As the political tempo assumes a crescendo, it may be germane to look at some of the policies of government that were designed to accelerate national and economic development. In particular, we consider it necessary to look at one of those policies that relate to the promotion of Nigerian content in contracts and science, engineering and technology.
In the first term of this administration, precisely in 2018, the Minister of Science and Technology, as it then was, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, initiated a policy direction which President Muhammadu Buhari issued as Executive Order 5 by which all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government were directed to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, designing and execution of national security projects and maximise in- country capacity in all contracts and transactions with science, engineering and technology components.
To emphasise its importance, we recall that the minister spear-headed the implementation of the presidential order which, as defined, recognises the vital role of science, technology and innovation in national economic development, particularly in the area of promoting Made in Nigeria goods and services.
Strategically, in our view, the main objectives of the order which the ministry’s management pursued with unrelenting vigour are the harnessing of domestic talents and the development of indigenous capacity in science and engineering for the promotion of technological innovation needed to drive national competitiveness, productivity and economic activities which will invariably enhance the achievement of the nation’s development goals across all sectors of the economy.
To ensure that the policy achieved its stated goals, the Onu got the buy – in of the labour force of the ministry who, hitherto, were not used to their views being sought after by the political head. He was also able to bring on board other MDAs that are expected to play already assigned roles in the expected success of the policy. The minister, in drafting the policy, realised that it has to be all-encompassing and would require the putting in place of an inter-ministerial committee that met for the first time after a long spell.
It is pertinent, in our opinion, to point out that the Order makes certain specific directives. Some of them make it important that all procuring authorities give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act, 2007. It also states that where expertise is lacking, procuring entities are at liberty to give preference to foreign companies and firms with demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous capacity development, prior to the award of such contracts.
Similarly, and in accordance with the provisions of the Order, MDAs are mandated to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, designing and execution of national security projects and consideration can only be given to a foreign professional, where it is certified by the appropriate authority that such expertise is not available in Nigeria.
Furthermore, it is also provided for in the policy document that Nigerian companies or firms duly registered in accordance with the laws of Nigeria, with current practising licence will lead in any consultancy services involving Joint Venture (JV) relationships and agreements, relating to Law, Engineering, ICT, Architecture, Procurement, Quantity Surveying, and so on.
The Order also made it binding on MDAs to ensure that before the award of any contract, Nigerian counterpart staff are engaged from the conception stage to the end of the project and will also adopt local technology that meet set standards to replace foreign ones.
There are other provisions involving competitive bidding, in the evaluation of tenders, from indigenous suppliers of goods manufactured locally over foreign goods as well as the insistence that all professionals practising in the country are duly registered with the appropriate regulatory bodies in Nigeria, and must ensure that all foreign professional certificates are domesticated with the relevant professional bodies before being considered for any contract award or employment in Nigeria.
The Order also makes it clear that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Ministry of Finance are duty bound to ensure that tax incentives are granted to existing machine tools companies (including foundry, machine shop, forge shop, and indigenous artisans) to boost local production of their products while tax incentives may be granted to Small and Medium Enterprises and foreign firms for the utilisation of local raw materials that are authenticated by the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (RMRDC).
We are persuaded to appreciate the contributions of Onu and his team at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in bringing to reality this policy document that put Nigeria first in practical terms. While we commend him for this bold initiative, it is also imperative for there to be a follow up procedure that will ensure not only continuity but also maintaining policy consistency when a new team comes into office.