Project management has been described as the secret weapon of developed nations. Its methodologies, approach and principles have helped such world powers as United States of America guide their development processes; and in the United Kingdom where the office of government commerce devised the Prince II Methodologies to grow their economy.
Therefore, in driving our developmental targets, it has become imperative to institutionalise this world acclaimed solutions vehicle into our economy for the achievement of our nation’s development goals.
It was right before our very eyes that the present leadership of the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rep Dimeji Bankole saved the country about N350 billion as unspent budget funds.
This seven point agenda and no matter how much money we put in our oil and gas industry, power, if we don’t manage the projects properly, it is not going to work and that is the idea of this conference.
The Project Management Conference is designed to bring the best and brightest minds together to brainstorm on possible best ways of restructuring our system; an assembly of professionals with diverse experiences and backgrounds to share and transfer knowledge.
What do you intend to achieve at the end of the conference?
The conference is more to educate and emphasise the importance of planning in project execution. If we can do that we would have done a lot for Nigeria. Any attempt not to plan the way we ought to plan, is bound to fail and that is the message across the board.
If you don’t inform these people they won’t know. Until Obasanjo came and introduced due process people were doing what they fancied in government and that’s not the issue but let’s do it right for a change.
If we do it right, Nigeria will benefit, the project cost will be manageable and reasonable. Don’t forget we are not an island, we are competing with the rest of the world. For example, when I was the Minister of Communications, per line cost in Nigeria was like three times what is obtainable in other parts of the world because of corruption, you have to pay kick-back.
If we can cure this corruption once, we will reduce a lot of problems from our politics. For instance, when I was building the NAL towers now Sterling tower for my bank, we had this arrangement whereby every fortnight they would send us a bill, if we failed to pay within seven days, we paid $10,000 per day as penalty and from our own perspective it would just add to the cost of the project.
They would collect $10,000 dollars and just walk away and regard that as part of the cost of the project, and if they didn’t deliver up to the level expected, they would pay us $10,000 per day. They didn’t want to pay that either, so they made sure they delivered and that was why that project was completed within 24 months.
That’s an example of proper planning that I was involved in and that is what we are talking about. If we can achieve that by the end of this conference, we will have done something for Nigeria and it will be a lesson to others.
What advice do you have for government on budget implementation?
The issue is not just implementation but it must be implemented at the lowest possible cost. As I said, we are not an island, we borrow money from World Bank, IMF and other multilateral institutions and the same institutions lend money to Uganda, South Africa and others. If our own project cost is in excess of what it ought to be in other parts of the world, then Nigeria is going to be stigmatised.
What will you say about the funds returned to government treasury?
Government system financing is based on annual budgets. If the funds are not used, they are supposed to be refund to the treasury. The advice is that whoever is in charge of any project must resubmit the same package so that it will take the pride of place in the next year.
For example in PENCOM of which I’m the chairman, there were some projects we planned for last year and actually approved as a board but up till now they have not been approved. The funds are not even allocated but that doesn’t kill the project. It just means that this year, we will make that our top priority before we go to the next stage.
One of the major problems of project management in Nigeria is corruption. How do you intend to tackle that?
We are going to create rules for everybody to play by. If everybody knows what the rules are, it’s easy to cry foul. Most of the projects we are talking about, if not because you are directly involved in them, you don’t know everything that goes inside of the projects, what is the scope, what is supposed to be delivered.
Project management helps you deal with the issue in a structured manner. We have a body called stakeholders who are going to commit the act of corruption you are talking about. The stakeholders analysis helps to know who are the people that are involved like in the Niger Delta for instance; the people that are causing the problem are part of the stakeholders that were not taking care of.