By Vincent Ujumadu
AWKA- NIGERIAN engineers have tackled the country’s policymakers over the long delay in completing the rehabilitation of the dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha expressway, accusing the federal lawmakers of not doing enough to ensure early completion of the road. They also faulted the mode of appointment of ministers and directors into certain federal ministries, arguing that no meaningful achievement could be recorded in the absence of a proper regulatory system aimed at monitoring the operations of government establishments.
The engineers bared their minds at the maiden edition of Engineer Emeka Eze annual lecture series instituted by the Awka branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE. Eze, a foremost civil engineer, was the immediate past director-general of the Bureau for Public Procurement.
The guest lecturer at the occasion, Engr. Chris Okoye observed that although the Federal Government has been allocating money for the reconstruction of the Enugu-Onitsha road since 1999, it has remained in a deplorable situation because the right things had not been done.
He said: “The amount of money the Federal Government has put into the Enugu-Onitsha road does not equate the work done. Our legislators in the national assembly should explain why it is so. If you go to Federal Government officials, they tell you that the amount of money they have put in the South- East is more than the amount they have put in other zones in road construction.
“So one begins to wonder where the money goes to. The answer is that the money has been going to the legislators at the national level, who use the money to build roads leading to their homes and villages.
“That is the problem of not having institutions and core professionals in the ministry to drive policies and implementation agencies that are professionally and commercially driven.
“If you do not have institutions and systems to drive a process, we may only be deceiving ourselves. The fact that sometimes we have temporary success does not mean that we have sustainable growth.
“As long as we do not have a regulatory system that works, the temporary achievement recorded sometimes can never be sustained. In Nigeria, we are just scratching the surface.”
According to him, the idea of appointing people into professionalised institutions has become a norm in Nigeria, adding that the development was not an ideal situation.
He continued: “The ideal thing should be that an engineer should head the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing. As it is, for instance, if you are going to make a policy on power and all the technical people then come up with their ideas about how to deal with power, a lawyer is then asked to seal what the professionals have done. He can only rely on what his personal assistant has done and we cannot allow this to continue.
“If one is not competent in the area he is husbanding, there is no way he can competently come up with good policies. We must discourage the idea of putting favoured people in strategic ministries just because you want them to make money for you there.
“If we go to other climes, the best brains are in the public service. Unfortunately, the best brains in Nigeria are in the private sector. The public service is a dumping ground for those who cannot get opportunities in the private sector.
“Procurement is a professional area, but in Nigeria, there is a situation in the Ministry of Power, where a historian is the director of procurement.”
He dismissed the argument that any career officer could man any office, insisting that certain ministries should be manned by competent people who understand the technicalities of the system.
He urged the Federal Government to establish the National Council on Procurement to conform with the Public Procurement Act of 2007, arguing that a situation where a ministry could evolve policies and go ahead to execute projects without passing through regulatory systems that work, would not lead to sustained development.”
In his remarks, Eze, who was the immediate past director-general of the Bureau for Public Procurement, observed that each era came with its own dynamics, adding that people appointed into various offices must do the best they could for the country.
“Because I am no longer on that seat, I may not know the peculiarities of what is going on. The problems of the past were different from the problems of toady and problems of today will be different from the problems of tomorrow. But one thing is clear and that is that no leader will want to leave a bad legacy for his people,” he said.
Anambra State Deputy Governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, who also delivered a paper at the occasion, said the present administration in the state takes the issue of due process seriously.
According to him, it was to ensure that ministries operate optimally that informed the decision of Governor Willie Obiano to appoint engineers to head the Ministry of Works and Housing.