The announcement that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has awarded the printing of 75 million Presidential ballot papers to a Spanish company is, to say the least, disheartening. This is in spite of representations and pleas by prominent Nigerians that the contract be given to the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Company (NSPMC). Investigations reveal that the contract was awarded for N6 billion.
The contract, which was awarded late last year, has already reached an advanced stage, while the ballot papers will soon be delivered to the agency. Sources say that the agency opted for overseas contractors to save time and avoid any disappointment by Nigerian printers, which are said to have performed poorly in the past. Much as the commission may have its misgivings on the ability of local contractors to fulfill contract terms, we make haste to condemn the reasoning behind farming the job to outsiders.
We maintain that the action is against the interest and national pride of the country. It smacks of inferiority complex for an agency of government to prefer foreign institutions to indigenous ones in the award of contracts that can be handled internally. There is no gainsaying that such contract is capable of compromising national security.
Moreover, it has robbed the country of the much needed jobs that would have been created for Nigerians. It is mischievous for policy makers and government agencies to complain of inability to generate enough jobs for the teeming unemployed, and yet continue to create jobs abroad. Definitely, there is no rationale for taking such a huge and security-related job outside Nigeria, when there are many local printing companies that can conveniently handle it.
If not for sinister motives, examples abound of the commission awarding printing jobs to Nigerians that were satisfactorily executed. We recall that the ballot papers used in the Anambra, Ekiti and Osun elections were printed by local contractors. Fortunately, they all passed INEC’s quality tests and security checks. No self respecting nation would consciously hand over matters bordering on its security to outsiders as Nigeria does. It is not enough aspiring to be the giant of Africa, while lacking the capability of being the top dog. It beggars belief that the NSPMC prints most of the nation’s currencies, cheque books and other highly security documents, yet INEC sees it as incapable of handling the printing of election materials.
*This was published in the Daily Times dated Tuesday, December 30, 2014