NIGERIAN engineers have called on the policy makers to urgently address the imbalance in project award between local and foreign practitioners, saying the trend, if not checked would further widening the gap of under-development of professionalism, particularly within the construction industry in the country.
This was the view expressed by the engineers at the conference/annual general meeting of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NIS), Lagos Branch, held in Lagos last week.
The conference, held at the Unilag Guest House, University of Lagos, Akoka, had as its theme: “The Nigerian Engineers and the Public Private Partnership (PPP): Transformation of the Economy”, formed a platform by which various speakers discussed issues bordering on the condition of infrastructure development in Nigeria.
Prominent among the point of discussions was the attitude of Nigerian government at all levels to local engineers and other professional bodies when it comes to the issue of contract awards.
The general consensus amongst the speakers was that government officials, for the reasons best known to them, always preferred to give contracts to foreigners at the expense of their indigenous counterparts, irrespective of the latter’s qualifications.
Speaking on the seeming passivity by the engineers on contract awards, the Dean of Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Lagos, Professor Omotayo A. Fakinlede, observed that Nigerian engineers had failed abinitio, anytime contracts are awarded by not asking basic questions that are capable of putting governments on their toes.
He cited the example of the last week’s cancellation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway by the federal government and re-awarding it to foreign contractors without telling the public the terms of such agreement.
According to Fakinlede, the same mistake made by the federal government when it awarded the contract to Messrs Bi-Courtney without the due process and the inability of engineers to query the legality of the contract award is what is playing out now.
“The question is whether the issue of due diligence is put into consideration, just as it happened when the contract was originally awarded four years ago or not. The impression government is creating in that charity begins abroad and not at home. And this is why all manners of foreign technicians who are parading themselves as engineers from China, Europe and Asia are coming to Nigeria and doing the works that Nigerians can do better”.
He said that transformation of the economy would remain a mirage, unless Nigeria is ready to develop her own people.
Main speaker and Vice-President of the association, Otis Anyaesi, who canvassed for Nigerian engineers to take their crucial role in the development of the nation’s economy, urged the governments at all levels to provide a level playing ground for all the competitors.
Besides, he stressed the importance and advantages of public private partnership initiative, describing it as a way of getting things done effectively.
According to him, PPP will bring to a project efficiencies that the public sector traditionally cannot match; specialized technical expertise developed in the private sector; facilitate projects by the provision of assets, such as land and licenses, and the provision of subsidies, guarantees and/or revenues;
Others are that PPP is often preferred to a full privatisation of infrastructure facilities as it allows the government to exercise considerable control over the project.
Besides, he noted that usually, the private sector entity referred to as ‘concessionaire’ is granted a concession by a national government or government entity to design and build infrastructure facilities in its country.
He noted: “Concessionaire is responsible for raising the finance required to carry out the project. It is usually a special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed by the private sector promoters of the project”.
On the issue of allowing foreign firms to be taking juicy jobs, he said it would be counter-productive for the nation if undue preference is giving to foreign practitioners at the expense of their Nigeria counterparts.
In his address, the NIS Chairman, Lagos Branch, Mr. Olatunde Jaiyesinmi, while agreeing that engineering is the hub of national development, noted that there was no aspect of development where engineering is not deeply involved’.
According to him, the theme of the conference was not only timely, but also of paramount importance if the quest for economic transformation would be achieved.
“I am of the opinion that when one talks of effective transportation, communication, power generation, transmission and distribution, including housing delivery, water supply and others, engineer must not only be involved, but must be there”.
He also was of the view that with all these vast areas, Nigerian engineers must be allowed to play their roles, believing that undue preference for foreign practitioners would not augur well for Nigeria’s quest for development.
At the end of the programme, eight members of the association received different awards. The awards that were in two categories included: Branch Awards, which went to the Vice President, NIS, Mr. Otis Anyaeji, Special Adviser to Governor Raji Fashola on Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Ganiyu Johnson, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Professor Adisa Bello and Olufemi Ogundipe. The second category’s award, the Chairman Awards, went to Messrs O.O. Osakwe, E.O. Akinwole, Adeolu Akinyemi and Emmanuel Adenugba.
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