Gabriel Enenche —
Nigeria’s Minister of interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, yesterday at the 29th Founders’ Day Celebration of the Ikeja, Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and commissioning of the Engineering Resource Centre named in his honour, challenged professionals in the engineering field to up their game by proffering solutions to problems facing the country, including its housing deficits.
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He gave the charge at the Ralph Alabi Engineering Centre, Ogba, Lagos.
“I will urge engineers, in spite of the giant strides they have made, not to relent in their efforts at human development and progress in order to live up to the billing as merchants of applied knowledge, Aregbesola said.
“The best research and innovations will still take engineers to convert to reality.
“One major challenge of an urban centre like Lagos is housing shortage. According to the latest estimate, Lagos has 2.5 million housing deficits. This creates other problems of health, the environment and security.
“The overcrowding and high population density in some areas is a ticking time bomb in epidemics and pandemics of the future. Engineers should begin to design and construct low-cost houses that use less concrete and blocks and can be produced at a very fast rate in order to decongest and restore sanity to these areas”.
The minister also challenged engineers to come up with creative ideas to provide energy and reduce the cost of electricity and petroleum products in the country.
“One other major national challenge is energy – for homes, vehicles and industrial uses. We have had enough talk on the energy deficits and challenges. Engineers should now take the lead. There should be new approaches to providing cheaper and affordable alternative sources of energy and conversion of our machines, vehicles and appliances to function with these innovations.
“When I visited Egypt some 10 to 15 years ago, I found out that most of their taxis were very old vehicles, none of them caused toxic pollution on the roads. That society as at then had perfected the use of gas to power their vehicles with the use of simple engineering equipment.
“I am therefore using this occasion to challenge our engineers to come up with very creative ideas to help the country reduce its cost of subsidising petroleum for Nigerians,” the minister requested.
On the role of professionals in setting minimum standards for development in the country, Aregbesola stated that professional bodies should put themselves in the position to ensure that the government is getting value for money on projects and that the public feel their impact on the way government conducts its business, so they can gain the respect and admiration of the public.
“More than anything, engineers and professionals in general, should re-horn their sense of role and responsibility to the society in a developing economy like ours. On roads, for instance, engineers and other professionals should come up on an annual basis with the requirements and the cost of constructing different categories of roads in the different regions of the country.
“This will prevent just anyone from coming up with arbitrary figures that aid corruption and deplete public resources. Such a template should be available on any public works. We need to entrench a culture of government officials and contractors being conscious that they are being watched and scrutinised and that they will be held accountable.
“Unless these professional bodies put themselves in the position to ensure that the government is getting value for money on projects and the public feel their impact on the way the government conducts its business, they will find it difficult to gain the respect and admiration of the public and will be seen as part of the scams going on. In the developed world, it is these professional bodies that keep society in check and prevent people from going astray. Nigerian engineers therefore should be involved in the entrenchment of values – of works and service to the community,” Aregbesola stated.