Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the sophistication with which pipelines are blown up in the Niger Delta shows that those involved are highly skilled Nigerians.
Buhari spoke yesterday at an investiture ceremony by the Nigerian Academy of Engineers (NAE) at the State House, Abuja.
The president was decorated as the Grand Patron of NAE at the ceremony,
He observed that going into the depths of the sea of almost 70 kilometres to blow pipelines with ease, suggests that some professional associations with high competencies need to talk to their members to ensure they were not deploying their skills in a negative way to the detriment of the country.
The President said: “How can ordinary Nigerians go into the deep sea almost 70 kilometres to blow installations, they are not ordinary Nigerians. So you have to talk to your members.”
Buhari said his administration would utilise talents and skills of local engineers to rebuild ailing infrastructure across the country, describing the engineers as “competent and cost effective.”
According to him, well-trained and highly experienced engineers had contributed immensely to infrastructure development in the country, and they remained indispensable.
He said both military and civilian administrations over the years were dependent on Nigerian engineers for designs and construction across the country.
“By insisting that we must be cost effective in building infrastructure, we will utilise Nigerian engineers. I respect them a lot, and I know it takes time to be trained as an engineer,” he said.
The president noted that local engineers contributed more than 90 per cent to the design and realisation of two refineries, 2,500 pipelines and 20 depots in the country during his tenure as Minister of Petroleum in the mid-1970s, adding that the success of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was largely hinged on their skills.
“Somehow, every time and anywhere I have served in this country, we found it cost effective to use Nigerian engineers, and we relied on their capacity to understudy, learn and deliver.
“It will be wrong to fault Nigerian engineers for the failure of the refineries. You should blame the political leadership. How can you build and not know how to maintain an asset?” the president asked.
Buhari said individual political leaders should be blamed for Nigeria’s ailing infrastructure, not the engineers who had always been willing to contribute to national development.
In her remarks, the President of NAE, Mrs. Joanna Maduka, said science, technology and innovation were the key drivers of growth across the globe, urging the federal government to explore and engage the multiple engineering talents in the country for more purposeful results.
“For the country to attain sustainable growth, Nigerian engineers need to be adequately engaged in planning, policy formulation, consultancy and construction as well as in the industrial process of production and manufacturing,” she noted.
Maduka commended the anti-corruption fight of the federal government, saying it would turn around the fortunes of the economy.
She also expressed the academy’s delight at the desire of the Buhari administration to reduce the infrastructure deficit in the country.
The president of NAE added: “This effort is very germane to the development of our nation. For this to be done effectively and efficiently, inputs are required from all cadres of engineering disciplines.
“The physical indices of development of any country are engineering based like roads, railways, water supply, power, housing and other infrastructure. However, Nigerian engineers are underutilised for the tasks and challenges of nation building.
“Furthermore, the fact is that Nigeria is grossly under-engineered as there are insufficient engineering professionals on a per capita basis. For example, in China, between 2000 and 2013, all the nine members of the Standing Committee (ministers) of the Politburo were trained engineers. Currently, about half of the cabinet ministers in Singapore are engineers and in China, 70 per cent of the cabinet are engineers.”
Maduka said the NAE was made up of 140 fellows.
In attendance were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, both of whom are engineers, as well as other senior government officials and presidential aides.