Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
With only 28,980km out of the 193,200km total length of roads paved, the federal government has directed the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), an agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology, to commence research immediately on the use of cement for the construction of Nigerian roads.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, who spoke at NBRRI 2016 annual conference in Abuja, said NBRRI will play an important role in ensuring the deployment of appropriate research efforts to strengthen the building and maintenance of roads and the relevant infrastructure that will meet the country’s peculiar demands and needs.
On the role of science, technology and innovation in the construction industry, he said: “NBRRI will effectively utilize its mandate of locally available raw materials resulting in diversifying Nigeria’s economy which will further assist in job creation, indigenous capacity building and poverty reduction.”
The minister said he was happy that the NBRRI is working to create the suitable curriculum to help the country produce the necessary technical skills needed to finish buildings to the highest level of excellence.
He added that NBRRI in the past made useful investigations on the causes of building collapse either during construction in many cities and towns.
Onu, however bemoaned the reliance on foreigners in the construction industry, adding: “It is rather unfortunate that for over 55 years as an independent country.
“We have not sufficiently built indigenous capacity to enable us rehabilitate existing infrastructure and also to build major roads, railways, ports, power stations, refineries and many infrastructural projects.
“We have rather relied more on foreigners, such that when we built our own federal capital city, Abuja, we did so with the aim of only having befitting a capital without utilizing the opportunity to also build our indigenous capacity.”
According to him, this unfortunate state of affairs has limited the capacity of competent indigenous entrepreneurs from competing with their counterparts from other parts of the world.
In a remark, the Director General of NBRRI, Prof Danladi Slim Matawal, said the construction industry in the country contributes as low as six percent to the GDP, unlike its counterparts in developed nations which contributes over 22 percent.
He said: “However, this could be said to be complemented by the relatively higher employment of 20 percent from the over 170 million people. This is attributable to some factors as well as the high dependency of the economy on the oil sector.”
He added that the federal government is involved in project with 38.4 percent of the market, followed by state governments with 19.2 percent, adding that the industry is dominated by few large expatriate firms who carry about 90 percent of the work. Indigenous firms, Matawal said are faced with the problem of working capital, poor management and lack of good organisation.