Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Former Vice President of the World Bank, Africa Division, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, yesterday said Nigeria’s continued grip on crude oil as her economic mainstay would soon come to an end.
She added that when it does, the country could be in serious trouble following her seeming indifference to growing changes in global energy matrix.
Ezekwesili also called out members of the engineering profession in Nigeria for the country’s decrepit and inferior infrastructure base, alleging that their refusal to show character, competence and capacity in their tasks has contributed to the decay in infrastructure.
Speaking at the 2017 civil engineering conference organised by the Abuja chapter of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE), an offshoot of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Ezekwesili, stated that at the moment, major oil producing countries were diversifying from their dependence on the commodity while Nigeria looked adamant to the development.
She spoke within the theme of the conference – fighting corruption in Nigeria: the role of engineering profession, where she also explained that over the years, engineers in the country have contributed to the corrupt practices that have kept Nigeria from developing her infrastructure.
“Let me tell you something, Norway, one of the biggest oil producers has just stashed $1 trillion of her oil money in a sovereign wealth fund. I was in Norway recently, and 10 per cent of vehicles used there run on electric. Nigeria should ask herself these critical questions because very soon, Nigeria will drink her crude oil,” Ezekwesili said, while making a call for an immediate diversification of Nigeria’s economy.
On the sorry state of infrastructure and how engineers can contributed to that, Ezekwesili said: “You are at the heart of public investment. Governance can be looked on as a market – a supply side and a demand side. Those of you that are part of the supply side of governance, what quality of governance are you supplying?
“As an engineer in government, what are the ethics of the profession, how are you upholding the systems of professionalism that are supposed to determine the value for money in every engineering process that you are responsible?”
She further asked: “Are you trying to pretend that you are not part of government when we know that in governance, the class that has security of tenure is the technocratic class, and that is who you are. The failure of Nigeria to produce good outcomes will be squarely deposited on the heads of many of you here.”
Ezekwesili equally claimed that the engineering profession has abdicated its responsibility to hold government and its members to account on erratic practices, adding that engineers have seldom penalised their members found wanting for many of the building collapses in the country among other infrastructural failures.
Also in his remarks, the Chairman of NICE Abuja chapter, Ben-Osy Okoh, stated that the conference chose to discuss the roles engineers can play in curtailing corrupt practices in Nigeria’s infrastructure sector, especially from procurement and implementation of contracts.
He said: “If civil engineers are to compete successfully and establish themselves as leaders in solving many of the world’s most pressing problems, they must embrace the need for professional innovation and they must do so quickly. They must understand that long-established methods of practicing civil engineering and educating civil engineers are in critical need of reform.”