…Alleges “foreigners have taken over”
By Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
President Buhari-led Federal Government has been severely criticized over the persistent award of contracts to foreign nationals to the detriment of Nigerian engineers, especially welders.
National President, Nigeria Welders Association, NWA, Comrade Pius Itama, who handed down the criticism at the National Executive Council’s emergency meeting held in Kaduna, queried the rationale behind the 60 percent indigenous right in any contract awarded in Nigeria as enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
Comrade Itama, in a statement, made available to newsmen on Wednesday, in Kaduna, accused the government of persistently giving almost all major contracts in Nigeria to foreigners, leaving Nigerian engineers handicapped in their own country.
While blaming the government for its irrational action, Itama stated that on several occasions, members have cried to the federal government but were given deaf ears, even after advising the government on this issue.
Itama cited an example of a recent contract in Lagos state by Dangote Groups of Companies, which was given to foreign experts, despite the fact that Nigerian welders could do the work very well.
According to him, “Nigerian engineers, most especially Nigeria Welders Association, can handle the job better and less expensive, apart from employment it will create for Nigerians than that of the foreigners.
“Nigerian welders have done a lot of work before now, and the federal
government knows about it. For example, we have handled projects like, Refinery work in Kaduna, Port-Harcourt and Warri pipeline constructions, jacketing, filling stations and building of Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company, among others.
“Sometimes, we, NWA, use to be given competent test, but even though we passed the test as coded welders or x-ray welders, the government still, and always, go ahead to deny our right as citizen engineers, well known and registered.
“Now, may I ask this question, that, where is the 60 percent indigenous right in any contract awarded in Nigeria as enshrined in Nigerian constitution?
“Notwithstanding, due to this attitude of the government, unemployment continues to be on the increase, especially among the professional welders in Nigeria,” he said.
According to him, “This will also weaken the indigenous welders, who have received a professional training and, again, the profession will not entice the incoming generation of welders in Nigeria, a situation that may throw youths into criminal activities.
“Foreign-nationals have, indeed, taken over our job in Nigeria despite federal government’s policy that any job that can be done by Nigerians, should not be given to foreign countries,” he declared.
He added that, there is a policy right from the time of the Military President, Ibrahim B. Babangida, which subsequent governments have been following, except now that the laid-down policy has been abandoned.
Comrade Itama pointed out that even the Foreign Affairs ministry is aware of this; adding that if the then military government could follow this policy, “what stops the civilian democratic government not to abide by it?
He alleged that sometimes foreign-nationals given the job do some of these works in secret, not allowing anyone to see what they are doing, even as Nigeria security agents also give them cover to that effect.
He also said that during the time of President Goodluck Jonathan, there was a policy that said, ‘Nigerians should be trained,’ which gave birth to those that were trained under amnesty program by Shelbron, Total and Shell.
Comrade Itama, nevertheless, decried the scenario whereby their jobs have been taken over by foreigners, saying, “Now, the people under amnesty have been trained but where are the work; where would they work, and what will they do after training?” he asked.