The Chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers, FCT Branch, Engr, Dr. E. B. Coker has challenged the Power, Works and Housing Minister, Babtunde Fashola to defend his assertion that low patronage of local construction companies by the Federal Government was due to the incompetence of local firms and indigenous engineers, saying that whatever may be lacking in local firms is a manifestation of government’s insensitivity, corrupt tendencies and lackadaisical attitude to developing indigenous firms across the engineering sub sectors.
In an exclusive interview with the our correspondent in Abuja, Coker, who doubles as Fellow of the Society said ‘there is nothing fantastic about foreign firms, the only difference between Nigerian building firms and foreign construction companies is that foreign construction companies have all the equipment that the practice needs while local ones have not,’ adding that local construction companies are deprived of necessary support by government and financial institutions.
‘I repeat that nothing is fantastic about Julius Berger, Reynolds, SCC and others,’ adding that it is still the Nigerian engineers in various inspectorate divisions of government establishments that inspects and approves projects executed by Julius Berger, SCC and other construction companies.
‘We detect their professional errors, and we correct them and they admit that there are errors in their projects,’ he said adding that the ‘flaws and incompetency of the so called superior engineers or companies’ are best known to us because we detect them in some projects executed.
‘They are not more perfect than local engineers.
‘We need the support of our government: support is to have technology.
‘It is in view of corruption that government continued to fail to support local companies to acquire the necessary equipment they need.
Coker, who advised Fashola to change his perception of local contractors said if they are given the requite support and opportunity, ‘indigenous engineers will dazzle the imagination of policy makers, including Fashola.’
According to him, in engineering practice, some notable Nigerian scholars have demonstrated superior intelligence against their American and European counterparts. ‘So there is no basis that should fuel the assumption that western companies or engineers are better than Nigerian engineers or companies.’
To buttress his argument, Coker mentioned the late Professor Awojobi of the University of Lagos and Chief Olunloyo, a former governor of Oyo state as Nigerians who achieved eminence in engineering to the admiration of their European counterparts.
‘In his time, Awojobi was second to none in the world.
‘The late Olunloyo who was governor of Oyo state also showed superior strengths when he competed with his western engineering colleagues.
‘So if we are supported, the sky is our limit in Nigeria. The failure on the part of government to support local engineers has led to huge capital flight which has adversely affected our economy.