ICT Sector Agog over Osinbajo’s Executive Order
The executive order that was recently signed by the acting President Yemi Osinbajo which seeks to support local content development in the Information and Communications Technology sector, has continued to elicit stakeholders’ reactions, writes Emma Okonji
Although the federal government had in 2006, through the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, given a directive to all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, (MDAs) to support locally developed software and hardware, the directive was not implemented. The order was meant to support local content development in the country. Also, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, had promised to give Software Nigeria, a wing of the old Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos for software development. Again that promised ended only in paper work as the government neither renovated the place nor deployed the right facilities.
As a result of the failed promises of government, the ICT sector, has continued to suffer great setbacks, until penultimate week when Osinbajo eventually signed a new executive order to boost local content development and patronage.
Industry stakeholders have continued to hail the federal government on the recent plans to support local content development in the ICT sector.
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Failed executive orders
Following several complaints from ICT industry stakeholders, calling for government’s support in the area of policy formulation and implementation that will encourage patronage of locally developed software and hardware in the country, and at the same time boost local content development in the ICT sector, the federal government, through Ekaette had ordered all government MDAs to first consider patronage of local software and hardware, whenever the need to purchase software and hardware arose.
Giving details about the first executive order, the President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria (ISPON), Olorogun James Emadoye, who raised a national concern when he led a team of ISPON executive on a courtesy visit to the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu in Abuja last year, said on October 20th, 2006, Ekaette, wrote a letter with Ref No SGF/OP/1/S.3/VII/795, to head of civil service commission, and 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. However, Emadoye disclosed that the directive was not implemented.
The ISPON boss also cited how the federal government had promised Software Nigeria a wing of the old federal secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos, by Obasanjo but never bothered to renovate the place and deploy the right facilities because of the weak implementation drive of government.
According to him, the wing of the federal secretariat would have been a mini version of silicon valley for Software Nigeria, where great software ideas would have been incubated and developed for national growth, if the federal government had deemed it fit to renovate and deplore the right facilities after donating the place for software development.
Emadoye, during the visit, drew the attention of the minister to seek immediate implementation of the guidelines and policy for national software infrastructure, declaring software as a critical infrastructure for nation building and development.
He equally called on government to revisit the 2006 circular on patronage of locally developed computer products and software products.
Latest executive order
Respite, however, came the way of ICT practitioners penultimate week, when Osinbajo signed a new executive order for the support of local content in public procurement, which seeks to boost local content development in the ICT sector.
The order dwells mostly on the preference for indigenous goods and services as well as the removal of bureaucracies which always stall businesses.
The executive order, as detailed in a document presented by Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, states that all MDAs of the federal government shall grant preference to local manufacturers of goods and service providers in their procurement processes for a number of items including food and beverages, motor vehicles, ICT products, pharmaceuticals, construction materials, furniture and fittings, among others.
Stakeholders commend FG
The executive order signed by Osinbajo has continued to elicit responses from ICT stakeholders, who believed that the move, if well implemented, would boost patronage and local content development in the ICT sector.
President of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Adesola Aderounmu, in a statement, aligned with the executive order.
According to Aderounmu, “to say the order is a welcome development is an understatement. Over the years, NCS has strongly advocated for the development of local content in ICT to drive growth, unlock youth potential and create jobs in Nigeria. The Executive Order was received by NCS with great expectations and elation. We are indeed pleased that all MDAs of the federal government are now mandated to grant preference to local manufacturers of goods and service providers in their procurement processes for a number of priority items including Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products.”
“This development should stop the wasteful and unsustainable importation and adoption of foreign expertise and solutions. Nigerian companies in the ICT sector have proven to be capable of delivering solutions needed in our public and private sectors. Deploying domestic products and services expands the local industry, fosters local job creation and boosts the local economy,” Aderounmu said.
According to him, “using innovation to bring efficiencies and create jobs in virtually all sectors, not just in ICT is critical to the success of the federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP).
The EGRP and sustainable development depend on having a vibrant and growing domestic ICT sector. Effective implementation of the Executive Order should therefore be a priority, he said in a statement.”
“NCS commends this bold and inspiring decision to support local initiatives and views the executive order as a welcome enabler. For the tech sector, the consistency is appreciated as the order builds on the existing guidelines on Nigerian Content in ICT, he said, adding that NCS is particularly pleased to note that heads of MDAs are required to assess the monitoring, enforcement, implementation and compliance with the executive order. We look forward to collaborating closely with government to ensure the successful implementation of the executive order. In addition, we assure government of the readiness of our group to collaborate on other important policy initiatives and issues in the ICT domain,”Aderounmu said.
The Chairman of Zinox Group, Leo Stan Ekeh, also commended the federal government on the recent signing of an executive order compelling all MDAs of the federal government to buy Made-in-Nigeria goods and services. He said the order would go a long way in boosting indigenous businesses and the local content drive in Nigeria.
Ekeh said it was a step in the right direction and a potential game-changer for many quality-minded local businesses in Nigeria.
“The announcement alone would have excited an army of 21st century young Nigerian entrepreneurs who have been facing depression based on rejection of their certified products by government agencies and parastatals. It is a great development in our new Nigeria and I pray the federal government demonstrates the will to implement this to the letter in order to activate real and progressive development in the country. As you know, this policy direction will potentially result in massive job creation for our youths,” Ekeh said.
“Granting preference to local manufacturers is a sure way of igniting the spirit of indigenous entrepreneurship. This is the standard the world over. Nigeria boasts a number of world-class companies whose products can compete favourably with those of their foreign counterparts. The problem has always been the right form of support from the government,” he added.
According to him, “Zinox, for instance, is patronised by a number of multinationals. Apart from Chevron Nigeria that remains one of our most regular customers, we have also enjoyed consistent patronage from other multinationals such as Total and Shell. Some of these companies – Chevron, Shell, Total have been patronising Zinox for over 14 years and this is based purely on service quality as we all know the high standards these companies aspire to.”
“I must commend the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo for this bold move which will certainly go a long way in strengthening our local industries, provide more employment for our youths and boost our local currency,” Ekeh said.