The Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) on Thursday decorated Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State as the 2021 Best Performing Governor in Infrastructure Development in Nigeria, with a call on his colleagues to emulate him.
The governor was also inducted as Honorary Fellow of the Institution at its 19th International Civil Engineering Conference and Annual General Meeting held in Asaba with “Civil Infrastructure Development: Challenges and Prospects Under Pandemic Situations” as theme.
In his remarks at the occasion, Okowa charged engineers in the country to study constantly to update their skills in order to adapt to rising challenges in the practice of the profession.
He said that initiatives on development projects had stalled across the country as government spending had been severely hampered because a large chunk of available resources was devoted to fighting and containing COVID-19.
The governor regretted that Nigeria’s case was exacerbated by free-fall of the naira, rising inflation, and mounting external debt while national and sub-national governments had been confronted with the dilemma of dwindling revenue amid rising cost of infrastructure development.
He said that it was axiomatic that the development of road and physical infrastructure was critical to building a stronger and more resilient economy and pointed out that the major challenge before Nigerians was the making of new policy guidelines for project design, assessment, costing and execution.
He, therefore, cautioned that “in the face of dwindling receipts, it is imperative that we align our systems with global trends and upscale our project deliverables through judicious allocation of resources, prudent management as well as strict and effective monitoring.
“Also crucial in this regard is the creation of Public-Private Partnership financing models that will accelerate infrastructure development, actualise critical investments and foster inclusivity.”
Okowa stated that his administration had striven to maintain fiscal discipline by keeping public expenditure within revenue limits.
According to him, this approach has been very useful in helping us to achieve rural-urban integration and urban renewal through massive development of infrastructure, which is one of the pillars of our Stronger Delta agenda.
He disclosed that his administration had embarked on the construction of 799 roads with a combined length of 1,577.8 kilometres of roads and 908.8k.34 kilometres of drainage channels as of June 30, 2021.
“The 20.28km Obotobo I – Obotobo II – Sokebolou–Yokri – Road, beside the Atlantic Ocean in Burutu Local Government Area is a classic example of our commitment to providing infrastructure of the most vital interest and impact.
“Indeed, the riverside communities of Burutu, Oporoza, Okerenkoko and Benekrukru, amongst others,have been given a facelift with well-paved roads.
“Building on the foundation laid by my predecessors, Asaba, the capital city of our state, has been transformed into one of the fastest growing cities in Nigeria.
“The Asaba Storm Water Drainage and the ultra-modern Central Secretariat Complex, which is nearing completion, are two of the flagship projects in the Asaba capital territory,” the governor said.
He commended the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) for the introduction of Engineering Regulations Monitoring (ERM) programme to monitor quality of jobs being executed while ensuring that qualified Nigerians were not discriminated against in the industry.
“Just last week, we domesticated this new policy with the inauguration of the Delta State Expatriates Monitoring Committee and the State Technical Committee in accordance with the provisions of the amended COREN Act.
“Hopefully, these initiatives will put an end to the spate of collapsed buildings in Nigeria, and see to the enforcement of standards and professional ethics in the engineering profession.
“My administration has since inception, regularly organized training and refresher courses for engineers in the civil service as a way of upgrading and updating their knowledge and skills on a continual basis.
“The Engineering Regulations Monitoring programme will definitely strengthen the existing quality control mechanisms and boost the practice of engineering in the State,” he stated.
In an address, Chairman of the occasion and President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Mr Babagana Mohammed, said that the place and importance of engineering profession in the physical development of infrastructure could not be over-emphasised.
He explained that infrastructure was the capital stock that propelled the provision of public goods in an economy as well as the provision of conducive living for the people.
Mohammed expressed hope that the communique from the conference would add more impetus to the development of civil infrastructure in Nigeria.
In a Keynote Address, Mr Emeka Eze, who is former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) said that infrastructure development entailed the process of planning, organising, coordinating and controlling resources to achieve a particular goal.
He stated that the government’s capacity to deliver on key infrastructure had been greatly hampered by COVID-19 and recommended Public-Private-Partnership in funding key infrastructure at all levels.
Eze called on financial institutions to play more role in the development of civil infrastructure in Nigeria, and advised engineers should learn new skills to be able to work from home and leverage on the development of digital technology in carrying out their work, especially during travel restrictions in a pandemic.
Welcoming guests to the conference earlier, National Chairman of NICE, Dr Jang Tanko, thanked Governor Okowa for hosting the conference in Delta.
He said the conference was organised to enable civil engineers meet annually to identify situations that affected societal needs and to proffer solutions to them.
“As a body tasked with the regulation of civil engineering works in Nigeria, we recognise the landmark achievements of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in road construction, erosion control and massive Central Secretariat for civil servants in Delta.
“In recognition of these laudable achievements, we are pleased to announce that the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers will confer on Governor Okowa the 2021 Best Governor in civil Infrastructure development award and investiture as an Honorary Fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers,” Tanko stated.