CHIKA OKEKE examines the Executive Order 5 on science, engineering and technology based contracts and the need for proper enforcement to boost indigenous professionals.
In the last fifty year, Nigeria has lost over $380 billion to capital flight and two million job loss before the enactment of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act in 2010.
This is because, majority of the engineering, fabrications and procurements in the industry were conducted abroad while neglecting the indigenous skilled men.
Not only did it impoverish Nigerians but also placed expatriates whether skilled or unskilled in charge of the nation’s resources as they earned their reward in oil dollars.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had at its 17th meeting on May 10, 2017, directed the minister of science and technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu to develop a policy to guide council, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on the application of local content in the execution of projects, programme and contracts with science, engineering and technology components in Nigeria.
Findings by LEADERSHIP revealed that the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) made contributions towards refining the guidelines.
To this end, the federal government released Presidential Executive Order 5 (PEO 5) for the promotion of local content in contracts with science, engineering and technology components.
The Executive Order 5 is a 16-page presidential order approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on February 2018 in pursuit of the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The ERGP was targeted at restoring growth to the economy, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy.
One of the enduring objectives is to address the huge unemployment by creating jobs locally and stimulating productive activity that facilitated inclusion.
The release of PEO 5 however became mandatory in order to successfully implement the ERGP by giving preference to made in Nigeria goods and services as well as compelling Nigerians to accept indigenous products as their first line of choice.
The order which professionals felt would not address the non-inclusion of engineers in policy and decision making in Nigeria remained a bone of contention for professionals in the engineering sector.
The president of Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu, sought the consent of President Muhammadu Buhari for members of NSE to be fully involved in the monitoring and implementation processes of the Executive Order 5 for full realisation of its purpose.
While commending Buhari for the policy, he was hopeful that the order would truly promote Nigerian content in all its ramifications.
He stated that the no country developed without science, engineering and technology saying that Nigeria would be transformed in the next five years if everybody implemented the executive order.
In his contribution, the former head of national planning and chief economic adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Prof Ode Ojowu, pointed out that the order merely brushed up and placed on the front burner, requirements and rules and regulations that already existed in books.
Ojowu commended the federal government for the release of Presidential Executive Order 5 (PEO 5) for the promotion of local content in contracts with science, engineering and technology
He however lamented that PEO 5 cannot deal with the fundamental challenge of non-inclusion of professional engineers in the decision making process especially on engineering and technology related matters.
Ojowu emphasised that engineering when properly harnessed, could contribute immensely to growth and development of a nation as seen in developed countries that have significantly created wealth and reduced poverty in the last few decades.
This, he said, enabled Asian countries to record massive performance in terms of technological adaptation and consequent economic advancement since the second half of the last century by utilising the services of engineers.
The former adviser said that countries like China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and South Korea have been able to double the size of their economies and moved substantial numbers of their citizens out of poverty in record number of years.
He disclosed that Singapore is now ranked among the first world with per capita income rising from $3,400 in 1960 to a phenomenal high of $52,600 in 2016, adding that China is set to overtake the US as the largest economy by 2025.
Ojowu however pointed out that countries that had achieved phenomenal economic transformation were driven by an ideology that energised citizens towards a common desirable destination.
In the face of the environmental and resource challenges globally, he noted that there were no substitutes for an honest government, an educated and motivated people likewise the application of science, technology and engineering to achieve growth and development.
Lending his voice, the immediate past president of NSE, Engr Tagbo Oliver Anyaeji, recommended that government should gradually disengage from the use of imported materials in favour of locally available materials adding that only registered engineering and other professional firms must practice in the country.
He stated that foreign companies undertaking infrastructure projects in Nigeria should not only register their companies in Nigeria but should mandatorily form a partnership with indigenous firms in order to jointly execute the projects and transfer appropriate technology.
Anyaeji hinted that projects must be implemented in line with Nigerian codes and standards and or international codes and standards domesticated to Nigeria and rendered in English language.
He hinted that all infrastructure projects, designs and production should be domiciled in Nigeria and Nigerian engineering firms should by policy lead the consultancy, engineering, procurement and construction consortia where international expertise is necessary.
One of the things President Muhammadu Buhari, sought to change by approving the Executive Order 5 is the inclusion of Nigerians in the productivity cycle and to enable them get preferential opportunities for jobs that would be created in the country.
The minister of power, works and housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, recalled that his office received a letter from the office of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari on February 22, 2018, informing him about the approval of an Executive Order.
Fashola said that he immediately minuted the same directive to the permanent secretaries for power, works and housing, requesting that the presidential order should be integrated into the procurement compliance with BPP.
The minister said that Order 5 would restore economic growth through diversification and macro economic stability adding that one of the enduring objective is to create jobs locally and stimulate productive activity that facilitates inclusion.
He stated that Order 5 was also designed to invest in the people through social inclusion and job creation as well as build a globally competitive economy via investment in Infrastructure and improvement in business environment.
Fashola asserted that almost a decade when Nigeria’s economy experienced a 5-7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth that unemployment figures were high, which compelled people to talk about ‘jobless growth’ and ‘lack of inclusion’.
According to him, “How many were made here? How many jobs could we have created if Order 5 had been passed in 2002 or 2003 to follow the licensing of GSM phones in Nigeria?”.
He emphasised that the benefits and prosperity surrounding the economic policies are some of the compelling reasons why government should be committed in implementing Order 5.
Fashola hinted that such benefits were inherent in the agriculture sector that created jobs for over 6 million new farmers, likewise in the ministry where locals were employed at over 250 road construction sites and 34 pilot housing estates projects.
He disclosed that the ministry had in 2015, directed that only made in Nigeria paint, doors, fittings and among others should be used at the sites of national housing project.
With the abundant opportunities, the minister said that only ministries, departments and agencies (MDA’s) cannot fully optimise the benefits without the active collaboration of the entire private sector and Nigerians.
This, he said, was because the focal point of Order 5 is a commitment to made in Nigeria, adding that if Nigerians failed to accept indigenous products that the MDAs are acting in vain.
Fashola revealed that getting made- in- Nigeria to be accepted by Nigerians goes beyond wearing locally-made fabric or eating local food, saying that such sought-after goods must be produced in the country while Nigerians are fully engaged in the production process.
He said, “The MDAs have no choice but to comply with a presidential directive, and not only is this specified in Section 2 to 15 of the order but section 11 on page 11 makes provisions for sanctions for non-compliance.
“It provides that the punishment for violation of this executive order, shall be as stipulated by the public services rules and relevant laws governing public procurement and professional practice in Nigeria,” he added.
He listed the benefits of Order 5 as embracing science, technology and innovation (STI), increasing the quantum of value created in the Nigerian economy and promoting made in Nigeria campaign.
Also, to give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contract; support foreign companies who showed demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous capacity development and enable Nigerian companies to lead in any consultancy services, including joint venture relationships relating to law, engineering, ICT, architecture, procurement, and quantity surveying.
He noted that the MDAs would play a statutory role in processing approvals for expatriate quota, entry permits and visas into Nigeria and issuance of permits.
Fashola emphasised that there was the need to curtail the abuse of the permits by Nigerians who would collude with foreigners, just as he called on relevant professional institutions to bridge competency defects that would make Nigerians vulnerable to foreign manpower.
He was optimistic that localising production and consumption would cripple unemployment since demand would boost production and create jobs.