By SAMSON AKINTARO
The Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu has urged the National Assembly to come up with a law for the development of local content in the Nigerian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. This, Shittu said, became imperative to save the nation’s economy from capital flights and to empower local businesses in the ICT sector.
The Minister who spoke at the Nigerian Computer Society’s technology awards event in Lagos said the need for local content law was part of the resolutions of a recently concluded Meeting of the National Council on Communication
Technology (NCCT).“The issue of local content needs to be elevated to such a serious level to save our economy. What more can be economic sabotage, if actions that cause massive loss of jobs and massive loss of foreign exchange are not redressed? It is time for the National Assembly to enact a holistic law on local content.
Such a law should, among other things, criminalize breaches of the local content policy of the nation” the Minister said.
While noting that Nigeria is blessed with the human capacity to accommodate a robust ICT based economy Shittu added that stemming the potential capital flight, by empowering local businesses, is of utmost importance.
According to him, the Communications Ministry through NITDA, is ready to provide guaranteed order for the local products and the private sector must ensure quality of service and products. “We are totally committed to the implementation of the Local Content Program and the Executive Order on Local Content” he said.
Shittu however pointed out that local content does not mean excluding foreign participation in the nation’s economy. “Rather, it means concerted and collaborative efforts by all players to build a strong indigenous economy. It means baking a bigger pie where every party would have a considerable chunk. It means adopting a win-win formula or what the LCDs call the Local Content Diplomacy”.
“Let me add that this optimistic view of the transformational benefits of this new local content Executive Order is predicated on the gains observed to date from the Government’s 2010 Local Content Law for the Oil and Gas sector, which has migrated local content in this previously closed up sector, from little or nothing to about 30% today. Backed by this reinvigorated Government commitment to local content, this percentage is bound to see a jump in the coming years in the ICT sector” the Minister said.
Long before now, stakeholders in the Nigeria ICT sector have been clamouring for local content law just as it is in the oil and gas industry. This, they believe, would move the country from being just an ICT consuming nation to a producing nation.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, the best way to move Nigeria out of recession is for government to develop her local content law by encouraging locally developed products and their patronage. “If this is achieved, it would not only create jobs, but also boost GDP growth as well as the Nigerian economy” he said.
“What Nigeria needs at the moment is a general consumer content law that will drive local content development in the ICT sector,” Ekuwem said, while frowning on a situation where the telecoms operators depended largely on importation of telecoms infrastructure, to the detriment of local manufacturers. He expressed his displeasure over importation of items like switches and routers by telecoms operators, insisting that such items could be manufactured in the country, if the right policies are put in place, and backed with proper implementation strategies. Ekuwem is of the view that if local content development is encouraged in the ICT sector, it will boost development and create additional jobs for the unemployed youths of the county.
In the same vein, the President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Mr. James Emadoye, believes that Nigeria needs a law and right policies to drive local content development in the ICT sector.
Emadoye, who blamed the federal government for policy inconsistencies and poor implementation, gave an instance where the federal government, through the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief UfotEkaette, wrote a letter with Ref No SGF/OP/1/S.3/VII/795, to head of civil service commission, ministries department and agencies (MDAs) of government, on the need to patronise made in Nigeria products, including procurement of locally assembled computers and locally developed software. He said the letter directed all federal MDAs to comply with the directive, but expressed deep dissatisfaction that such directive was never implemented.
The situation, he said, has grounded several local manufacturers of ICT products and equipment in the country, while importation of ICT equipment still thrives. He therefore called on government to expedite action in putting in place policies and the right implementation that would support local content development in a sector where there are willing and talented people that could develop ICT equipment with global standard and best practice.