Integrate Nigerian Engineers into National Development, Says Rafindadi

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Managing Director, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Engr. Nurudeen Rafindadi; President, Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria, Engr. Charles ‘Yele Akindayomi; Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Engr. Olujimi Hotonou; President, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu; President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Ali Rabiu, at the 41st ACEN Annual Conference in Lagos

Bennett Oghifo

Managing Director/CEO, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), Engr. Nurudeen Rafindadi has urged the inclusion of the Nigeria’s engineers in the nation’s socio-economic development.

Rafindadi, who made the call as the keynote speaker at the 41st Association of Consulting Engineers of Nigeria (ACEN) Annual Conference/AGM in Lagos, recently, noted that “Engineering and technology are crucial to the creation of social amenities like healthcare, quality education and support infrastructure such as transport, power, water supply, agriculture, among others. Engineering activities revolve around technical, social and economic systems providing a crucial impact on all identified development indexes.”

Discussing the topic, ‘Integrating Nigerian Engineers Into National Development’, Rafindadi said “Engineers are at the core of national development as no nation can develop in the absence of a flourishing practice of engineering and technology. Integrating the Nigeria engineer into the development process is, therefore, a starting point to the development of our nation.”

He said Nigeria is expected to witness stability in the exchange rate and the entire macroeconomic environment. The country should also witness a major improvement in economic performance which should result among others, in a reduction of the importation of food items and refined petroleum products; improved power supply; improved transport infrastructure; expanded industrial production; improved competitiveness; greater availability of foreign exchange; improved job creation; reduction in poverty and greater inclusiveness in the spread of the benefits of economic growth.

He said there are three potential pathways to integrating Nigerian Engineers into national development, broadly classified as policy formulation, programme development, and project implementation. “A significant milestone was recently accomplished. The enactment of the COREN Amendment Act 2019 represents a landmark in our quest to ensure that engineering regulation acquires the required teeth in the enforcement of policies favourable to the development of engineering in Nigeria.

“As a matter of policy, the Nigerian Government should address one factor that has continued to limit Nigerian engineering firms from competing effectively with offshore counterparts: the high cost of fund/capital in establishing engineering practice and companies, and in the conception and pioneering of projects generally. Our offshore counterparts and competitors have access to much lower cost of capital and sometimes actually get financial/moral support from their home countries in the form of assistance in negotiating contract terms and conditions.The Nigerian government must consider encouraging Engineering based MDAs to create commercial subsidiaries /enterprises that can bid and execute jobs using the local workforce.

He further explained, “Government should consider the idea of establishing an infrastructure bank or credit agency that will lend at a concessionary rate to empower local engineering firms. This will raise their level of participation and enable acquisition of requisite experience that would engender technology transfer. The Government should stimulate growth in the local manufacturing industry through developing our local production of industrial raw materials (steel, chemicals, production plants and spare parts) where these are available and supportive fiscal policies such as reduction on import duties where they are not locally available. In general, I will say our problem is indeed not policy formulation but full implementation which has been lacking over the years.”

The Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, Engineer Olujimi Hotonu, who represented the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, “As part of integrating Nigeria’s engineers, most of our contractors are sourced from the local market and we have found out that they have the capacity and the competence and can hold very well even when compared to their counterparts in the world. So, we believe that with a little encouragement, they can do better and it comes even cheaper than using foreign nationals.”

He said, “In terms of equipment, we start them off with the contracts we know that they can handle conveniently. And they grow with time. So we move from one contract to the other, from one stage of complexity to the other. So we’ve been encouraging, and I’m happy to say that we have some of them. You will be surprised that Oshodi interchange is being handled by a local contractor. We engage the associations of engineering professionals from time to time; we use some of their members.” ACEN President, Engr. Charles ‘Yele Akindayomi said the association had pushed for the participation of its members in multilateral agency funded projects in Nigeria and Africa.

Akindayomi said, “We must continually reposition our firms to take full advantage of the Presidential Executive Order 5. To this end, an ACEN Consortium Committee was formed to enable members firms to collaborate for high profile projects, which may become available as a result of this new policy.”