By Emmanuel Addeh
Engineers in the country at the weekend bemoaned lack of support and patronage from government at all levels, stressing that the development was having a negative impact on the practice of the profession in Nigeria.
The engineers argued that it was increasingly becoming more difficult to get jobs from the federal, state and local governments, saying if the government does not provide the opportunities, it would be impossible to know the true capacity of those in the field.
Speaking during the 2020 Engineering Conference and Annual General Meeting organised by its Abuja branch with the theme: ‘The future of work post-COVID-19: The new normal’, the National President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Babagana Mohammed, maintained that as a country in need of infrastructure, it was ironical that many Nigerian governments were not willing to engage members of the organisation.
He urged members of NSE to approach and engage people in authority, stressing that in times of crises, no other country will be willing to help those who cannot produce skills locally.
According to him, “We need to partner the governments and proffer professional advice to them at all levels. NSE is a knowledge bank. We need to engage the government at higher levels.
“From getting jobs for our members to getting jobs for our contractors, I tell everyone that Nigeria is an infrastructure-deficient country. So also is Africa!
“How many engineers do we have in Nigeria? From the record, it’s 53,000, and off-record, may be it is 100,000. That shows that we must engage.
“There shouldn’t be any reason an engineer should not be at work because we are intelligent species, and no country plays with its engineers.”
Mohammed added: “An example was during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. France refused to sell medical equipment outside France. They closed exportation, and Australia and Germany did the same thing.
“Ultimately, China did the same thing. What that means is that if you cannot produce what you will use, you are as good as ready to die.
“Engineers can take Nigeria out of the woods. There must be deliberate efforts by the government to partner, to develop and see how professionals can be deliberately supported to help the country.”
On his own, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Pantami, said COVID-19 had impacted on all spheres of life, especially on education, healthcare, work life and how people connect.
He said emerging technologies was helping to make life easier during the pandemic, and called for more focus on skills rather than degrees, saying the ministry would continue to collaborate with Nigerian engineers in that respect.
Also, former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) and ex-NSE National President, Mr. Emeka Ezeh, who spoke during the event, said as problem solvers, engineers must identify and respond to needs.