The Area 10 Abuja Playing Ground has never witnessed the presence of that number of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) at the same time. The venue has in the last few years regularly hosted a Trade Fair aimed at promoting locally made goods produced in Aba, a commercial city in Abia State. The fair started as the constituency project of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) who is now chairman, Senate Committee on Mining, Power & Metallurgy. It is usually an event without so much noise or heavy VIP attendance.
However, the 2016 edition had Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki leading several other Senators and some heads of government agencies to perform the opening ceremony. In a move deliberately aimed at calling attention to the event and celebrating the local manufacturers whose wares were on display that February morning, Saraki came with the paraphernalia of his office as the nation’s chief law maker. He took time to address the Aba manufacturers and to inspect some of their goods.
He promised the producers that the eighth Senate would give legislative backing to their desire to become the heart of the economy by creating local patronage for them. The Senate President noted that the Public Procurement Act would be amended to compel government ministries, department and agencies to patronise local manufacturers and service providers in their procurement.
The foundation for Saraki’s enthusiastic comradeship with the Aba manufacturers had been laid by Abaribe who decided to capitalise on the Senate President’s interest in making promotion of Made in Nigeria goods a key item in the agenda of the Senate. The Senator then led the manufacturers to pay a courtesy visit to the office of the Senate President. It was during the visit that the organisers extracted a promise that Saraki would headline the 2016 Made in Aba Trade Fair.
Since then, many Senators have also signed on to the promotion of the campaign for Made in Nigeria products. Today, the campaign is a major feature of the Legislative Agenda of the Eighth Senate. The first legislative action taken in support of the campaign was the passage of the Act to amend the National Public Procurement Act to provide for a local content policy and timely completion of procurement and other related matters Bill. This was done on June 16, 2016.
The relevant aspects of the new law, which was designed to help local manufacturers, are sections 5, 34 and 35. The objective of the law is contained in Section 5 (w) and it states that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) established under it “shall assist and support the local business community to become competitive and efficient supplier to the public sector.”
Also, the amended law specifically mandates the BPP to ensure that Nigerian entrepreneurs will compulsorily enjoy patronage from government organisations. And to give effect to the objective, the new law amended Section 34 sub-sections 1 and 2 of the existing law by replacing the word MAY with SHALL. The amended law makes it COMPULSORY for government ministries, departments and agencies to purchase locally made goods, patronise Nigerian manufacturers and entrepreneurs and engage Nigerian service providers.
Another benefit of the Amended Law is that it seeks to reduce the number of days for the Standard Procurement Processing Time for QCBS. From the period of preparation of terms of reference to signature of contract, the number of days was reduced from between 165 to 179 days to between 57 to 99 days. What this means is that the period of award of contract has been significantly reduced.
Again, the maximum mobilisation fee payable to contractors/suppliers as contained in Section 35 (1) of the old law has been increased from 15 percent to 25 percent. This will help local contractors in funding supply contracts.
The aim of the new law is to ensure that, for example, a substantial part of the N6 trillion budget estimates for 2016 is put in the pockets of Nigerians through procurement of their goods and services. Also, the new procurement law as amended by the Senate takes a cue from South Africa. Section 217 (3) of the South African constitution provides a framework for the policy of preferential procurement for government agencies. Also, the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act 5 of 2000 and the regulations published under it in 2001 prescribed requirements regarding Black economic empowerment considerations.
It is a good thing that the campaign in support of Made in Nigeria goods is catching on. The Federal Executive Council has bought into it. The private sector seems to be ready to support the shift to Made in Nigeria goods. And their desire is given expression with the National Economic Summit Group (NESG) making it the theme of its last conference in Abuja where the President, vice-president and the Senate President addressed different sessions.
The collaboration between these three power centers will help this idea to grow. It is obvious this Made in Nigeria idea is what is needed to help restructure the national economy in this period of recession. However, the success of the campaign depends on the people. The idea must be popular with the populace. Nigerians must be ready to patronise locally made goods and save the nation scarce foreign exchange. The Public Procurement law will not work unless Nigerian manufacturers and service providers rise up to the occasion and up their game. Quality goods, well packaged and circulated at reasonable prices are needed.
It is important for credit for this initiative to be given to Saraki and his colleagues. In fact, if we have the culture of naming laws after people, the new Public Procurement law should have been called the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Law. However, in the absence of this, the man deserves applause.
Olaniyonu is a Special Adviser to Senate President