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Onolememen: Mending Nigerian roads!

By Jide Ajani
When you hear Mike Oziegbe Onolememen speak, you would immediately discern that this is an Edo man talking.  An architect by profession, Onolememen, the honourable minister of works, remains an engaging personality.

Whereas the Goodluck Jonathan administration suffers a major discount on account of perception, a perception that seems to reinforce the impression that nothing visible is being achieved, an interaction with Onolememen would give a lie to that.

Penultimate Wednesday, in his not so expansive office, Onolememen demonstrated that his choice as minister of works in a nation of over 170million Nigerians is not just ‘one of those appointments’.  Whatever informed President Jonathan’s choice of Onolememen as works minister (having once served as Minister of State for Defence), from all indications on ground, couldn’t have been any other but the product of sound judgment.
You may wonder why!

Onolememen’s impressive curriculum vitae (although many Nigerians in that same bracket possess better CVs) at once suggests that he is equipped to head the ministry. His qualifications: B. Sc (Hons) Architecture ; M.Sc. in Architecture; M. Sc. in Construction Management; and Ph. D in Public Policy & Administration (Completed coursework,and Ph.D dissertation ongoing).

A member of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA); Association of Consulting Architects in Nigeria (ACAN); Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM); and registered Architect by the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON).

Top level management executive having combined post qualification experience of over 25 years in operations, middle management and top management levels in federal government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and private sector Companies all in Nigeria; track record of strategic implementation of federal government policies and proactive management of businesses in the Nigerian economy; specialization in public policies implementation, project conceptualization, project management and capacity building; vast in

technical audit and due diligence work for new infrastructure projects and existing infrastructure; served as Minister of State, in the Ministry of Defence; Served as Head of the directorate of Project Management of the then Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF); managed the dredging of the lower river niger project at the conception, design and contract documentation stages, under the national waterways development programme of the PTF,

consisting of pre-dredging survey of the lower niger river; capital dredging works; construction of river ports at Baro, Lokoja, and Idah as well as the completion of Onitsha port; construction of river training works, maintenance dredging of the riverniger and the construction of the 18 km Gudu – Baro highway to provide access to the FCT, Abuja; managed the PTF national rural electrification programme, and the bulk power

supply programme, as well as upgrade of existing electricity infrastructure in Nigeria; managed the PTF national rural telephone programme nationwide; managed the PTF national health & educational institutions rehabilitation programme nationwide; managed the national highways and urban road rehabilitation programme of the PTF; managed the rehabilitation of state house and Dodan barracks, Lagos under the PTF.  We could go on and on.

But in most public service engagements in Nigeria, there is almost always this disconnect between professional capabilities of individuals and their service delivery once they get into government.  If not, why is the Nigerian nation still regarded as an underdeveloped country with the plethora of professionals of global standing and repute who have been appointed in decades past.

While there are those who insist that the malaise of delivery deficit is systemic, there is another school of thought which charges that individuals have had their own proclivities before being appointed; and that whatever happens thereafter is just a reinforcement of such innate dispositions and not really a function of the systemic failure within which they operate.

Therefore, the massive disconnect between professionalism and service delivery as witnessed in decades past regarding government appointees and governance can be dumped at the door step of individualism.  There may be a point here.  There was once a Mamman Kontagora as minister of works whose delivery marked him out even under a military regime.

In the case of Onolememen, the delivery in his ministry is self-evident. For instance, whereas there was a 15% completion in the motorability of Nigerian roads by the time he took over as minister in 2011, today he boasts of a delivery of 70% – this in just some three years.

In this interview, Onolememen presents himself as an individual who knows the situation of Nigerian roads like the back of his hand.  He speaks on what the Jonathan administration is doing to fix the roads and the challenges that go with it.



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