Engineer Saidu Hassan is the National Chairman of the Nigerian Institutions of Highway and Transportation Engineers (NIHTE). In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY, he spoke about the recent policy of the Federal Government on road construction and suggested a way out.
What will you say regarding the directive that any contractor without a COREN-certified Engineer must not be allowed to work on the project site?
COREN certified Engineers to work on a project is not something new in our profession. It implies that you have attained a level where you will know what to do on the site project and you have the necessary technical knowledge to supervise the work that is being given is you. At any project site as a contractor, you will first present the list of your Engineers, technicians, and all the people who will work with you. Even at the stage of procurement, rendering you must present the list of staff before you are even awarded the contract. It is stipulated in the procurement act too so it’s not something new. Their numbers and years of experience so before you even get the job you’re even supplying the condition the minister is talking about not at the site but they’re there at the procurement act.
Regarding the issue of using Asphalt and Concrete Pavements in road projects, the minister has put it to rest by conditioning that the contractor must sign a performance bond that the road project must not fail within the lifetime of the project. What is your take?
Each road project is designed for a specific number of years like 20 years, 30 years, and 50 years. So, I don’t know what condition the minister is saying because all the lifespans of projects are stipulated in the condition of the contract. Under any contractual agreement, you have entered with the government all these guidelines are spelt out. So in your condition of contract we call it volume 3 or what have you. They’re all stated there in terms of liability, and budget before you start any project you must have signed an agreement. I just want to be very clear because you can’t just say you must do this without being part of the stipulated agreement.
Can you clear the air on the speculations that the use of concrete pavement for road projects is cheaper?
Our position has always been that both Concrete (Rigid) Pavement and Asphalt (flexible) are both materials required to do our work. So it’s not an issue, that’s why we say your engineering judgement and economy will determine which type of pavement you will choose and this choice is based on your design analysis, like what kind of terrain are you appealing to such material? As a layman let me give you an example in Abuja here you have asphalt all over the place but it’s not 100 percent asphalt because your bridge is a concrete pavement. All these flyovers in Abuja are concrete pavement and what they did is they are composite because after finishing the concrete work they now lay asphalt on top of it for uniformity so you won’t know you’re transmitting between one to the other. Therefore, using Asphalt or concrete is not an issue of debate it is about the terrain.
However, it is argued that bitumen importation is having serious negative effects on Naira?
We also have a lot of asphalt plants, machinery, and expertise so do you now one day throw them away what do you want them to do? If you’re saying bitumen is expensive because of importation why can’t we harness our bitumen deposit in Ondo state? I always ask myself we have natural bitumen in Ondo state why don’t we say as policy makers this contractor, multinational go and invest in Ondo state? Is Ondo state not part of Nigeria and can’t we benefit from the resources given to us by God? So we should be fair to everybody and this is my personal opinion.
So, how can we strike the balance because we have bitumen in Ondo state?
What did they want to strike the balance again when it was deposited in the country? You see as professionals we want to avoid controversial things. Even if you say you want to do concrete do you have enough cement that will cater for the road construction in the country? If now we doing the roads and the contractor goes to the market to talk bulk cement or sacks is the volume available for works? I don’t know because I didn’t do the research and don’t have the data. So we can research to find out that if we are going to do our roads like certain kilometers what is the volume of cement that it will consume? So we have that quantity on the ground?
We have to research that and if the existing cement factory in Nigeria cannot cater to this volume then we must build new industries. And if you’re building new factories in the same period you can use it to harness our bitumen in Ondo state. Also, most of the equipment we’re going to use on concrete is not in the local market here so you can carry your money and get them.
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