By Emmanuel Ike-Jonathan, JP.
Worried by the many challenges facing the Nigerian state in her developmental strides in various sectors of the economy, the Federal Government of Nigeria, under the leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GCFR), in March 2010 signed into law the Nigerian Local Content Act.
The law, among other objectives, stipulates that due consideration be given to indigenous companies, and for steps to be taken to ensure that they receive priority treatment ahead of foreign companies while evaluating bids for contractual services, supplies of goods and services required for projects both in the Oil and Gas Sector and MDAs in the country.
The act also ensures that there is the first consideration for the training and employment of Nigerians ahead of foreign nationals or expatriates in companies and organizations carrying out their businesses within the country. This act directly affects operating companies, contractors, sub-contractors and service providers both in the oil and gas industries and governmental organizations.
Interestingly, the objective of the local content policy is to transform the short-term benefits of natural resource extraction into long-term local economic development outcomes through capacity strengthening, institutional building and strategic policy tools to promote domestic economic linkages, job creation and the participation of local Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the value chain via the supply of goods and services to the different sectors of the economy.
It is therefore pertinent to note that the importance of the Local content policy cannot be overemphasized as it encourages the development of Local Skills and the use of Local Manpower in the attainment/execution of set objectives, services and goals in a country. Besides, it also places the country on the same pedestal with other developed nations that build home-based capacities for the attainment of their goals and objectives.
The local content philosophy is practically working in Enugu State and being implemented by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi as he is indirectly building and strengthening local capacity through effective engagement of the services of local/indigenous contractors in delivering his life-changing infrastructural developments in the state.
It will be recalled that while delivering his inaugural speech in 2015, Gov. Ugwuanyi stated thus: “It is common knowledge that unemployment and poverty are major issues in our country today. In order to alleviate the sufferings of Ndi-Enugu in this regard, we have deliberately designed government policies embedded in our roadmap to empower and generate employment for our people through the provision of platforms of partnerships with the private sector for the general growth of the state.”
The governor has not deviated from this solemn promise while carrying out his developmental programmes and projects in the state. In line with that objective to create employment opportunities and empowerment of the good people of Enugu, the governor has continued to make effective use of the local content philosophy in his programmes and activities.
The implementation of the local content philosophy by the Governor in his programmes and policies no doubt has many benefits that are incomparable with the use of foreign hands/contractors. This is because the local content philosophy has multiplier effects to the economy of the state, as it is a phenomenon whereby a given change in a particular input, such as government spending causes a larger change in output, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Local/indigenous contractors so far engaged by the state government employ indigenous line staff that are paid wages which are pushed into the market, thereby creating the multiplier effect in the economy of the state and the country at large. There is no gainsaying the fact that when the contractors are paid, they equally make purchases within the state and do other financial transactions that rejig the state’s economy with its attendant multiplier effect.
The use of local content creates more employment opportunities and develops the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which is the engine of all economic development. The local content philosophy drastically reduces capital flight to foreign countries and develops our local contractors because the foreign contractors also started in the like manner in their countries.
Recently, there was a wave of criticism on the indigenous/local contractors engaged by Enugu State Government in its infrastructural development of the state due to the failures of a few projects executed by the said local contractors across the state. Be that as it may, it is pertinent to state that while the criticism on the performance of the local/indigenous contractors are welcome developments, it is hoped that it will bring out the best in them.
However, heaping the blame on the governor who decided to give practical reality to the essence of Nigeria Local Content Act in his workings in the state is thoroughly misplaced. The governor should rather be commended for the many benefits his patronage of the local manpower has brought to the growth of the economy of the state. As of today, Enugu is one of the leading states in the country in terms of internally-generated revenue and ranked as one of the states with the capacity to fund its activities without federal allocation.
Politicizing the failure of a few of the many successfully completed projects constructed by the local/indigenous contractors in the state as if projects being carried out by foreign contractors do not fail is most unfortunate and highly worrisome. These critics should not lose sight of the fact that the administration of Gov. Ugwuanyi has constructed over 600 kilometres of roads across the state and a host of several public structural buildings which are effectively in use by motorists, residents and the good people of the state, despite being among states in the country with the least allocation from the federation account.
It is also important to note that over 90 per cent of these roads and structural buildings were executed by local/indigenous contractors and has the capacity to stand the test of time as they are of international standard. Some of the roads constructed by the said local/indigenous contractors are 31 km Udenu Ring road with high tech bridges and standard drainages; 26.66km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani LGA; 22.44km Neke-Mbu-Ogbodo Aba-Obollo Etiti inter-community road linking Isi-Uzo and Udenu LGAs.
Others include the 8.8km Nkalagu-Eha Amufu road in Isi-Uzo LGA that was neglected for over 35 years; 13km Nike Lake Junction-Harmony Estate-Amorji Nike with Emene satellite town in Enugu East LGA; 8.2km Inyi-Akpugoeze road in Oji River LGA, among many others that lack of space will not allow me to list in this article.
The public buildings constructed by local/indigenous contractors under the Ugwanyi administration includes – but not limited to – the first phase of the Enugu State Secretariat annexe in Nsukka satellite town; 10-unit of Executive Guest House at the old Governor’s Lodge GRA, Enugu; First Enugu State Customary Court of Appeal Headquarters complex in Enugu; 14 new court buildings and open registries in the judicial divisions and magisterial districts across the state; first Christian Chapel of Worship at the Government House, Enugu.
While commenting on the quality of the 26.66km Ukpabi-Nimbo-Ugbene Ajima-Eziani road in Uzo-Uwani LGA, a resident of one of the benefiting communities, Mr Joseph Ajogwu, said that the road is of a high standard and commended Governor Ugwuanyi for engaging the services of qualified local/indigenous contractor to execute the project.
To also lend credence to his administration’s reason for effectively implementing the local content act under his leadership as governor of the state via the engagement of local/indigenous contractors, no contractor/company working for Enugu state government is being owed after full execution of his or her job, which is a common experience with contractors working in other states. Therefore, there is no moral justification to blame the governor for the shortcomings of a few of the contractors because he provides an adequate platform for them to give Ndi-Enugu quality services and also stimulate the growth of the state economy.
Going forward, to whom much is given, much is also expected. It is imperative, nevertheless, for the local/indigenous contractors in reciprocation of the encouraging gesture of Governor Ugwuanyi, to ensure that proper supervision is put in place in all their projects within the state by their site engineers and that of the state government. This will no doubt ensure more quality job and also avert structural defects experienced in a few cases in the past. The local/indigenous contractors should be committed to delivering good, standard and enduring projects that will stand the test of time and most importantly justify the confidence reposed on them by Governor Ugwuanyi so as to encourage him for implementing Local Content Act in all his programmes and policies of developments in the state.
Meanwhile, the Enugu State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Greg Nnaji, in a statement shortly after the snap of reinforced concrete formwork experienced at the site of the pedestrian bridge under construction in Gariki, Enugu South Local Government Area, reiterated the state government’s commitment towards the provision of sustainable infrastructure in the state in line with world best practices. He equally vouched for the ability and capability of the local/indigenous contractors engaged by the present administration to deliver high standard and quality projects.
While noting that the company executing the pedestrian bridge construction at Gariki in Enugu South Local Government Area of the state had taken full responsibility for the unfortunate incident, Nnaji assured Ndi-Enugu of the Ministry’s resolve to step up its monitoring exercise and supervision of projects under construction to avert a repeat of the past experience.
Emmanuel Ike-Jonathan, JP, writes from Alor-Agu in Igbo-Eze South LGA, Enugu State.