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Professionals fault construction sector Local Content Bill

Professionals fault construction sector Local Content Bill

Professionals in engineering, building and construction sector have faulted the proposed Local Content Bill as it affects the construction industry, saying it is elitist and could be counter-productive.

They explain that the Bill, which is based on an enterprise approach, could create a Nigerian ‘elite,’ increasing economic inequality without providing the envisioned jobs and opportunities for the poor.

The professionals spoke at a technical session on the Local Content Bill for the construction industry hosted by the Nigerian Engineering Leadership Forum (NELF) in Abuja recently.

NELF, established in November 2012, is a high-level forum for the leadership of the major engineering industry bodies including the Association of Consulting Engineers Nigeria (ACEN) and Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).

It co-ordinates efforts aimed at developing the industry and works in partnership towards enhancing the status of the engineering profession on more structured collaboration on matters of strategic concern that affect the engineering industry.

The professionals also noted, at the session presided over by Nurudeen Rafindadi, ACEN president, that the bill, as it stands, does not have clear objectives or express requirements that comprehensively prescribe the increased participation of the Nigerian people in the construction industry.

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“The Bill lacks clear and practical definitions such as what constitutes a ‘Nigerian firm’ and ‘first consideration’ to be given to Nigerian firms in the award of general contracts that are needed to help achieve the objectives,” they said.

The professionals added that the Bill was based on the Oil and Gas Industry Nigerian Content Act and, as a consequence, did not reflect the characteristics of the construction industry.

They described as impracticable the requirement for the proposed Nigerian Content Construction Industry Monitoring Board (NCCIMB) to approve a local content plan for every single construction project, particularly as it covers both the public and private sectors.

Having identified the Bill’s loopholes, the professionals, among other things, recommended that work should be done towards amending it to include clear objectives that expressly advance both the enterprise and value-added approach, including labour and materials’ suppliers.

They added that definitions should be improved, like ‘first consideration’ in tender selection and measures of ‘Nigerian firm’ to reflect the various categories and levels of ownership to safeguard wrong meanings.

“The amendment of the Bill should also consider the adoption of simpler, more practical definition and measure of ‘Nigerian Content’ to improve likely application along with a mechanism for assessing the status and ‘strength’ of ‘Nigerian’ content,” they said.

They also recommended the insertion of clearer obligations and conditions for training and skill development to ensure the capacity of the Nigerian workforce, adding: “Ownership of this responsibility needs to be established and effective strategies put in place to grow capacity and compliance.”