Information and Communications Technology (ICT) stakeholders has expressed worries that Nigerians are losing jobs and contracts in the ICT sector to foreigners, describing it as capital flight and huge depletion of the Nigerian economy.
The stakeholders blamed the situation on the absence of Local Content Development law in ICT, which should have protected the interests of Nigerians and Nigerian-owned businesses.
The National Coordinator, Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, Mr. Inye Kemabonta, enumerated the implications of not having an existing local content law in ICT, which he said, spelt doom for the sector. He called on all stakeholders to rise to the challenge and ensure that the issue of local content in ICT is addressed to a logical conclusion, in order to encourage fair competition and to protect the interests of Nigerians and their businesses.
The stakeholders pointed out that licensed telecoms operators in the county are majorly foreigners who do business in Nigeria by bringing in foreign staff to handle the jobs that Nigerians could successfully handle, if given the opportunity.
Citing the case of MTN, which they said, generated over $16 billion within a period of 15 years doing telecoms business in Nigeria, stakeholders said such huge amount of money was moved from the Nigerian economy to the South African economy, where MTN is headquartered. They explained that should there be local content law in ICT, such money would have been reinvested into the Nigerian economy, to increase liquidity flow in the economy that will better the lives of Nigerian citizens.
The stakeholders also blamed the Nigerian government for licensing more of foreign operators in the ICT sector, at the detriment of local investors that have small businesses in the country.
The former President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Lanre Ajayi, who expressed worries over the manner at which Nigerians are losing ICT jobs and contracts to foreign companies, said the remedy would be a thing of right policy and proper regulation that would encourage and protect Nigerians in their businesses. Ajayi also stressed the need for the development of local capacity that includes institutional and human capacity building.
The Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, called on telecoms operators to put a stop to importation of basic telecoms equipment like switches, masts, towers, among others and device means of using locally sourced materials.
In his remarks, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, Licensing and Authorisation at NCC, Ms. Funlola Akiode, said one of the factors affecting the continued devaluation of the Nigerian currency, is the dependence on importation of basic materials, manpower and services. “For the industry to expand sustainably, we need to look inwards, re-organise our priorities and be less reliant on dwindling foreign exchange. Local content development will reduce the cost of business and increase available skilled human capital,” Danbatta said.
A member of the House of Representatives, Honorable Oghene Emma Egoh, who raised concerns over the implications of not having a Local Content Development Law in ICT, called on stakeholders to expedite action in the formulation and presentation of local content bill in ICT before the National Assembly and assured stakeholders of speedy hearing of such bill, either as an executive bill or a private bill.