Engr. Jose Enrique Rodriguez Pupo is the Managing Director, Juba Construction Company Nigeria Limited with interest in highway and building construction among others. In this interview, Engr. Pupo talks about challenges in the sector. Excerpts:
What are the challenges your firm is facing working in Nigeria?
Normally, there will be challenges. Perhaps the main challenges we have in the country are the processes of getting contracts and get paid on time. Another challenge is that sometimes, it’s so difficult to link with governors or people that will have solution to a problem. It is difficult to get them directly, you need to pass through many channels.
What is your assessment of Nigeria’s infrastructure?
There should be construction of low-cost houses, power, roads, and railways. If the leaders can continue like this, I think the country can go far and achieve more. For example, when I travelled from Sokoto to Kebbi, I saw good roads in remote villages and hospitals, the same for Ondo and Kwara states where I saw good schools and many things. Surely, Nigeria is working and making progress. Between 1960 and now, there are many achievements.
How do you think the present lull in the construction industry can be addressed?
I think this is a bad period that everybody knows and feels. Nevertheless, I feel Nigeria is passing through a very bad period that everything is slow and the people have to be patient. In the very near future, the economy of the country will be fine but we need to have faith and work for it.
There is this pervading view that we lack project management skills and that Nigerian engineers are not competent. What is your experience working with them?
I totally disagree. I have been in this country since 2004 and to be honest with you, I met with lots of good engineers. The schools are good, the engineers are good. What is happening is like you have a baby and you are not giving him what he needs to be prepared, you won’t get anything from him.
There are some companies that employ Nigerian engineers and are not giving them specific duties and didn’t get what they want. What we are doing now is working with them and using very few expatriates. We are giving Nigerian engineers all they need to work and I am very happy and proud of them. What they need are more opportunities. In the construction industry, Nigerian engineers needed to be given more opportunity for the benefit of the doubt. They are wonderful people with good knowledge.
If you look at some of the problems we are facing in Nigeria, where we experience building collapse, project abandonment, some of these projects are being done by indigenous players. Then what accounts for failures?
I think it is not only to indigenous engineers or companies but to many others. Mistakes are made, accidents are happening. In this country we don’t talk about earthquakes but movements of the earth are happening but are not noticed. Sometimes, the soil tests are not properly done and sometimes, the design of the foundation are not proper. I don’t blame indigenous engineers, I blame companies that don’t engage professionals in the structure. But to be honest, the way I see it, this is not only happening to Nigerian indigenous companies. In my country, it is happening a lot. The problem is that when supervision is poor there will be an accident.