Bldr. Solomon Akinwole Ogunbusola was inaugurated as the President of the prestigious Federation of Construction Industry, Nigeria last year. A Building and Civil Engineering Contractor and Project Management Specialist with over 25 years’ experience, he is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of S & M Nig. Ltd, an indigenous Civil Engineering Company based in Abuja which he established in January 2001. Until then, he was Senior Engineer Management staff and Chief Estimator at Dantata and Sawoe Nig. Ltd, an indigenous Roads Construction Company in Abuja where he began his career in 1991.
Bldr. Ogunbusola holds a degree in Building from Nigeria’s University of Jos and has attended certificate courses in Road Construction and Management at the Rockhurst University in the USA. He is a corporate member of the Nigerian Institute Of Building [NIOB], the Institute of Management Consultantsof Nigeria [NIMC] and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria [CORBON].
Bldr. Ogunbusola has taken part in several construction projects across Nigeria. His firm is currently executing a number of road and other construction works in the Federal Capital Territory and other parts of the country. In this interview, he shares insights on FOCI, the organization’s 57th Annual General Meeting, the increasingly popular annual exhibition which took place in Abuja in June and his tenure as FOCI President and the Nigerian construction industry.
Background of FOCI
The Federation of Construction Industry is a voluntary organization of Building or Civil Engineering Contractors and other professionals who have association with the construction industry in Nigeria. FOCI was formerly known as the Federation of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors [FOBACEC] but the name was later generalized to incorporate Associate, Information and other membership types. Membership has grown from 7 foreign firms in 1954 to 125 firms of indigenous, indigenized as well as foreign firms.
All FOCI members are reputed for specific and genuine jobs in Nigeria. There are no shoddy jobs; there are no records of abandoned projects or collapsed buildings ever handled by the industry. aspiring members are thus scrutinized for assurance of their integrity, vocational competence and activeness in accordance with FOCI standards.
The AGM and Exhibitions
The Exhibitions began some seven years ago as a small part of the Annual General Meeting where individual companies in the industry were able to showcase their works. It has since been expanded yearly to incorporate new innovations. We began to bring in manufacturers and sellers of products and equipment from different continents to exhibit their products and to give us details of their equipment; how they can be sourced and maintained. Members of the industry can in turn go to different parts of the world to get resources for their work.
Participants are exposed to technological developments around the world. In the last four years, the exhibitions has increasingly gained recognition as a veritable business and networking platform for construction professionals and support service providers globally.
The public can look forward to an even bigger and better exhibition than we had this year in 2014. We hope to bring in more product exhibitors from which the construction companies can benefit; from Korea, Japan, Italy, China, America, Germany and around the world. Beyond the exhibitions, we want them to establish liaison offices in Nigeria where people can go and transact business with them,and this is beginning to happen. Companies that participated have begun to express their desire to establish liaison offices in Abuja or Lagos.I did say in my opening speech at the AGM that exhibitors will soon begin to see the impact of the exhibitions.
How has FOCI benefited its members and the Construction industry as a whole?
We have a policy whereby we discuss with the Federal Government. FOCI is an institution that is well known to the government as it produces the building work rate/schedule that government uses to date. FOCI also produced a regulation of construction workers’ salary that the Federal Ministry of Works and Labour assents to and uses in government payments..
FOCI has done a categorization of construction companies for use by the Federal Ministry of Works where the size of a company determines the type of project that it gets from the government.
How does this help the industry?
Part of the problem has been that the smaller companies apply for jobs that they are not able to execute to specification. Now everyone will be recognized. Both the multinationals and the smaller companies can apply for jobs from the government and get recognition. We are actually encouraging the smaller and indigenous companies to come up and it is noteworthy that some smaller companies now compete favourably with bigger ones.
When were you elected as FOCI president, and what is your vision?
I am in the second year of my tenure. According to my acceptance speech when I was inaugurated, my goal is to see FOCI gain even better recognition from the government. Through this we will have the ability to control a good number of the shoddy construction works going on in the industry. If FOCI is placed as part of priority by the government, it will be able to advise it on what to do about collapsed and abandoned projects. When you find patches on a road within six months of its construction it means that such a road has collapsed. A badly constructed road is as bad as a poorly erected building; the fact that it did not collapse on someone’s head and kill him does not mean that the structure is okay.
Before the end of my tenure we should be able to give jobs to people that are ready to do quality work and deliver on schedule. A two-year contract should not stretch into seven years. Really, delay in project execution can at times come from delay in payment from the government, but at the same time, part of the rule of the Bureau of Public Enterprises is that if a client does not have the money to execute the job, such contract should not be awarded. Hence, the government can checkmate these problems if the guiding rules are enforced.
Nigerian Construction Industry
The construction industry is supposed to be one of the highest employers of labour apart from the government. When you are into construction, you employ a lot of people. Still, more people will come to buy and sell at your construction site. If the construction industry is settled, most of the present unemployment problems in Nigeria will be a thing of the past. However, people are looking for white-collar jobs.Everyone wants to work in the office and that will not help us.
Nigeria can make close to what it makes from petroleum from the construction industry but we have neglected the area. The attention that government is supposed to put in the construction industry is not forthcoming.This is why we have to make serious awareness about it to the government now until we are given the attention that is required.
However, let me say that every country has its challenges, no country is perfect. All we are trying to do is to manage our resources. Nigeria’s situation will improve as time goes on. I have very big belief that in the very no distant future we will be where we are supposed to be.