Report: ‘How professionals can aid in solving infrastructural, governance challenges’

Professional in the infrastructural sector have proffered ways, which will effectively unlock opportunities to solve the country’s infrastructure and urban development challenge.The key players drawn from the public, private sectors and regulatory agencies, spoke at the investiture ceremony of Mr. Edward Atumonoyogo as the 19th president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NISTRUCTE), a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers in Lagos.

They observed in the event themed: Policies, Politics and The Professionals in the Built Environment”, that since infrastructure is a key to the nation’s development and growth, urgent steps show be taken to reduce deficiency in Nigeria’s infrastructural stocks.Relying on the recent infrastructural ranking, which placed Nigeria at 132 out of 142, and the global critical infrastructural ranking, which made infrastructure a key variable to the development indices of any country, the experts lamented that there are serious infrastructural deficiencies, which is affecting the pace of development in Nigeria.

For instance, a nation can only be adjudged as developed when its core infrastructure stock is equal to 70 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but that was not the case for Nigeria, which infrastructural stocks stood only at 30 percent of the GDP leading to under investment and under development.Leading discussion on the theme, the chairman of the event and former Chief Executive officer of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe said infrastructure is one of the areas that Nigeria has not done well. He identified infrastructure as issues of immediate importance and relevance for economic development, stressing that infrastructural discussion has dominated affairs in the recent times.

According to him, ‘our leaders are aware of this and have over the years declared and planned to address the deficiencies’.Ndukwe, an engineer, said, how well the intentions and plans work, leave much to be desire , as the impact of infrastructural deficiency has remained sever, leading to poor business competitiveness , slow pace of economic development and low foreign investment.He stressed that government has in a effort to address the deficit sought for the establishment of Infrastructure Development Fund to quicken the process but has not resulted to a change as poor state of infrastructure has continued to constitute a cog to the wheel of development and growth.

Ndukwe also lamented that many Nigeria are opposed to concessioning on the argument that government should own and build infrastructure.“ But, if we could not find resource to continue to increase the infrastructure stocks, we will continue to derail, there are so many things begging for attention and government did not have the resource to inject into the infrastructure stocks.He commended the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) for playing important roles in provision of infrastructure, saying that even United Kingdom infrastructure have been concessioned, while others depend on private sector, including the nuclear plant despite the richness of the country.

“We must encourage government to come out with other forms of finding funding to improve infrastructural stocks in Nigeria”, he said.In his presentation on “Concession: Opportunities and “, the acting Director –General of ICRC, Chidi Izuwah, lamented that engineers are not dominating the infrastructural space in Nigeria, saying infrastructure is the only guarantee to economic development.He urged engineers to see the infrastructural deficiency as good opportunities to step up their games in order to play a big role in concession process, since the private sectors are the biggest driver of the economy.

This, he said, they can do by upgrading their capacities and networking with other professionals in the built environment.On the challenges of procurement process in Nigeria public sector, the Chief Executive officer, Kabola Associates Consulting Limited, Mohammed Olayiwola, identified political interference as a major challenge facing the public procurement process in Nigeria.

Despite the clear distinction made by the Act, in terms of responsibilities between Ministers as political heads and the Permanent Secretaries as Accounting Officers, evidence, he said, has shown that the Ministers dictate the procurement processes and overrides the powers and functions of the Accounting Officers. He also blamed the present inefficient and ineffective structure of the Public Procurement Cadre in the Civil Service posses a challenge.

According to him, some MDAs still conduct their procurements in the department of Policy, Research and Statistics, PRS, contrary to the provisions of Act, mostly because of the hiccup at the Office of the Head of Service as to whether public procurement cadre and Officers should be transferred to the BPP, as Accountants and Lawyers in the Civil Service are Staff of the Accountant General and Attorney General respectively or not.He also observed the inability of the Anti-corruption Agencies to promptly try and dispose of public procurement cases is another challenge.

Olayiwola stressed that the frosty working relationship between the Ministries and the Parastatals under them has been variously reported as a challenge in guaranteeing good public procurement processes.To address this, he said there is need to chart a way forward towards ensuring the prospects of the practice.

For the Managing Director of Lekki Worldwide, Dr Tunde Sodade, there is need for professional development through technical skill acquisition and interfacing with relevant disciplines to ensure survival of the practice.Also a partner with Etteh Aro & Partners, an infrastructural development firm, Mbim Okutinyang, canvassed for a four year budget cycle to accelerate infrastructural development

Speaking earlier, the immediate past president of the Institution, Oreoluwa Fadayomi, expressed worries with the way government policies impact negatively on the industry particularly in capacity.

According to him, finance and capacity building hinge directly on patronage and adequate remunerations.Government, he said, has been aware of these as far back as 1991, when it published the national Construction Policy, but they and subsequent governments lacked the political will to implement it.

Fadayomi, expressed gladness that the Executive Order 5 recently signed by president Muhammadu Buhari has effectively addressed most of these.President of NISTRUCTE, Edward Atumonyogo in his remarks, said since the structures are more complex today and the spending on infrastructure far exceed those of the seventies, there is need for engineers to discover their voices and draw more attention to their competence and impressive roles in the built environment in order to benefit from the exponential growth.

He pledged that his administrative would embark in three point agenda to combat the challenges that are confronting the profession. Speaking a the event, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, said no matter how brilliant a budget or policy is, the parliament determines what comes out.He urged professionals to engage the parliament.

In his remarks the president of NSE, Adekunle Makuolu, solicited for networking among professionals in built industry to form a strong alliance.The process, he said, started in 2013 and is now been deepening to ensure that the professionals engage policy makers to ensure that the nation’s infrastructural deficiency and the welfare of professionals are addressed.
By Bertram Nwannekanma


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