ZEKERIYA NKETOM is the Managing Director of Slavabogu Nigeria Limited, the company handling the redevelopment of Onikan stadium, Lagos. A Turkish national, he has a masters degree in earthquake engineering. He spoke with VICTOR GBONEGUN on how to mitigate the challenges of the industry, especially building collapse and the need for construction technology parks among other issues.
Your company has been in Nigeria for upward of 6years, what is your assessment of the industry?
Nigeria has a huge potential and there is a long way to do too many projects in the country especially being one of the first 20 biggest economies in the world, it deserves much more.
The only setback in Nigerian construction sector is the poor quality control of works. It is really a big challenge. Companies should have quality control laboratories that are independent to give change order, all to correct defects in projects. This is fundamental to the industry because it is only best quality of work that could sustain the survival of an organization especially in winning big local and international contracts.
Project should be able to stay for more than 20-years without breaking down at any point and must be sustained with good maintenance to forestall any technical problem. Unfortunately what we see are projects that stay for just 5 or 6-years and then you would need to re-do them again. In many of the projects around, poor quality materials are used to develop them because of commercial interest.
Some contractors do import cheaper materials to build projects and with those kinds of materials, projects cannot be sustained for 20 or 30years. Contractors must be able to deliver high quality projects for their end-users.
With our discovery, some state government are making master plans for road and infrastructural development, with this the country would be a better place for all in the next 20years. Nigerian standards are unique but dearth of quality control is a setback in the sector.
What do you think is the major challenge specifically to road construction and for foreign companies?
Although heavy rains and soil conditions make road development very difficult in Nigeria but the quality of the contractor also matters. It is not easy to immediately come from another country and understand Nigerian mentality, the people, their language, culture and beliefs; it really takes time to figure it out.
However, once you understand them, the problem is solved. For example, some of our foreign staff, once they come in, they don’t want to go back, they love to work here. I have worked in Russia, Ukraine, Qatar, Kuwait and from my experience, anybody that wants to come to Nigeria, are generally afraid saying oh Africa, there is malaria and other sicknesses there, especially when they visit the internet. The belief is that there is terrorism and battle on-going in Nigeria but that is all lies. The people are really very nice and peaceful, if you are careful, you can live peacefully in Nigeria and importantly try to mix and be one of them.
The importance of technology to construction is crucial, how can Nigeria improve on its level of technology adoption for infrastructural development, also, can technology help to solve issues of building collapse?
Construction Machinery Equipment has developed over many years due to the rapid advances in technology. Machine technology is evolving and developing every year especially now that infrastructural projects are heavy machinery based and not workmanship dependent. With modern machinery, you can get quality works, save time and achieve more efficiency.
Nigeria contractors need to always improve and renew their machinery parks because new machineries are key to road construction and other projects. It is advisable for contractors to renew their machinery park after every five years or at most six years to improve. Unfortunately construction in Nigeria is based on concrete and cement, modern technology and machineries are good for projects.
Building collapse could come as a result of old engineering work production and short life span of project. Nigeria needs to work on heat insulators for the exterior walls to save a lot of energy, heat insulators saves money.
What should Nigerians be expecting from the Onikan stadium project?
The stadium is an important project for the people. Already we have branded the fence given the importance of the stadium. Our aim is to ensure high quality job delivery. It might turn out to be small but very nice stadium at the end. It would be of FIFA quality and standard. There will be 4-stands completely covered with membrane roof, high quality artificial play ground approved by FIFA for international games, the seats would be comfortable and completely 4-stands, guest rooms, special drainage system amongst others are inclusive. There will be catering as well as escape units and car parks too. The project would really go fast by the grace of God.
In terms of your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), what are you doing in that regards?
95per cent of our staffs are Nigerians, we only bring in some management team, and they are our quality control team who knows the dynamics of the company and the projects.
Our machine plants operators, workmanship etc. are Nigerians. We have trained over 1,500 staff that can work with us for our future projects.
Also, we educate students on internship on the use of new technology and after the completion of their degree they work with us. Everywhere we execute new projects; we make sure that we renovate schools. We pay premium to the issues of health and safety of our workforce through our policy. However, staffs must also protect themselves and management should not allow them to take risks. Company must however take responsibilities for accidental events.
How would you describe the quality of Nigerian engineers?
As a matter of fact Nigerian engineers are very good especially the ladies. When engineers are still young, they are easy to teach and train compared to when they grow old. The power of Nigeria is the population of the young people and so they need to be equipped with needed skills.
Construction often leave behind a lot of environmental issues, how can it be tackled and your suggestions on how Nigeria could boost its infrastructure?
It is pertinent to ensure that companies use environmental friendly machineries. The usage of gypsum cement instead of the normal cement is necessary because of its environmental friendly nature and does not emit carbon.
Nigeria should be concerned about timely construction of projects, especially high quality projects because international fund support especially for infrastructure are given to countries that will use the money for the purpose which they have been requested for. There are so many European funds available for special purpose projects. All developing countries especially, the G-20members need loans to improve their country and they should not be afraid of getting loans. For example my country has $500billion debt and some Europe countries owed about $3trillion debt and Nigeria debt is just about $60billion which is nothing compared to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP). High quality roads will reduce accidents, promote trades in the area of states strengths, improve agriculture and bring a lot of economic benefits especially in the area of job creation.
Credit: The Guardian