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POST-COVID-19 ERA ….. BUILDING A GREATER NIGERIA SERIES — CULTIVATING NIGERIANS THROUGH THE POLICY OF RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL

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This piece is being published for the purpose of public enlightenment, as investment enthusiasts and promoters who wish Nigeria well. It is possible that many Nigerians (local and abroad) might not know or have heard about EXECUTIVE ORDER 5 approved for implementation by President Muhammadu Buhari that provides a wide range of opportunities for Nigerian professionals and the economy. The Presidential Executive Order for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology (“Order 5”) was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2018. Order 5 is a general provision for “Local content” in Federal Government contracts. This is evidently one of the best decisions taken by the Buhari administration. How well the message has gone deep to attract huge attention is another matter.

NIGERIANS FIRST
The major thrust of the EO5 is the recognition of the vital role of science, technology and innovation in national economic development, particularly in the area of promoting Made in Nigeria Goods and Services (“MNGS”). Strategically, the main objectives of the EO5 are the harnessing of domestic talents and the development of indigenous capacity in science and engineering for the promotion of technological innovation needed to drive national competitiveness, productivity and economic activities which will invariably enhance the achievement of the nation’s development goals across all sectors of the economy. These goals have been previously encapsulated in a number of policy documents, such as the Vision 20:2020; National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (NSTIP) first approved by the Federal Executive Council (“FEC”) in 2012; Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, (ERGP 2017 – 2020); Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy (STISA) 2024 and 2063; and Nigeria’s targets under the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, (SDG 2030).

The EO5 makes certain specific directives which include the following:
All procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the
•award of contracts, in line with the Public Procurement Act, 2007;
•Where expertise is lacking, procuring entities shall give preference to foreign companies
•and firms with demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous capacity development,
•prior to the award of such contracts;
•MDAs shall engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of
•national security projects and consideration shall only be given to a foreign professional,
•where it is certified by the appropriate authority that such expertise is not available in Nigeria;
•Nigerian companies or firms duly registered in accordance with the laws of Nigeria, with current practising licence shall be lead in any consultancy services involving Joint
•Venture (JV) relationships and agreements, relating to Law, Engineering, ICT, Architecture, Procurement, Quantity Surveying, and etc.;

ENCOURAGING THE NIGERIAN DIASPORA
The Nigerian Diaspora would attract more than an ephemeral attention on this subject, for obvious reasons. The thought of the circumstances leading to the exodus of our sisters and brothers abroad could be very painful. Yes, they have the right to be angry; just like all other well-meaning Nigerians. However, we must realize that annoyance and apathy would never provide the solutions that would build a greater Nigeria for generations yet unborn. The ‘’exodus’’ of highly skilled Nigerian professionals commenced in the mid-1980s, when they started receiving mouth-watering offers of appointment from foreign nations in need of expertise/expatriates.

Millions of Nigerians emigrated from this blessed country to other parts of the world. It is estimated that about 15 million Nigerians currently live outside the country. Information available on NigerianDiaspora.com show that ‘’The Nigerian Diaspora covers practically every part of the world but the largest populations of Nigerians can be found in the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa. In Europe, London’s Peckham is called “Little Lagos” because of the population of Nigerians residing there; and in the United States, Houston, Texas has the largest population of Nigerians in the country.

One common inclination is that many Nigerian citizens abroad are angry at their country for allegedly ‘’forcing them into exile’’ as a result of the downturn of the economy. Nobody can blame them for maintaining this posture. However, it would seem appropriate for all Nigerians to realize that anger, annoyance and speaking ill-advisedly about the country or its leaders, will not solve our common problems. It would take such factors as patriotism, dedication and commitment to the agenda of nation building to get things right. It is important for all to overlook the pains of the past and look to the future with great optimism. If it is your opinion that your representative at any tier of government is lacking in ability, why not arrange to vote that person out in subsequent elections.

The secrets of the successes recorded by other nations are not unknown to us. We require creative thinking and great workable ideas; and not blaming or destroying ourselves on the public space; and also, not by arms and ammunition. I am always intensely proud of Nigerians abroad. But we don’t seem to value what we have. I was in Liberia for a few days in 2005 and discovered that Nigerian Armed Forces were hugely appreciated in that country. Liberians felt more comfortable in the midst of Nigerian soldiers. We have ‘A-Rated’ professionals in many field. The Nigerian Diaspora is making its mark all over the world as some of the best professionals in various fields. Nigerians are all over the world with intimidating credentials dominating their environment. Even students of Nigerian origin are demonstrating the prowess of Nigerians by taking the lead in Ivy League educational institutions.

From abroad, Nigerians could contribute to the process of change through indirect involvement in governance. With experiences of Western societies and the education acquired in the advanced world, our brothers and sisters could impact development and influence conduct of government business by public enlightenment. As influential people in their communities in Nigeria, Nigerians in the Diaspora could influence a lot of things including thee choices of elected representatives in governments. Voices of prominent people could guide the people as breadwinners and competent opinion leaders. Apathy would never yield any dividend but would only allow the people you might not want to manage affairs at different levels. Mobilizing people for development is one issue that could help democracy and the rule of law. If possible, participate directly by offering yourselves for selfless service in Nigeria.

ENCOURAGING THE POLICY OF RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL FOR NIGERIANS
One of the effects of the emigration of Nigerians is brain drain. But this itself has been a gain for Nigeria as remittances of foreign currencies continue to rise, affecting the social, political and economic lives of relations left at home in Nigeria. Our brothers and sisters abroad could be very useful in terms of contributing to national growth. I have always been an advocate of giving Nigerians the right of first refusal in employment, jobs and contract awards. That means Nigerians should be considered for any beneficial project, jobs or contracts first, before foreigners.

It is only when Nigerians are considered incapable of delivering on assignments that foreigners may be considered for the diverse opportunities available. And I feel sure that our brothers and sisters abroad will deliver.
Apart from ensuring that profits are reinvested in the economy, instead of being repatriated abroad one hundred percent by foreign companies, profits on businesses would stay in the Nigerian economy. Foreign companies have the right to be here. But we could reach out to Nigerians in the Diaspora to find out those who are truly interested in participating in the development of the national economy. Sometimes, quiet unconventional steps may produce conventional results. For instance, cultivating people like the Ogunlesis might produce another batch of Dangotes, Elumelus, Jim Ovias, Alakijas, Otedolas and young entrepreneurs that took the economy by storm within two decades.

The issues confronting Nigeria could best be addressed through our joint commitment and participation in the governance of the country. It is time for total commitment and dedication to the cause of putting Nigeria on higher grounds. It is time to seek peace, stability, unity, progress and the attainment of our common objectives. This is one of the purposes of creating this unique outfit – to make Nigerians abroad contribute constructively and patriotically to national development. Remember, East or West, there is nowhere like home. Our goal is to highlight the potential of the Nigerian Diaspora as a source of economic and social development for Nigeria; encourage governments, businesses and organizations to facilitate the involvement of the Nigerian Diaspora, in development. Contributions of the Diaspora to development is huge; so Nigerians abroad constitute key stakeholders in the Nigeria project with remittances averaging about $23 billion per annum for the past seven years.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s recipe touches on the contributions of American Jews to the development of Israel; calling on Africans in all parts of the world to do the same for Africa. All that is necessary for such progress and development of Africa is the will on the part of diasporic Africans. Seven Nigerians are reported to have been elected into the United Kingdom’s (UK) parliament. In a society as discerning and sophisticated as the UK, their election is, by any standard, a high profile political opportunity that is available only to quite a few. And for them to have made it to that level is also a recognition of their personal worth and, even more than that, their spectacular contributions to the well-being of the community they chose to call home.

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