‘Implementation, monitoring impeding construction industry local content policy’
Twenty-one months after President Muhammadu Buhari signed Executive Order Five to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components, key players are divided over the impact of the policy.
Investigations by The Guardian showed that the once applauded policy has not made the expected impacts in the construction sector both on human capital development and job creation as foreign firms still hold sway in major projects, especially road and building constructions.
What could be passed as again to increase the percentage of indigenous consultants in the designing of projects is being thwarted by government officials while the needed exposure envisaged by the policy is still lacking.
The policy was conceived to build capacities of local firms on the construction industry and seen as the best single legal instrument to boost the nation’s economy by curtailing capital flight and unemployment.
In the proclamation that followed the signing last year, the President, pursuant to the authority vested on him by the Constitution, ordered that all ‘’procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007.’’
It also prohibits the Ministry of Interior from issuing visas to foreign nationals whose skills are readily available in Nigeria.
The President, in addition, directed Ministries, Departments, and Agencies to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design, and execution of national security projects.
He also noted that where expertise is lacking, procuring entities will give preference to foreign companies and firms with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous development prior to the award of such contracts.”
The policy further mandated companies intending to employ foreign nationals on long term work authorisation and require the grant of expatriate quota to undergo additional rigorous scrutiny.
The companies would be compulsorily required to employ Nigerians to understudy their foreign experts in order to enable them to acquire the requisite skills for the eventual takeover of the expatriate positions by a Nigerian counterpart.
Specifically, the industry bigwigs are lamenting that the government has been weak in carrying out the implementation of the policy. The immediate past president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NISTRUCTE), Eddy Atumonyogo, decried the poor implementation of the policy.
According to him, there is no single impact because orders can be signed but we are very poor in the implementation of policies.
He lamented the non-inclusion of qualified local engineers in ongoing projects like the nationwide multi-billion naira rail projects.
Atumonyogo said such ugly development had further exposed structural engineers in the country to ridicule before their foreign colleagues engaged in a capital flight of the nation’s meager resources.
According to him, the Federal Government would have done better if it had considered the opportunities for the transfer of skills and knowledge to local engineers and practices while negotiating contracts for such massive rail projects across the country.
“ Mechanism for implementing the policy is lacking and nobody monitors it. So they are weak and they are left in the hand of civil servants, who just sit on it”, he added.
Also, the President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu noted that the level of patronage of local professionals is still minimal.
He stressed that Chinese firms and Julius Berger are still doing the major roads that were being constructed without anyone given to indigenous firms.
For, instance, he said the Lagos State Government recently mentioned the names of construction companies that will handle, emergency road construction and maintenance across the state without mentioning any Nigerian or indigenous company.
So, you can see that lack of implementation has impacted negatively on the local content meant to discourage capital flight and help develop the capacities of indigenous companies.
Stressing that professionals have not felt any real impact of the order, the NIOB president, said Government still has to do more to prepare an implementation mechanism that will make it work.
“ They may have to register new construction companies that have capacities to execute some high-level building and construction projects.
“The summary is that the implementation of executive order 5 is not yet feasible, there are some teething problems, but it is a good policy if it is well implemented”, Awobodu added.
On his part, President of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Festus Adibe Njoku said although many architects have benefited by the reason of doing designs for major projects, they have not been able to go beyond designs because of funding issues.
According to him, it is not much of how architects have fared with the policy, the issue is with the tiers of government as most of the time, and the issue might be financing aspect of it.
“For the technical aspect, we have it because, by the law, the design must have local content but there has not been a boom for us to say we are now enjoying it.
The challenge is when they said we want people who will finance the project, we are lacking and the Chinese are getting the jobs”, he said.
For the president, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Adekunle Mokuolu, Nigerians have started enjoying the benefits in all the areas because projects that will usually go to foreigners are now coming to our engineers.
Nigerians, he said, are now the one leading, and they are now being called first.
Although, he recognized that implementation has been poor in some areas, Mokuolu enjoined professionals in the construction industry to liaise with their members working in various government ministries, departments and agencies, as they are really the ones driving the policy.
But The Guardian also learned that the president has also ordered the ministries of Science and Technology, who are the major driver of the policy to form a group to implement it.
The core Ministry in conjunction with the Minister of Power, Minister of Works and Housing, Minister of Water Resources and Minister of Communication is already working a framework for its implementation.
They are joining hands with the Nigerian Society of Engineers to work out modalities to make the policy a more rewarding one for Nigerians and professionals in the construction industry.
A source told The Guardian that the implementation, for now, is that all the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). They are supposed to really measure the implementation levels. At this implementation level, MDAs are supposed to look at the whole thing for compliance.
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