Conscious of the nexus between thriving indigenous businesses and job creation amongst others, President Buhari has signed two Executive Orders – Executive Order 003 entitled “Support for Local Content in Public Procurement by the Federal Government” and Executive Order 005 entitled “Presidential Executive Order for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promoting of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology”.
Hitherto, Nigeria has only ever tried to bolster local content through the singular legislation that gave birth to the – Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act 2010 (NOGICDA). The president’s intervention through Executive Orders is a recognizable attempt to extend local content policy beyond the Oil and Gas industry to other sectors, thus translating the perceivable gains of indigenous businesses in that sector across other sectors of the Nigerian economy.
I will argue that ours is not a problem of lack of laws for indeed we could just by accepted procedural policy enforce the strengthening of indigenous businesses as has been done in other climes. Alas, what inhibits us is the spectre of a legion of laws mined with trapdoors that practicing public actor illusionists will always find during acts of escapism. At the height of the lockdown brought on by COVID – 19, arising from a proclamation by the president directing patronage of Made-in-Nigeria – the echo of the president’s voice was barely gone, when the Federal Executive Council approved a procurement contract of foreign products for the NPA!
The omnibus Local Content 2020 Bill presently going through the processes, like both Executive Orders – Signpost: convenience, preference, desire – the continuance of when it’s okay by us we go local content mantra. Therein lies the crux of the matter – the ever present trapdoors for political actors and public officials to pervert laws at their whim and caprice.
There should be nothing discretional about strengthening our indigenous businesses. It should not even require laws for us to altruistically accept and propagate local content as it makes social, economic and political sense to do so. It is not the multiplicity or lack of laws or Executive Orders or guidance that ails us. It is the preponderance of magicians who wander around our public spaces. The trapdoors must be taken out entirely.
There must be no ambiguity! There should be no trapdoors for anyone to wriggle through. The provisions of any new legislation must be iron clad – to compel the– Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAS) to mandatorily buy, source and contract made in Nigeria, save that it cannot be made, sourced or done locally.
Consequent upon any breach of this law, which should be considered as economic sabotage/terrorism, we propose that offenders should be liable to termination of employment/office – and for political office holders – a life ban from holding public office. A seven year term of imprisonment without the option of a fine should also be concurrently imposed. Without ambiguity, infringement of this law will be the easiest to prove – National Assembly and Citizen Oversight will be a mite easier than is the norm in our country where laws are laden with – “trapdoors”!
The direct consequence of this legislation will be to lock in stone – backward linkage development, sustained creation of employment opportunities, infrastructure development, increased indigenous business participation and capacity building. It will also put us firmly on the path towards evolving forward linkages. The very nature of the legislation will force and bring about – sound regulatory policy monitoring and good resource management.
The president has shown his strong desire for the strengthening of indigenous businesses through good intentioned – Executive Order 003 and Executive Order 005. That is the extent to which he can go and in a country where political and public officials have not made it an art form to pervert the system – presidential executive orders would ordinarily bring about swift policy compliance.
The National Assembly must pick up the gauntlet and at no time in our history – in these novel times of COVID 19 does that responsibility weigh more heavily.
We must grow capacity and grow jobs and government must be with and not by the Nigerian people in this lifetime endeavor. Our salvation and the sustainability of the Nigerian enterprise demand it! We must open up sustainable pathways for job creation.