Protesting by the government’s preference for foreign contractors ahead of local firms during contracts’ awards, Nigerian construction experts have called for adoption of Nigerian Content Act template. DAYO AYEYEMI reports
Worried by the incursion of foreign firms and contractors into their sector, practitioners in the Nigerian construction have called for adoption of the Local Content Act 2010, pending the passing into law of the Nigerian Content Development Commission.
The latest agitation by the experts, especially engineers, architects and builders, may not be unconnected with the recent award of N20 billion rail project to a Chinese firm by the Federal Government.
Their fear is that if the situation persists, Nigeria, as a country, may not attain the desired economic growth and development, while unemployment rates among citizens, especially youths and young professionals would continue to increase despite their skills.
According to them, no nation desirous of political and economic independence would hand over its socio-economic development and management to foreigners.
The Nigerian Content Act for Oil and Gas sector was enacted in 2010 to encourage indigenous participation in the segment. Information gathered showed that the Nigerian Content Development Commission Bill is before the National Assembly for passage into law.
Criticising the government’ s action for giving out contracts to foreign firms without recourse to local companies, Group Chief Executive Director, Khariz Group, Dr. Samson Opaluwah, said there was need for the adoption of template of Local Content Act for all sectors pending the enactment of a law on Nigeria Content Development.
“I am informed that there is a draft on this before the National Assembly; however, every passing day is an opportunity lost for our dear country,” he said.
In his document, “Local Content and Economy – Building Capacity for growth- A Strategic Approach,” during his induction into the Nigeria’s Construction Industry Hall of Fame in Lagos, he said that awarding contract of infrastructure project to foreigners without involving indigenous firms/contractors was unacceptable.
He pointed out that Nigeria was blessed with very many credible intellectuals, technocrats and professionals, who have been pulling their weights noiselessly in the various sectors of our economy.
Obaluwah said: “Nigeria has witnessed in the last 50 years a high volume of capital flight from its petro-dollar earnings due to inability to put in place and sustain a viable policy of maximising the value for money derived from developmental expenditure in the public and private sectors of the economy.”
According to him, a low hanging fruit of the national development efforts was the immediate implementation of the national content in infrastructure development and management as a catalyst to economic growth and an enabler for the up-scaling of the quality of life of average Nigerian.
The group executive director explained that the state of the nation’s infrastructure was directly related to non-committal posture of foreign contractors whose primary motive for participating in the Nigerian economy is pure profit, noting that long-term and life-cycle functional availability of the projects was not their primary concern.
Obaluwah was among other distinguished built environment professionals such as a former President of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr. Ife Akintunde; a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Victor Attah; and a former President of Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, Mr Victor Oyenuga, that were inducted into the Nigeria’s Construction Industry Hall of Fame in Lagos.
The forums was packaged by Kenneth Odusola-Stevenson.
Managing Director, Enville Environmental Consultant Limited, Dr. Celina Maduemezia, an engineer, insisted that the Federal Government should take interest in things that affect Nigerians, calling for extension and implementation of Local Content Law in the construction sector.
Attah, on his part, said that progress already made in the area of local content in project execution in oil and gas industry could be improved upon in other sectors.
According to the former governor, the National Assembly must perform its oversight function on the matter to ensure that the local content law is implemented.
Attah said: “If only the stations along the railway lines are given out to local contractors, there is no way Nigerians will not be able to execute them.”
Director, Monitoring & Evaluation, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Akintunde Adelana, stated that the implementation of the Act had resulted in progressive domiciliation of oil and gas activities, hitherto, done outside the country, leading to creation of employment opportunities for Nigerians.
According to him, the vision of the board is to increase in-country value retention from the current 26 per cent to 70 per cent within the next 10 years, adding that strategic initiatives have been put in place to achieve the goal.
President, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr. Otis Oliver Anyaeji, noted that the amount of money spent by the government yearly to import one million tons of steel into the country was enough to build a factory that will roll out one million tons of steel.
Obaluwah urged government to put in place strategy towards attaining at least 70 per cent local content, saying that specific initiative could be offered to ensure capacity building of local firms.
Besides, he wants all infrastructure project designs to be domiciled in the country, adding that Nigerian firms should by policy lead the design consortium.
“Materials such as steel and cement must be locally sourced as much as possible to lead into new industries and expansion of existing fledging ones,” the engineer said.
Baluwah corroborated other professionals, urging that inputs for the implementation of national infrastructure projects be sourced locally as much as possible from existing and new facilities.
He also called for implementation of projects in line with Nigerian codes and standard or international standards domesticated in Nigeria and rendered in English language.
Foreign companies undertaking infrastructure projects in Nigeria should not only register their companies in the country but should mandatorily form a partnership with indigenous firms in order to jointly execute projects and transfer appropriate technology.
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