Open letter: Fashola and road contractors by Lateef Salami

SIR:

That above was an appeal made by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) at a meeting with contractors handling federal road projects preparatory to their remobilisation to their respective sites for the completion of the various abandoned road construction/rehabilitation projects that dot the nation’s landscape. This report was monitored on the 9pm NTA news on Monday May 16. This appeal by Fashola to contractors calls for serious concern from Nigerians. If this has been the practice with road construction prior to the government of CHANGE, it should be changed forthwith.

It is not the duty of contractors to ensure standards. It is the duty of contractors to make maximum profits and any means, including underhand dealings, is fair to them in the attainment of this aim. It is however the duty of the project owner – the federal government in this case – to ensure that infrastructure projects are executed in compliance with approved design and standards. This is done by the appointment of competent owner’s engineers to be the federal government’s eyes and ears on the projects. In making a case for the appointment of owner’s engineers, we emphasise that utmost stock should be placed on competence and professionalism.

The federal government plans to spend N220Billion on roads in 2016. It is suggested that capacity development for young Nigerians engineers be derived from such a huge expenditure. This can be achieved by attaching civil engineering graduates and interns to these projects. This, apart from providing practical skills for otherwise unemployed engineers, is also an avenue for providing employment even if on an ad-hoc basis pending the delivery of the projects.

President Muhammadu Buhari promised us a country that we shall be proud of. He also enjoined that we should buy Nigeria to grow our economy. However, there were more foreigners, as contractors, in the meeting with Fashola than there were Nigerians. The Federal Government is well advised to walk the talk by being proud of Nigerian professionals and to buy Nigeria in the procurement of infrastructural projects. If indigenous engineers are not challenged, it is unfair to accuse us of non-performance. Bishop David Oyedepo of the Faith Tabernacle challenged the Nigerian engineers in the design of Winner’s Chapel auditorium and the Nigerian engineers rose to the challenge and delivered the project with only Made-in-Nigeria materials in record 12 months.

We make bold to state that the foreign engineers practicing in Nigeria are not even among the best in their countries. The best foreign engineers do not ply their trade abroad. In most countries, foreign professionals are not allowed to practice without obtaining the local certification. Why is it that in Nigeria, all sorts of foreign technicians are allowed wears the toga of chief engineers without having local certification? Instances abound where the so-called foreign experts deployed to Nigeria at huge cost are unable to achieve the aim of their deployment without the inputs of their Nigerian counterparts.

In most countries, foreign professionals are not allowed to practice without obtaining the local certification. Why is it that in Nigeria, all sorts of foreign technicians are allowed wears the toga of chief engineers without having local certification? 

 The ministry of power, works and housing should also enforce the defect liability clauses in the various contracts to ensure that upon the completion of the various projects, any portion of the respective roads that fails within the defect liability period is fixed by the contractor at no cost to the government.

The Nigerian Society of Engineers has more than the adequate technical resources and competences and is ever ready to partner the federal government in the delivery of durable infrastructural projects. The NSE is also hereby urged to be unrelenting in advocating for a better deal for the Nigerians engineers while not sparing any effort to sanction practitioners that compromise competence and professionalism.

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