for the aim of creating opportunities for the youths to access fund for innovation and entrepreneurship.

He highlighted other plans as follows: Establishment of technology innovation hubs across the country; two super hubs (in Lagos and Abuja) and six regional hubs in the six geo-political zones in partnership with some major technology companies; 65,000 young Nigerians to be trained in hardware and software services and in animation; create a reservoir in technology capacity that can be exported annually like the case of India; and bursary award to 100,000 STEM undergraduates developing their interest in programming, robotic and animation technology, in addition to deploying technology in the training of the 500,000 teachers that are expected to be employed under the social investment scheme of government this year.