Buhari’s cabinet and infrastructure challenge
What can a cabinet of lawyers do for a country of poor infrastructure base?
Considering the poor state of infrastructure in Nigeria, it was expected that professionals in the sector will dominate President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministerial list. Alas, it will be a “cabinet invaded by lawyers”.
For this reason, the cabinet may not excite some professionals in the infrastructure sector. Architects, quantity surveyors and valuers decried their non inclusion. They express worry that government might find it hard to fulfill its promise of delivering one million housing units per annum.
On the list is a civil engineer Suleiman Hussieni Adamu, a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). There are two town planners, Ibrahim Usman Jibril and Abubakar Bawa Bwari.
Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Branch Mr Emmanuel Alao responded to this saying, “It [the list] doesn’t cut across. Our members are left out. We need architects and estate surveyors.”
A quantity surveyor expressed, “Since portfolios weren’t attached, we’ll wait and see who takes the housing ministry. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch all but I don’t think there was any architect. I believe there was an engineer. We expected more technocrats though.”
In the previous government, two architects, Musa Mohammed Sada and Mike Onolememen were in the cabinet as Minister of Mines and Steel Development and Minister of Works respectively.
Beyond Buhari’s cabinet, those bothered with the matter cite the urban reforms embarked upon by the Kaduna State Governor Nasir el-Rufai as a pointer that professionals in the construction sector can do extra ordinary work. The Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku is an architect. Erstwhile governor of Kano State Mohammed Rabi’u Musa Kwankwas has received acclamation for positively impacting on Kano infrastructure. He is an engineer.
But Festus Adebayo, organizer of Abuja Housing Show said it is not all about area of calling but personality of the person and their ability to use the human resource for effective management.
He pointed at the diverse departments and units in the ministry of housing for instance: survey, architecture, engineering as areas with all the needed professionals “all the minister needs do is to harness their expertise.” Adebayo opted for a minister who does not belong to any of the above ,saying this will check bias to a particular area.
He mentioned former ministers of Housing, Ama Pepple and Olusegun Mimiko as having done well though they were not professionals in the housing sector.
President Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB) Tijani B. Shu’aib said, “For now, I can only say there is no builder yet in the cabinet but we’re still hopeful. I believe even if there is no builder, all the ministerial nominees chosen by the president are capable. So whoever that will come to the built environment, we will partner with him to ensure quality delivery. I believe in the president’s choice and we are here to give appropriate professional advice.”
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina has since described the presence of many lawyers on the ministerial list as a coincidence. Poor infrastructure base Speaking at the Presidential Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on “Infrastructure Ranking and Scorecard Roadmap” on October 20, 2014 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) Mr Ademola Olorunfemi lamented the poor infrastructure base in the country saying government must invest heavily in both human and material resources for infrastructure to improve.
Olurunfemi who noted that “infrastructure is the capital stock that propels the provision of public goods and services in an economy” said Nigeria is currently at a pivotal moment in terms of maintaining and modernizing its infrastructure stock.
He said, “Many of our roads, bridges, water systems, and our national electricity grid which were put into place several decades ago are simply overwhelmed or worn out.
The NSE president said, “The Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-2015 by the World Economic Forum ranked Nigeria 133 out of a total of 144 countries with a score of 2.7 from a scale of 1 to 7 where 1 implies extremely underdeveloped and 7 implies extensive and efficient by international standards) in an assessment of the quality of Overall Infrastructure we had a ranking of 125 with a score
Railway, a major means of transport is hardly available to Nigerians