In Britain, it is called giving British jobs to the British. Just like Donald Trump’s insistence that American jobs should first be for Americans, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 5, that prohibits giving foreigners jobs that can be done by Nigerians is being widely applauded by the citizens. But in an economy where the number of foreign concerns overshadows locally owned companies, is the order the route to Eldorado as many Nigerians believe? Ajose Sehindemi reports.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s executive order tagged Executive Order 5 is to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components with the intent to promote the application of science, technology, and innovation towards achieving the nation’s development goals across all sectors of the economy.
The order seeks to ensure that all procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007. While it also prohibits the Ministry of Interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria.
It also states that where expertise is lacking, procuring entities will give preference to foreign companies and firms with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous development, prior to the award of such contracts.
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This new order, according to many analysts, citizens, unemployed graduates and local business owners, is akin to manna from heaven as most citizens are concerned by the unwholesome activities of expatriates run businesses in the country. The expatriates are accused of neglecting locals in employment opportunities as it got so bad that forklift drivers, truck drivers were being brought in to the country to the consternation of local drivers.
Some Chinese restaurants have Chinese as waitresses and a visit to some parts of the country will see the huge numbers of foreigners doing menial jobs to the abandonment of locals.
The Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria, PRCAN, reacting to the order, commended the President for signing the Executive Order.
In a release signed by John Ehiguese and Israel Opayemi, President and Publicity Secretary respectively, the association described the president’s action as “exceptional, courageous and an act of nationalism which puts our country first over and above the popular penchant of government officials for all things foreign, and particularly Caucasian.”
PRCAN further assured President Buhari of its readiness to play the role of whistleblowers in relation to the public relations and marketing communications sector, promising to avail the Presidency with the details of foreigners operating agencies illegally in defiance of the laws regulating the industry in Nigeria.
“President Muhammadu Buhari can be rest assured of our support in this regard. We will compile the names and addresses of those currently operating illegally here against the extant law regulating the Public Relations practice in Nigeria.
”That law is among those you promised to enact and enforce in your capacity as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to protect businesses in Nigeria. We will make this task easy for you so that relevant government agencies can enforce the Executive Order and other extant laws,” PRCAN said.
To Ayo Teriba, the chief executive officer of Economic Associates, the order is in the right direction but should not be confined to just science, engineering and technology sectors of the economy.
“It is a policy in the right direction and it should not be confined to those areas that the executive order is covering. It should be wider. Any job that a Nigerian can do, no foreigner should do it.
“President Buhari has done well but they should expand the coverage of such executive orders to preserve the employment space for Nigerians,” he said.
To Chijioke James, president of Electricity Consumers Association of Nigeria, it is a good move considering what Nigerian professionals stand to gain when the order becomes fully operational. However, the government must be careful not to prevent knowledge transfer from international experts.
He said: “It is a known fact that a lot of Nigerians have skills and expertise and as such should be given the opportunity to serve and function in some areas where we currently have foreigners. This executive order is expected to address such situations and also provide more opportunities for Nigerians.
“Every country adopts a local content policy in order to grow its local economy and it is an acceptable practice. This applies to the power as well as other sectors of the economy. Where we have Nigerian engineers who are competent and have what it takes to do the job, why should they not be given preference over others for jobs within the country? I’m all for it. It is just like other countries trying to encourage their local industry. I support anything that the government of Nigeria must do to encourage our local industry to grow”.
All these are enough reasons for any Nigerian to smile but for an entrepreneur, Jaji Adewale, the managing director of Soajaji Nigeria Enterprises limited, the policy might fail due to the inconsistency of government in enforcing policy decisions. He said the local content act has been in law in the country for a while but it was not enforced as if enforced, the new order won’t be needed.
He said the government must go beyond the issuance of statements and threats and deal decisively with defaulters as they are going to be many. “Those that will default have connections with those in the top echelon of lawmaking in the country. Will those making and enforcing the laws allow their friends and cronies to be punished for any infraction when their palms have been greased? This is Nigeria and there is what is called government magic.”
James sounded a note of warning as he said, though the presidential order is good and acceptable because it will help grow the economy and generate employment, in trying to ensure that this works effectively, the government must also consider several other issues that are involved.
The government must make sure that it puts in place the required value chain and remove bottlenecks which often frustrate efforts to get things done in this country.
Will the new order be enforced or will it be just policy statement from the government? Only time will tell as commendations continue to pour in for the government.