(By Adegboyega Adeleye)
“Nigeria is being auctioned to China, South Africa, India and the rest of the world. If Nigeria is being auctioned to foreigners by under developing Nigerian human capital then there is certainly no inheritance for the young and unborn Nigerians. They will become slaves or at best second fiddle in their own fatherland. The questions are: Do we love Nigeria? Will the labour of our heroes past not be in vain? Are we serving with heart and might?“
IN dwelling on the above subject, I had cause to read our National Anthem and Pledge from my working diary. Every sentence written there is challenging. The notable ones are (1a) To serve our father land with love, strength and faith (1b) The labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain (1c) To serve with heart and might (1d) One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity (2a) O God of creation, direct our nob le cause (2b) Guide our leaders right (2c) Help our youth the truth to grow and living just and true. In the same tune continued the Pledge.
I examined the grown and the growing population and I realised, though we are endowed with very large and broad based human resources, however, the country continues to remain a sleeping giant due to non-development of her human capital.
Let us consider the manner in which foreigners are entrusted with every major job, while the inferior ones are given to Nigerian professionals on the basis of lack of experience, lack of exposure, lack of funds, lack of trust, etc. By this act, foreigners grow from strength to strength at the expense of Nigerian professionals. They acquire choice properties in Nigeria (if not the whole of Nigeria), dictate who should govern Nigerians – if they don’t become the governors. I hope we can see into the future.
Consider the Chinese growth to reckoning in every facet of life (technology, sports, western and traditional medicine, etc.), they implement deliberate policies to develop and sustain their human capital. They do not only trust in themselves or their people, but they challenge them. They do not just challenge them, they support them through organised frameworks. They do not just support them, they empower them. They do not just empower them, they patronise them. They do not just patronise them, they showcase them. They do not just showcase them, they give them thrust to become a global player. They are not just given a thrust, they are entrenched in the global arena. Same applies to Taiwan and the likes. Quoting a Yoruba adage directly, “because one’s damsel does not have a big buttock, can we then decide to decorate another one’s daughter?”
Based on these excuses, Nigeria is being auctioned to China, South Africa, India and the rest of the world. If Nigeria is being auctioned to foreigners by under developing Nigerian human capital then there is certainly no inheritance for the young and unborn Nigerians. They will become slaves or at best second fiddle in their own fatherland. The questions are: Do we love Nigeria? Will the labour of our heroes past not be in vain? Are we serving with heart and might?
Giving guided opportunities to the indigenes puts them on the edge, which is a frontier where engineer’s skills are stretched. The Nigerian Content Act signed into law in the year 2010 partly addresses this in the oil and gas sector. This Act, among others, is meant to correct the low levels of indigenous participation especially in exploration and production, which resulted in unemployment for Nigerians; lack of technical capacity; excessive use of expatriate staff who are in top managerial positions; and stunted economic growth as well as capital flight. In tackling these challenges, the Federal Government of Nigeria came to the realisation that the domination by the International Oil Companies (IOCs) in the Oil and Gas industry, inordinate dependence on foreign fabricated goods, and preference for expatriate staff, among other factors, were major obstacles in the country’s path to economic emancipation and technological development. The Nigerian Content Act is a deliberate government policy that would enhance increased participation of local indigenous companies in all aspects of the Nigerian oil and gas industry via a comprehensive industrial and economic growth strategy for the country.
If this is true for the oil and gas sector, it is equally true for other sectors, namely: Construction, automobile, telecommunication and aviation, etc. Hence, the government should establish benchmark for each sector with a minimum of 30 to 70 Nigerians to foreign participation ratio. This should not stop here, each sector should be appraised periodically, then seek avenues to increase the Nigerian participation through entrusting whole contract and engagement of staff. By this I mean, while 30 per cent of a whole contract is awarded to Nigerians, even in the 70 per cent to foreigners, we should have 30 per cent employees mandatorily in every segment (skilled and unskilled labour, technocrat, bureaucrat, etc). After a period of four years the percentage per sector should move up. For example, in the oil sector, it should move to 40 then to 60 per cent ratio. It should not just be moving but proper appraisals of local companies should be done. Encourage and facilitate partnership where necessary. Abuses should be monitored and forestalled. For example, in the Oil and Gas – the abuse now is for a Nigerian company to be awarded a job only for him to subcontract to foreigners without participation.
In road contracting, the least grade of roads is awarded to Nigerians, while turnkey projects are meant for foreign companies. When awarding such contracts, specifications should not only be given but deliberate assistance and monitoring to do it right. In the recent past, I saw the same category of road constructed by a local and foreign company in Lagos State. In all honesty, the two jobs were poles apart. However, I reflected on the results, compared and contrasted, my conclusion was that, the feat achieved by the foreign company is within the reach of the local company by a little stretch.
In all these, I can perceive, it will be opined that the foreign counterpart has the financial means. How do we solve the problem of capital, I mean finance? The Chinese have a strategy that funded their real sectors. The Chinese government through their banks provided very low, long term interest to their indigenes.
We must know that profit is not only in terms of currency; otherwise our actions will be counterproductive in the long run. We should encourage, qualify, utilise, inspire and protect local professionals – EQUIP for short. Through guided exposure and extension of frontiers, our professionals will be able to perform at home and become a player in the international scene.
The Indians and Chinese adopted a very similar aggressive model in development by investing heavily in research and development, copy technology, rewarding indigenous contributions and protecting their products. Now they are both on the global stage competing (fiercely). The reverse is the case in Nigeria. No research into indigenous or foreign technology, no platform for copy technology; no indigenous technical shows and worse still, no motivation for inventors, developers or product adaptors. Neither have we challenged our ivory towers with everyday real life situation. In my opinion, research is also a form of employment, hence allocation should be directed in this area and concerted effort made to put the results, findings and development into use.
•Adeleye is a member of the Nigerian Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Lagos Chapter.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”