The Nigerian government has been forced to defend its move to hire Malaysian consultants to prop up its economy following mounting objections from political circles and industries in the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration had on Nov 15 approved the appointment of the unidentified Malaysian “economic experts” at a cost of 458 million naira (RM5.27 million), to help conduct a study to aid the implementation of its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

The issue was raised again during a two-day workshop for financial journalists organised by the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation in the northern city of Kano last weekend, compelling a senior official to explain the benefits of the arrangement.

Effiong Essien, a special assistant to Buhari on the ERGP’s implementation, was quoted by Lagos-based paper This Day yesterday as saying that the decision was aimed at encouraging transfer of knowledge.

He said once the foreign experts completed their work, they would leave the economy for Nigerians themselves to wield local content to build on what had been established.

He was quoted as saying that the authorities would then “escalate the experience” to the state and local government levels.

“The focus is on how we can create the enabling environment for the private sector operators to key into what the public sector has been doing badly,” Essien said.

“This is where the Malaysians experts come in to transfer knowledge and the first modelling of the focused gaps.”

On Nov 19, the Industrial Global Union Africa unleashed a scathing criticism of the move, calling it unpatriotic.

Its vice-president Issa Aremu was quoted by The Punch newspaper as saying that there were Nigerians and other Africans who could do the job.

He said the government should hire Nigerian consultants instead of enriching foreigners.

“Are we saying we cannot get Africans to provide these services?” he was quoted as telling a press conference.

“How can we pay huge amounts of the budget to Malaysians in implementing a document that talks of patronising ‘made in Nigeria’ products?”

Aremu also said paying the huge amount to foreigners for a job Nigerians could do did not show that the government was serious about promoting Nigerian goods and services.

The next day, Ayodele Fayose, who chairs the governors’ forum of the People’s Democratic Party, a federal opposition outfit, also hit out at the appointment, saying it indicated that the government was clueless about resolving the nation’s economic crisis.

He said it was shameful that a country which produced the likes of African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina, World Bank treasurer and vice-president Aruma Otteh, as well as other corporate and financial figures at the world stage, was paying people from Malaysia to revive its economy.

Fayose said it was “tantamount to telling Nigerians that they all lack the capacity to govern their own country”.

“How can you hire foreign consultants that would work for 13 weeks to conduct a study on how to revive the economy of a country like Nigeria and pay the consultant 458 million Naira?” said Fayose, who is also the governor of the country’s Ekiti state.

“By hiring economic experts from Malaysia, president Buhari and his men have confirmed that they have no capacity to govern this country,” he added.

The government has reportedly claimed that the consultants carried out a similar capacity-building exercise in Malaysia.

Neither the consulting firm nor the consultants have been named so far.-FMT

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