President Muhammadu Buhari says the sophistication involved in the bombings of oil and gas installations in the Niger Delta indicates that those behind it are not ordinary Nigerians, but professionals.
Buhari stated this at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday shortly after he was decorated as the grand patron of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAE).
President Buhari specifically charged the NAE to appeal to its members not to deploy their skills for the destruction of the the infrastructure built over the years.
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.”
Buhari, who disagreed that Nigerian engineers were under-utilised, said his government would utilise the talents and skills of local engineers to rebuild the nation’s ailing infrastructure.
“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 up-taking and performing in the field,” he said.
President Buhari also acknowledged that well-trained and highly experienced engineers contributed immensely to the nation’s infrastructural development.
According to the president, both military and civilian administrations over the years depended on Nigerian engineers for designs and constructions across the country.
“By insisting that we must be cost effective in building infrastructure, we will utilise Nigerian engineers. I respect them a lot, and I know it takes time to be trained as an engineer,’’ he said.
He said local engineers contributed more than 90 percent to the design and realisation 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.
The president added that the success of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was largely hinged on the skills of local engineers.
“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,” he stated.
The president said individual political leaders should be blamed for the nation’s ailing infrastructure, not the engineers who, he noted, had always been willing to contribute to national development.
“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,” he said.
In her remarks, NAE President Joanna Maduka described science and technology as well as innovation as key drivers of growth across the globe.
She lauded Buhari’s administration’s anti-corruption war, expressing optimism that it would turn around the fortunes of the economy.
Maduka, while urging the Federal Government to explore and engage the multiple engineering talents in Nigeria for more purposeful results, said the government’s effort towards fixing the infrastructure was very crucial to the development of the country.
“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 under-utilised 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”.