The Nigerian Society of Engineers has disclosed plans to take the profession to rural communities under an initiative known as Community Engineering Project.
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The NSE President, Mr. Adekunle Mokuolu, said the CEP, expected to be done at an estimated cost of N2bn, involved massive deployment of professional manpower in rural communities across the country.
Mokuolu, who spoke at the 25th anniversary of the NSE Ikeja Branch, said a transparent process of selecting six remote villages, which would enjoy the status of pilot in the CEP, one from each of the geopolitical zones of the country, had commenced.
He added, “The focus here involves massive deployment of our professional manpower in rural communities across Nigeria. The objective of the project is to provide basic engineering infrastructure through voluntary service; infrastructure, which includes rural roads, water projects, school buildings, electrification, provision of farming implements, building of livestock ranches and poultries; and such other services that are guaranteed to foster unity and progress in our country.
“The projects are designed to be a collaborative venture between the NSE, local governments and the traditional institutions across the country. At my inauguration, I shared my vision and made commitment to work with our colleagues with the focus on corporate social responsibility; through this means, we will impact the citizenry positively.”
According to him, by the initiative, the NSE has undertaken to assist the government in bringing growth and improvement to the lives of citizens in the rural areas.
“We are optimistic that funding of the projects will be achieved through donations from public spirited individuals, corporate organisations, international donors and friends of engineering. I expect our colleagues to voluntarily provide expertise to make the project a success,” Mokuolu added.
The Honorary Adviser to the President and Chief Executive Officer, Dangote Group, Mr. Joseph Makoju, stated that the having recently exited recession, the Nigerian economy was still undergoing transition and needed to be rapidly diversified.
Makoju, who was represented by the Senior General Manager, Dangote Projects, Mr. AwaluAliu, as the guest speaker at the anniversary, said there was a need to deepen and expand manufacturing, agricultural and mining sectors as a first step.
He said, “While one must acknowledge the efforts of the Federal Government and some state governments to diversify and expand the productive base of the economy, there is a very real concern that the current oil price recovery, as welcome as it is, could lure us to slip into a state of lethargy and complacency.
“We might once again fail to take difficult decisions to address some of the root causes of our economic malaise – the very issues that got us into recession in the first place. As individuals and as a professional group, we need to harp on this point and ensure that government at all levels stay focused on their quest to industrialise the economy and grow our non-oil exports.”
Makoju added that no nation had successfully transited from developing to newly industrialised status without growing its manufacturing base.
He stated, “It is sometimes easy to forget how far behind we have slipped as a nation unless we make painful comparisons with nations that were once considered our peers. For instance, the industrial sectors in Malaysia and Thailand contribute over 30 per cent to Gross Domestic Product and over 70 per cent to exports.
“In stark contrast, Nigeria, a country that is a lot more endowed, has an industrial sector that contributes less than 10 per cent to the GDP and its total non-oil exports accounts for less than four per cent of aggregate export revenue.”
Others, who spoke at the event, lamented the marginalisation of engineering professionals in the country.
According to them, Nigerian engineers are being relegated to the background as the government and some individuals give priority to foreigners.
The Chairman, Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, said indigenous engineers had not been given their rightful place in the society.
Dokpesi, who is a marine engineer, noted that the problem had been politicised.
He added, “Recently, the Minister of Science and Technology attempted to deal with part of the problem. The political will to see it implemented is what this branch and every engineer must pursue.
“There must be restriction on lesser qualified technicians from abroad and on any person coming into the country claiming to be an engineer without proper training or experience.”
The Managing Director, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, Capt. Fola Akinkuotu, said the war against quackery in engineering would not be easy to win, and urged all engineers to see it as a challenge.
“Whatever it takes, let us show that we can do it, even if we have to fight to get it done. We will not move forward by just telling them that we are being marginalised,” he stated.
The President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, Mr. Kashim Ali, commended the branch members for their contributions to national development.
The NSE, Ikeja Branch Chairman, Mr. Akintayo Akintola, said the branch would sustain the legacy left by the past leaders of the society.