Many roads, bridges, water systems and national electricity grid built several decades ago are simply overwhelmed or worn out. So as politicians scramble for power, those bothered with the matter said discourses on social and technological infrastructure development should be the concern now. To tackle the colossal infrastructure decay/deficit in Nigeria, the next government must listen and heed the prescriptions offered by engineers. Nigeria is said to be one of the countries with poor infrastructure stock. The president of the Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO) Engr. Mustapha Shehu recently told Daily Trust that Nigeria is one of the worst hit by infrastructure deficit. “If you take infrastructure ranking of African countries, Nigeria can’t come even 20th. The deficit is so much because we have a large population and the structures aren’t there. The challenge is enormous,” he said.
SuggestionsThe engineers advised leaders to inspect their project portfolios critically and decide which ones to accelerate first based on their strategic importance, independently of the restricted duration of a political cycle. In addition, governments need to develop a holistic and long-term strategy for operating and maintaining their physical assets.Speaking at the first in the series of NSE quarterly media briefing for 2015 in Abuja last Tuesday, NSE president enumerated key areas government has to look into. They include: Public Procurement Act, Nigerian Content Act, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), Railway Bill and Iron and Steel Sector. Olorunfemi said the Public Procurement Act is based on cost engineering as such the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) should work in conjunction with the NSE Cost Engineering Institution for effective achievement of its mandate. He charged government to go back to the 2011 agenda - “Route to Prosperity & Progress” stressing that public procurement should grant Nigerians ownership rights to projects being developed in Nigeria. Instead of asking foreign firms to show evidence of local partnership, Nigerian firms should be asked to procure foreign partnership in the best interest of Nigeria.He suggested that the Nigerian Content Act be enforced absolutely at all times for utilization of Nigerian human, material resources and services and it should be complied with by all operators, alliance partners and contractors. This Act should also be replicated for all other sectors of the economy as urgently as feasible, he maintained.He said government should ensure that bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements, technical partners agreements in oil and gas, world bank/regional development institutions loan agreements be scrutinized by the National Planning Commission, implementing ministries and Council for Regulation of Engineering (COREN) to ensure that clauses inimical to the development of indigenous capacity, use of indigenous personnel and local content are excluded. “Consequently therefore, the National Planning Commission should be reorganized and properly equipped with professionals in the built environment, engineers and the like,” he suggested. He demanded passage of the PIB into law before the end of the current session of the parliament, saying it will protect national economic interests in the areas of technology transfer, local human capacity building in the sector and preference for local suppliers. He said the bill when it becomes law will herald the creation of an efficient and effective regulatory agency, eliminate corruption and help develop a new set of guidelines for governing all operations in both the up and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.Concerning railway, he recommended a speedy amendment of the Railway Act through the proposed Railway Bill to be presented to the National Assembly by the Federal Executive Council. He said regulation can open the railway transport sub-sector up for the participation of key, reputable and technically experienced railway investors under a well-structured Public Private Partnership arrangement for optimal railway operations in Nigeria. He observed that the development of the iron and steel industry is key ingredient for the industrialization and infrastructural development of a nation. He regretted that despite the abundance of natural raw materials such as limestone, iron ore and coal required for the production of primary steel, Nigeria’s iron and steel sector remains abysmal – negligible local production, low return on investment and heavily dependent on importation of steel. He lamented that Nigeria spends $3.3 billion (N500 billion) annually in the importation of steel. He called for urgent revamping of the moribund inland rolling mills in Jos and Katsina as well as the Delta Steel Company Limited in Aladja. He wants urgent resolve of the problems with the commissioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and the National Iron Ore Mining Company at Itakpe.He said though the recently launched Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and National Enterprises Development Programme (NEDEP) by President Goodluck Jonathan is commendable, the appropriate synergy must be put in place if the relevant sectors especially steel, must work and flourish. “Currently, there is lack of coherent and articulated metal policy and plans that strategically interfaces with national development goals in the transportation, power, oil and gas, agriculture sectors, among others,” he observed.On capacity development, FAEO president Shehu who insists that leadership failure is the major issue suggested that deliberate policies to develop indigenous capacity must be pursued with vigour. He said deliberate patronage of local expertise and companies is key. He however maintained that when the leadership takes that decision, it also has to deal with engineers/companies that violate contract terms. Olorunfemi who stated that public office seekers have made same promises that had been made every election year demanded application of the right strategies and involvement of the right professional knowledge in all spheres of governance. “As a professional body and major stakeholder in the national development processes in Nigeria, we have resolved on a proactive step purposely to escalate agenda for the incoming government, both at the federal and state levels,” he said.Meantime, govern-ment has produced a National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan. The plan expects Nigeria to significantly increase investment in infrastructure by investing $2.9 trillion over the next 30 years. This apparently can be done only by a serious and responsible government.
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