President Goodluck Jonathan
By Patrick Ugeh
President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday warned government contractors to improve on the quality of their work or risk being blacklisted.
The president, represented by Minister of Works, Mr. Mike Onelomemen, at the 21st Assembly of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria(COREN), in Abuja, expressed worry over the quality of work being done by contractors and the high cost of projects in the country, which he said is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Jonathan lamented the high incidence of failed projects, especially poorly constructed roads and urged the contractors to sit up.
He assured the council that the Federal Government would work with COREN to bring down the cost of construction while maintaining high standards, adding: “We will continue to encourage agencies of accountability to insist that the right thing be done in the nation’s interest.”
He said: “No nation can develop its infrastructure by relying wholly on the technical capacity of other nations.
“Related to the challenges posed by unqualified individuals posing as professionals is the high cost of implementing projects in Nigeria. The cost of construction in Nigeria is believed to be the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
“This is a serious challenge to us all. I am therefore pleased that this critical factor, which has continued to draw us backward, is on your agenda to be addressed at this conference.
“But beyond the issue of cost is the disturbing trend of failed projects. It has been sadly observed that no sooner had a road project been completed than it begins to fail. This trend must be immediately checked and I charge COREN to strengthen its machinery to monitor ongoing road projects nationwide. The government will not hesitate to blacklist contractors who carry out shoddy jobs.”
According to the president, Nigerians must get value for money in engineering projects.
He, therefore, advised COREN to urgently prioritise the issue of building indigenous capacity in engineering to meet the challenges of developing Nigeria.
He said such human capital development should begin from educational institutions and urged the organisation to “step up its standard for quality assurance as it accredits engineering courses in higher institutions of learning.”
According to him, only truly tested and qualified engineering personnel must be registered to practise in accordance with the law.
He said there must be a way of building capacity that allows for continuous assessment and continuing professional development, adding that the government would continue to improve its funding of tertiary institutions to upgrade their facilities.
Jonathan disclosed that the Federal Government recently employed 500 fresh engineering graduates, and promised that this would continue.
“To achieve the same objective of capacity building,” he said, “the government has approved the reform in the road sector. The recently established Nigerian Content Development Act is also for building indigenous capacity with the Nigerian engineering personnel expected to be the most beneficiaries.”
He said he had directed the full implementation of the government White Paper on the Presidential Committee on Strategic Plans for Engineering and Control released in 2005.
“Government is currently paying massive attention to infrastructural development in the power sector with the establishment of NIPP projects nationwide. This has not only improved power supply in the country tremendously, it has led to the employment of many of our young graduates,” he stated.
Jonathan, however, regretted that lack of maintenance culture endangered the sustainability of the developments recorded and urged those in the engineering profession to imbibe the culture.
Benue State Governor, Dr Gabriel Suswam, who chaired the occasion, decried the fact that majority of failed projects were traceable to Nigerian firms.
Notwithstanding the poor performance of local contractors, he added that a situation where most engineering projects were given to foreigners was not conducive to local capacity building.
“I therefore urge all my colleagues, state governors as well as the Federal Government, to institute a deliberate policy of reserving jobs of certain values (N500 million) for indigenous firms,” he said.
“Today, thousands of young engineering graduates roam the streets in search of jobs while multinational companies handle projects in values of hundreds of billions of naira. This cannot promote growth,” he added.
President of COREN, Ibikunle Ogunbayo, said as at August, there were 23,434 registered engineers, 1,756 engineering technologists, 406 engineering technicians, 1664 engineering craftsmen, 936 expatriate engineering personnel and 1159 consulting engineering firms in Nigeria.