The President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr Otis Anyaeji, on Friday said that ‘local content was truly the basic principle of nation building’.
Anyaeji said this at the Nigeria’s Construction Industry Hall of Fame 2017 Lecture and Induction ceremony, with the theme “Local Content and the Economy Building Capacity for Growth,’’ organised by Construction Digest Magazine.
He said that “every other country has developed did on the basis of their local content, using their people, human capital and local resources’’.
The president said that President Muhammadu Buhari was an advocate of local content and had encouraged it through various policies to grow the economy but lamented that his ministers were not working with the vision.
Anyaeji said that the First Republic recognised and adopted the importance of local content and condemned the non-involvement of local engineers in the rail project signed by the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi and China.
He said that it was a standard norm for countries to agree to both benefit from any arrangement, adding that it would not have been out of place for Nigerian firms to fabricate some of the steel and do earth works for the rail project.
“Does Nigeria not have companies that can do the earthworks?.
“There are Nigerian companies that can computerise the earthworks thousands of kilometres.
“The NSE has petitioned that it was not worthy to have signed that contract without local involvement,’’ he said.
He explained that President Buhari wrote to three ministers in 2016 directing them to see how to partner with the NSE to ensure the participation of local engineers, adding that the ministers lacked understanding on how to actualise the President’s vision.
“The Government of the First Republic gave opportunity for Nigerians to construct rail extensions.
“Our ministers are acting different from the philosophy of Mr President. To show that Buhari is serious, he has through various policies, supported local productions and use of indigenous productions.
“The Federal Executive Council has agreed that projects should be used for the development of Nigeria and Nigerians,’’ he said.
The NSE president, however, lamented current trends where biding conditions were made impossible for local firms to meet.
He added that rapid capacity for growth could only come from implementation of the orders of President Buhari on local content.
The president said that the damage of not adhering to local content law was already showing in the oil and gas industry.
Mr Simbi Wabote, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), said that the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development (NOGICD) Act 2010 was addressing most of the challenges.
Wabote, represented by Mr Akintunde Adelana, Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, said that in the past, local content was five per cent but that with implementation of the NOGICD, it has increased to 26 per cent.
He added that the board had a 10-year road map to achieve a target of 70 per cent local content by 2027.
Wabote stressed the need to discourage importation, adding that Nigerian engineers could do better and learn skills and gain new experiences by partaking in projects.
“Every nation or state that wants to grow must imbibe local content,’’ he said.
Wabote said that the board was already encouraging local fabrication of some equipment and materials needed in various projects in the country, adding that the results were already showing in the maritime industry.
Mr Ameh Opaluwa, another guest lecturer and a Fellow of the NSE, said that the aim of using local content was to create jobs.
Opaluwa, however, lamented the dearth of infrastructure affecting costs of production and benefits of local content.
He called for deliberate government efforts to create opportunities for Nigerian engineers, domiciliation of all infrastructure project designs with Nigerians and local firms, as well as defining the quota for expatriates in projects.
Earlier, Mr Kenneth Odusola-Stevenson, National Coordinator, Nigeria’s Construction Industry Hall of Fame, said that the event was being beamed live on Facebook, to attract a wider participation of Nigerians in local content.
Odusola-Stevenson said that capital flight could only be addressed through capacity building, to have Nigerians in the value chain of any major project in the country.
Dignitaries at the event included former Delta gov., Chief James Ibori and Obong Victor Attah, a former governor of Akwa Ibom.