By Emmanuel Elebeke
ABUJA – Federal Government on Friday called on the members of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) to step forward and assist the government to diversify the nation’s economy.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, made the appeal when the President of the society paid him a courtesy call in his office.
The Minister said that Nigeria can boast of some of the brightest minds in the engineering profession across the globe and as such should reap from their wealth of experience and knowledge in this time of need band economic diversification.
He further stressed the need for the engineers to join hands with government to build a stronger nation, saying that the aim of government to diversify the economy goes beyond the fall in oil price but targeted at building a strong economy for a better Nigeria.
‘‘I am so happy that the Nigerian Society of Engineers have come to us. Nigerian engineers have some of the brightest minds we have in the world, including those that reside in other countries. They can do a lot to help us.
‘‘I gave them a charge to let other engineers know that they must step forward and do what they have to do to help our country Nigeria to diversify our economy, because we cannot continue to be a consumer nation but a producing nation.
‘‘We want to grow to a point we will consume all the oil we are producing in the country. We should start now to do that if we must become great.
‘‘We must diversify our economy and without basing it on the fall in the price of oil but on the fact that we need a strong economy for us to be able to lift many of our people out of poverty because we have to create wealth for us to lift them out of poverty.’’
On what the ministry is doing to empower Nigerian engineers, the minister said, ‘‘the ministry at some time will come out with our own programme with what and how Nigerian engineers should do things to make sure that our economy is made stronger.’’
In his address, the NSE President, Engr. Otis Anyaeji called for extension of Nigerian content law to the engineering sector to enable Nigerian engineers assume full ownership of engineering works in the country.
He decried the what he called the undue attention being giving to foreign engineers and urged government to reverse the trend in order to empower the local professionals.
While promising to assist government in diversification of the economy, the NSE president said the society ensure that all available funds meant for research were channeled towards empowering the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
‘‘There is a Nigerian content law which has started yielding results. We are saying should be extended to other segments of the economy.
‘‘For us, we have not begun to give Nigerians the right of ownership of what is happening in their own economy and by extension, the Nigerian Content Act will be a good beginning to that destination.
‘‘In the name of looking for Foreign Direct Investment, we have made room for foreigners to come and establish business and own it 100 per cent and therefore repatriate the proceeds 100 per cent out of the country. There is no other country that do that. Such a law must be abrogated, and ensure that Nigerians are captured in partnership with them,’’ he said.
On allegation of substandard works being carried out by local engineers, the NSE President said, ‘‘substandard is not an excuse to stop using Nigerians to do work.
Substandard is not a Nigerian word. ‘‘There are also substandard works in other countries. Substandard is not Nigerian but global. There is a way of checking that. We have a machinery to check that.’’