Due to the crucial role engineering and technology can play, especially in creating critical infrastructure such as transport, power, water supply, and others, stakeholders in this field of science are canvassing its integration into national development.
Engineers, they say, can be part of national development through three potential pathways classified as policy formulation, programme development, and project implementation.
“Engineers are at the core of national development as no nation can develop in the absence of a flourishing engineering and technology practice. Integrating the Nigeria engineer into the development process is, therefore, a starting point to the development of our nation,” explained Nurudeen Rafindadi, MD/CEO, Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA).
Rafindadi was keynote speaker at the 41st Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria (ACEN) annual conference/AGM in Lagos. He spoke on ‘Integrating Nigerian Engineers into National Development’, highlighting the various impacts of engineers on the nation’s economy.
Rafindadi was very optimistic about Nigeria in spite of present challenges, saying that the country would witness stability in the exchange rate and the entire macro-economic environment, major improvement in economic performance which should result, among others, in a reduction of the importation of food items and refined petroleum products, and improved power supply.
“The country also expects 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 hoped.
Rafindadi advised that, 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. These are the high cost of fund/capital in establishing engineering practice and companies, and 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,” he said.
The Nigerian government must consider encouraging Engineering-based MDAs to create commercial subsidiaries and enterprises that can bid and execute jobs using the local workforce.
It is also necessary for government to consider the idea of establishing an infrastructure bank or credit agency that will lend at a concessionary rate to empower local engineering firms. Rafindadi hopes that this will raise their level of participation and enable acquisition of requisite experience that would engender technology transfer.
Another thing government should do is to stimulate growth in the local manufacturing industry through developing local production of industrial raw materials such as steel, chemicals, production plants and spare parts. “In general, I will say our problem is indeed not policy formulation but full implementation which has been lacking over the years,” he said.
Olujimi Hotonu, Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure, who represented the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said that as part of integrating Nigeria’s engineers, most of the state government’s contractors were sourced from the local market.
“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, he said, the state government started off with the contracts they knew they could handle conveniently who grew with time. “So, we move from one contract to another, from one stage of complexity to another and it has been encouraging; I’m happy to say that we have some of them. You will be surprised that Oshodi interchange is being handled by local contractor,” he said.