By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Jolted by the sophistication and employment of high technical skills in their actions, President Muhammadu Buhari has feared that those blowing up pipelines were not ordinary Nigerians.
The President who was in doubt about the sophistry of the perpetrators felt that the militants were getting help from highly skilled engineering personnel who were inclined to using their skills negatively.
According to him, going into the sea for almost 70 kilometres to blow pipelines with ease were not ordinary.
The President spoke, Tuesday, after his investiture as the Grand Patron of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAE), led by its President, Mrs. Joanna Maduka, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said: “If I will go in the negative side, how can an ordinary Nigerian go into the sea, 70 kilometres or more, go down two meters and blow up oil installations that cannot be an ordinary Nigerian.
“So, I hope you will appeal to your colleagues to make sure that what we have built, they should regard it whether they are working with multi-nationals or the government.”
President Buhari however stated that his administration would utilize talents and skills of local engineers to rebuild ailing infrastructure across the country, describing the engineers as “competent and cost effective.’’
The President noted that local engineers contributed more than 90 percent to the design and realization of two refineries, 2,500 km of pipelines and 20 depots in the country during his tenure as Minister of Petroleum in the mid-1970s, adding that the success of the Petroleum Trust Fund was largely hinged on their skills.
President Buhari said individual political leaders should be blamed for Nigeria’s ailing infrastructure, not the engineers who had always been willing to contribute to national development.
“By insisting that we must be cost effective in building infrastructure, we will utilize Nigerian engineers. I respect them a lot, and I know it takes time to be trained as an engineer.
“Somehow, every time and anywhere I have served in this country, we found it cost effective to use Nigerian engineers, and we relied on their capacity to understudy, learn and deliver.
“It will be wrong to fault Nigerian engineers for the failure of refineries. You should blame the political leadership. How can you build and not know how to maintain an asset.
“I think that if Nigerian Engineers are denied their roles, it is not the fault of the profession. It is the fault of some individual governments. Other governments have done their best and found Nigerian Engineers competent and cost effective. Nigerian Engineers are very quick in uptaking and performing in the filed”, the President said.
Earlier in her remarks, the president of the NAE, Maduka noted that in the last one year, Nigerian engineering companies had made remarkable feats in the procurement and construction of a 600 megawatt power generating plant and a 330KV switching station, the biggest in the national grid.
He also solicited the assistance of government for the Academy to fully realize its objectives.
“Countries like China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia are examples of nations that have harnesses the benefits of their engineering academies for economic progress. Fellows of the Academy of Engineering are Engineers who have reached the peak of their careers and are invited to join.
“This effort is very germane to the development of our nation. For this to be done effectively and efficiently, inputs are required from all cadres of engineering disciplines.
“The physical indices of development of any country are engineering based like roads, railways, water supply, power, housing and other infrastructure. However, Nigerian Engineers are underutilized for the tasks and challenges of nation building.
“For the country to attain sustainable growth status, the Nigerian engineers need to be adequately engaged in planning, policy formulation, consultancy and construction as well as industrial processes of production and manufacturing. Furthermore, the fact is that Nigeria is grossly under-engineered as there are insufficient engineering professionals taking the population per capita basis.
“For example, in China, between 2000 and 2013, all the nine members of the Standing Committee (Ministers) of the Politburo were trained engineers. Currently, about half of the cabinet ministers in Singapore are engineers and in China, 70 per cent of the cabinet are engineers”.
Maduka commended the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government, saying it would turn around the fortunes of the economy.
She also hinted that Nigerian Academic Engineering was currently made up of 140 fellows.
Those who attended the brief ceremony were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir Lawal and the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu amongst other senior government functionaries and presidential aides.