There exists proven evidence of a wide network of roads that linked our various communities in the pre-colonial era. These road networks served the indigenous people to carry out inter-tribal trading and various other social interactions of their needs at that time.
With the arrival of the colonial masters the road networks increased considerably to cover longer distances as the reach went beyond the indigenous communities to stretch out to regions and even nations.
Further with the arrival of motor vehicle needed to move colonial administrators around and evacuate raw materials from the hinterland to the sea ports, the roads were then made with materials and construction technology that were previously unknown to the native people. These inputs transformed the road infrastructure to what became modern road networks that we have today.
The road construction technology as many other introductions of the early colonial settlers brought about acquiring essential technical knowledge through the establishment of schools where the indigenous people learnt to speak, read and write English, French or other European languages of the colonial masters. Then able to communicate in the settlers’ languages they started to participate in road construction projects and also served in various other areas that were useful to the achievement of the goals of the colonial masters.
At the attainment of independence by most African countries, the basics of the technology of road construction had become known to the indigenous people as they had been part of the exercise all the while and some had also studied civil engineering at universities both at home and abroad.
What remains baffling to many Nigerians is that after these years of studying civil engineering at renowned institutions both at home and abroad and as well gained working experience all these years, we are still dependent on foreign workforce to do most of our road construction projects. Worse still, today we are seeing nationals of other countries in the emerging economic bloc countries troop into Nigeria to undertake road constructions projects and carry out various other civil engineering works whose technology we are supposed to have domesticated considering our long period of participation and experience in this vital industry sector.
One continues to ponder when on earth shall our indigenous engineers be encouraged to play major parts in road construction projects’ early conception, design, development and execution? Are these engineers from other emerging economic bloc countries directing these projects better than our engineers? We have seen school leavers from these countries sneak into our country as engineers and their nationals teach them the job here while they earn salaries and innumerable allowances as qualified engineers.
Some of these expatriate workers connive with non patriotic Nigerians to import their co-nationals, circumvent our Local Content Act and by extension deliberately refuse to transfer their technology to our young graduates through on the job training.
We have seen these expatriate engineers start and finish many road construction projects that could have served as veritable opportunities to train our young graduate engineers without imparting the least training to them for reasons only known to them. We have also seen them import and train their own less endowed citizens and subsequently give them positions to carry out important duties to further improve on their competence relegating our more intelligent engineers to continue to play roles through which they will never gain any technical knowledge nor make further capacity building improvements.
Who is to blame for this disconnect; not making technology transfer through Local Content Act compliance a pre-condition for the award of road and other civil engineering construction contracts at all levels?
The way forward
For us to make the desired progress in the construction industry sector, our indigenous engineers and our senior technical work force should be fully involved in the early stages of project conception, development, design, materials choice and project execution.
Their technical and managerial skills and competence in every area of the industry should be tested by continually making them to handle middle class projects under the supervision of the expatriate engineers and as their competence improves they will then be given bigger projects to execute.
Government should determine what level of road construction works should not be given to expatriate workers any longer and enforce total compliance.
Nigerian Road Construction Engineering Society and the Society of Engineers together with NOTAP should evolve a guideline to achieve greater Technology Transfer through Local Content Act compliance and on-the-job training for our graduate engineers in the road construction industry sector.
In addition, incentives and recognitions should be given to foreign construction companies that encourage real Technology Transfer to our graduate engineers necessary for them to acquire the required practical technical skills by complying with our Local Content Act and willingly transferring their technology to our graduate engineers.
At the same time, those companies that refuse to comply with our Local Content Act and willingly transfer their technologies to our young graduates should be adequately penalized. We should as well not issue our visas with work permits to foreign construction company engineers that have no verified record of having worked in a Western European country as project engineers.
This uncontrolled influx of individuals that claim all forms of superior engineering expertise we have no avenue to run checks on because the documents they present are from countries that aid illegal exportation of their citizens to locations as ours they perceive as greener pastures.
The evident regrettable lapses in our system that make possible the illegitimate influx of rejects into our territory to take the positions of our brilliant graduate youths must be checked before it will cause us further severe damage.
At this stage of our developmental life, we should be doing most of our minor and middle class road construction works by ourselves. We should also be able to determine, design and construct the necessary material components needed to do solid and perfect minor and middle class road construction projects.
Continuous practice under close guidance of their expatriate peers will definitely lead our engineers to further perfection in this vital industry category that will empower them to be doing most of our middle class road and bridge construction works always in close supervision of their more experienced foreign colleagues. The authority shall set a specific time frame after which certain categories of small and middle class road construction works will no longer be contracted to foreign contractors.
Our performance in the small and middle class road construction works will spur our engineers who have garnered the required technical expertise to confidently venture into handling higher level road construction works successfully. The process if adequately encouraged and legally supported by our government will keep our workforce productively busy and reduce the illegal influx of low class expatriate workers from the emerging economic bloc countries into our territory.
Also reduce considerably the psychic damage inflicted on our qualified engineers and save our foreign currency wasted on payments for salary and innumerable allowances to these unqualified foreign staff.
On our perfection of the small and middle class road construction projects, we shall then export our evident expertise in the industry category to our ECOWAS neigbouring States. This process will bring about desired improvement on our revenue base as well as strengthen our expertise, our economic control of our region as well as boost our ego.
The on-going Lagos-Badagry expressway as many other large scale construction works which by their characteristics are technically complex works and long lasting in their nature presents a real opportunity to train our young engineers to acquire practical on-the-job capacity building necessary to improve on their skills and competence in the sector.
As it is rightly said, a journey of a thousand miles starts by taking the first step. Going by the above, the Change that this new government stands for represents this very first step in the right direction.
As our late erudite Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo would say; all hands on deck, our President is set to show us the light of all inclusive quality contribution in our nation rebuilding process; it is now left for us to follow by applying his example and carry along all those entrusted to us to lead by virtue of our elevated positions to achieve the Nigerian developmental agenda.
History will definitely not be soft with those Nigerians entrusted with leadership positions that have refused to put in their best to achieve the change which we presently have the capacity to achieve because they carry their narrow selfish interest above our national developmental aspirations.
We all appreciate the system of development in the western world where they continue to empower their people to be the architects of their future. While here some of us are not prepared to make any sacrifice or even cage their destructive egotistic interests.
We can start today to emulate the developed countries by shunning excessive self-seeking pursuits and place our national interest above all others.
President Buhari administration more than any other in recent time has signaled a rare desire to employ our best brains and proper financial resources management to change every sector our existence by encouraging the principles of best practices in our dealings.
It is now left for us to sufficiently understand his ideals and willingly input his patriotic example and ethics in enforcing proper compliance of our Local Content Act, encourage technology transfer and efficient management of resources in contract award process to bring about accelerated road infrastructure development starting from carrying out quality road maintenance works to constructing new durable roads by ourselves.
Neboh (Geom – Italy) (Foreign Language and Technology Transfer Facilitations) Tel: +234 80 3359 0714. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org