Deputy Minority Leader in the House of Representatives, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, said it would be difficult to tackle the problem of poor road infrastructure in Nigeria if the funding bills were not not endorsed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Okechukwu said two bills, the Roads Fund Bill and the Roads Authority Bill, passed by the National Assembly to give the sector a facelift, were defeated.
The lawmakers made them known when the chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Rabiu Ali, led a delegation from the association to present him with a letter of honorary membership of the Nigerian Society of Engineers ( NSE).
The Deputy Minority Leader however appealed to President Buhari and all concerned Nigerians to pay heed to the bills.
He appreciated the COREN award, saying that the practice of engineering was important for the development of any society.
“I’m glad the NSE has put me at the top of their professional calling and rewards system. Seriously, engineering crisscrosses our lives. It controls 90% of our lives. If we neglect or ignore engineering , we do so at our own risk.When we arrived as a working committee, we were able to diagnose industry challenges, capacity, personal issues and how the profession is practiced.
This is how we came up with the idea of modifying the COREN law. We also diagnosed funding issues regarding road construction and maintenance and developed a road funding bill. We have also dealt with the question of the organizational structure of this company which will maintain and develop the roads. We also came up with the idea of a road administration bill. These bills have passed through all the galleries of the National Assembly, in the Chamber and in the Senate. It was forwarded to Mr. President, unfortunately we were not on the same page or they could not have been aware of its approval. Thankfully the COREN Bill has been passed and it is now an Act of Parliament and I am glad you are here to follow it.
“So we are praying that the roads will find the bill and that the road authorities bill will be taken into account.
“The other day I was listening to the minister and he said that they have over 10 trillion in liabilities and 765 billion in certificates in circulation. There is no way to develop growth in this country without addressing the issue of reforms to the system and these acts were supposed to address that. So I’m really glad that at least one is down and then the other two are gone. We need to continue the activism and the pressure from the press needs to be considerable.
“Anyone who tells you that road building in this country can have a golden age without these road reform bills being signed into law or without the President signing it, is kidding.
“Mr. Maren is the person who put forward the motion for us to investigate the PPP arrangement with respect to the Lagos-Ibadan highway and then the second Niger bridge. Otherwise it was PPP. did that we knew what we wanted to achieve because the P3 deals weren’t working we called the highways and all those people that were involved and finally those P3 deals after our public hearing we were on the same length wave with the minister. The federal government had to take over their assets and that’s why they rewarded them and that’s why you made them end.
“And it’s the funding mechanism that makes it possible for them to be the only projects that have a completion path. So if somebody tells you we’re finishing this or that, it’s not possible. Nobody is the problem of the roads in Nigeria. This is the method and the plan we have for this. So the earlier we deal with it, the better. And NSE is at the forefront. If construction practice is going well, our people will flourish. There is no problem. It’s not because of incompetent contractors. No one takes your money. Unless you have asphalted , no one will give you a dime. But they are not able to because it is not funded. So I wanted to take this opportunity to make this point. So I deeply appreciate what you I will also follow up to ensure that the profession gets the necessary momentum it is supposed to have.
Presenting the award letter earlier, Engr. Ali said the scholarship was a continuation of Okechukwu’s contribution to engineering in Nigeria, particularly in amending the COREN Act.
He said engineering got a boost with the new law.
“You worked so diligently as if you were an engineer at this act passed by the House of Representatives. You didn’t just stop there, you sent the bill to the Senate and used your position as president to impress your colleagues in the Senate to get the bill passed. And it was passed by both houses of the National Assembly and it went to the president for approval, you played a very big role in making sure the bill was approved by the president. Sir, what you have done for the family and the Nigerian engineering profession as a whole can only be imagined. We appreciated it because no one I have known in my thirty years of engineering practice has contributed as much to the development of the practice of engineering in Nigeria as you. To think about it, you’re not an engineer. You are a lawyer by profession. So we thought about how to show our appreciation. At COREN, we do not award honorary or merited awards or honors. So we approached our colleagues from NSE. There are 4 grades of NSE membership. The rank of Fellow is the highest rank of membership which is generally awarded to engineers who have reached a certain level in their fields of practice. And of course non-engineers like you who have made huge contributions to the developing engineering profession in Nigeria. NSE is 64 years old today. It started in 1958. And since then we have less than 20 honorary members of the Society and you are one of those 20 honorary members.
“Engineering has suffered in Nigeria. The act you have given us will go a long way in bringing engineering to the fore and in proper perspective in Nigeria. The fruits may not be seen immediately but I would like to advise that we have declared the implementation of the act and we are already seeing signs that the act will change the face of engineering practice in Nigeria. So we are here to deliver this letter to you for the awarding of NSE Honorary Membership,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Hon. Solomon Maren, a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, thanked COREN for his efforts to ensure Nigerian roads are safe for citizens while calling on the Federation government to do more.