About 20 Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, professional organizations, government establishments and the private sector at a Senate Public Hearing, yesterday, spoke in favour of the Bill for the establishment of the Nigerian Content in Programes, Contract, Engineering, Science, Technology and Innovation(NOPCESITI).
The Public Hearing which featured two Bills for reenactment and establishment, presented by the Senate Committee on Science and Technology are; the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission Act Cap N.91 LFN 2004 Repeal and Reenactment, and the Nigerian Content in Programes, Contract, Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation, NOPCESITI Establishment No. SB. 2085 of 2023.
The Bills sponsored by Senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife from Abia state and Senator Musa Mohammed Sani of Niger state received adequate support for it’s passage despite some reservations.
The second Bill which received the least objections came on the heel of the presentation made by the sponsor and presented by the Chairman of the Committee, Distinguished Senator Uche Lilian Ekwunife.
In a presentation by Engr. Emeka Ezeh, former Director General of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, and the current Director General of the Bureau who were both represented, they expressed some reservations concerning passage of the Bill claiming there are several sections of the Bill that are in conflict with the extant law establishing the Bureau, especially in the areas of administrative review and functions.
On his part, Mohammed Bougei Attah, the National Coordinator of Procurement Observation and Advocacy Initiative, a select group of non-state actors trained under the Federal Government of Nigeria and World Bank Assisted Economic Reforms and Governance Project, ERGP 2021, in his submission supported the passage of the Bill in totality.
Mr. Attah who represented ten (10) other civil society organizations, CSOs from across the country, noted the importance of the Bill especially, at this critical time in Nigeria when the country is suffering globally from negative image problem due to the corruptions associated with public procurement.
He claimed that procurement alone accounts for over 70% of total corruption cases in the public sector.
“As such, this Bill which is primarily targeted at local content implementation monitoring will help greatly in reducing the incidence of corruptions across all sectors of the Nigeria economy, since the Bill seek to address professionalism, private sector concerns and public sector monitoring”.
During the course of the hearing, NASENI, one of the agencies under the Science and Technology Ministry, sought amendments to some sections, particularly the establishment of incubator Centres in all the six geopolitical areas of Nigeria.
Their argument was based on the fact the incubator Centres are already in existence and functional. The recommendation therefore is to enhance their operations through administrative processes.
Other stakeholders that made presentations supporting the bill while also requesting amendments to some sections of the Bill include; the NSE, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN and the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Chain Management of Nigeria, CIPSMN.
A presentation from a CSO, NGO Network by its Secretary General, Chief Casmir Obialom, also supported the passage of the Bill with a recommendation that non-state actors be considered in the membership of the Council of the NOPCESITI
In his observations, the President of COREN, represented at the Hearing, specifically drew the attention of the Committee on the need to amend Section 2 of the Bill, that deals with the Council membership to include COREN.
Similarly, both the Presidents of NSE and CIPSMN in their separate presentations asked that the Bill be passed with considerations to some of the sections that previous speakers have raised concerns.
Senator Uche Ekwenife while closing the sessions thanked all the participant, particularly the sponsors and presenters of Memorandum to the Public Hearing. She observed that the huge number of participants at the Hearing is indicative of the interest and commitment to see the Bills meet the standard and quality desired of public issues. She remarked further that the two Bills are not new.
While the Nigeria Atomic Energy Bill was enacted over 30 years ago, the NOPCESITI Bill is an extension of the Presidential Executive Order 5 that has been in existence since 2021 and in operations. So their duty as a Committee is largely to seek for public opinions on how to remove grey areas for better implementations.