New Telegraph

Accolades for Opaluwah, Chairman, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria

I am concerned about the level of development of our country. I believe that we can achieve much more than our current level. We need to re-engineer our development strategies in order to catch up with the rest of the world ––Engnr. Samson Opaluwah, (Chairman CORBON).

One of the most inspiring experiences of a journalist is coming into contact with, and engaging well-heeled and seasoned professionals, especially those making the desired difference in their chosen careers. What more, this has become imperative with us living in a country such as Nigeria that has been largely de-branded by the unpatriotic acts of our set of self-serving, overtly greedy and self-righteous leaders, not only in the stormy, political space but across the broad spectrum of our national life. The aim of course, is to highlight the unique attributes that have stood the icons out; head and shoulders above their peers and made them the inspiring game-changers..

That brings into the picture one’s recent engagement with the multiple, award-winning Engineer Samson Ameh Opaluwah, who is currently the Chairman of the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON). Given the critical challenges of infrastructural deficit and the menace of building collapse in the country he comes in as the right person to throw brighter light on how to fashion the best way forward. But first, let us have a peep into his persona. Opaluwah, who bagged a First Class (Hons) degree in Building Engineering from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria back in 1978 is unarguably a management expert with over 45 years of experience in project management, procurement, and facility management.

He is also a reputed International Consultant and Trainer in multiple disciplines, coming in as a Quality Assurance Assessor, an International Procurement Expert as registered by both CORBON and COREN. In fact, he is a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineer (FNSE), Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM) and the Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers (FNICE). Of great interest is that he has received huge commendations for leading the engineering team that restored the structural integrity of the clinker storage riling towers. This was a highly technical and delicate maintenance job in the heart of the cement factory’s production process.

Furthermore, he was one of the members of the first fully indigenous management team of Benue Cement Company Plc. which took over from the technical partners and ran the plant, taking it successfully to the Nigerian Stock Exchange as a blue chip investment. Similarly, he has supervised the building of the eight-storey, North Nigeria Investment Ltd. building on WAFF Road Kaduna which was the second tallest building in Northern Nigeria in 1979-81, in addition to the Union Bank branches located in Bauchi, Minna and Makurdi. Others include the First Bank branches in Bauchi, Yola and Jos, in addition to the UBA branches in Samaru and Zaria as well as the New Nigeria Packaging Factory in Kawo-Kaduna. With such a proud professional pedigree the factors that influenced his choice of profession while he was growing up came in his response: “In my final year in the Ochaja Secondary School, 1971, then in the old Kabba Province of Northern Nigeria, I discovered that I had equal competences in subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.

I therefore, prayed to God that between engineering and medicine the first opportunity I have will be His choice for me. As fate would have it, in November 1971, while waiting for the admission list for Higher School Certificate (HSC), he received provisional admission to study Civil Engineering and Building in Kaduna polytechnic.

“That was how my choice was made through prayers”. The challenges he encountered included funding,as the school fees was expensive but he was lucky to have benefited from scholarship schemes. Secondly, he found that there was dichotomy between polytechnic and the university graduates. It was tough but by God’s grace he went in and graduated with flying colours. It is of course, important to understand his specific designation and the role he plays. In his words: “ I am currently the Chairman, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria {CORBON} This is a Council set up by Act B13 LFN the regulatory body for the registration of Builders and the practice of Building Technology in Nigeria.

As the Chairman of Council, I oversee the regulation of the profession in Nigeria and also chair the tribunal to sanction offenders that contravene the Act”. With regards to the areas that he wants solutions to in the building profession this came as his response: “I have a personal ambition to ensure that an indigenous Nigerian building affordable to the common man is developed during my tenure. My Council is also poised to reduce, if not eliminate the incidence of building collapse in our country. We are also working assiduously to train competent building professionals, technicians and artisans not only to improve their technical capabilities but as our contribution to empowering the Nigerian youth and reducing unemployment.

“We are thus training the entire ecosystem of personnel in the building technology field. This has opened up opportunities for many entrants into the construction industry,” he said. On the significant roles the federal and state governments could play to prevent the issue of building collapse across the country, Opaluwah expressed his views thus: “It should be noted that government is the prime mover in infrastructure development and management in the country. Governments can generate the economy by pumping funds into the sector to kick-start the economy and reduce unemployment. State Governments can drastically reduce building collapse by domesticating the National Building Code in the states and enforcing their planning laws without fear or favour.

“They can also accept the offer of regulatory bodies such CORBON in monitoring sites to prevent collapse and failures of buildings either during construction or when in use.” He also explained the types of partnerships CORBON is into: “ CORBON has established the Projects Evaluation and Monitoring Unit{PEMU} in all the states of the Federation to assist in ensuring that correct, professional and legal practices are embarked upon by developers. This offer however, has to the supported by the State Government for whom the help is provided. Some have welcomed it while other are yet to.” Concerning the forms of legislation to advance his organisation’s mandate and vision, he stated that: “Yes. We need a law to enforce the National Building Code. Currently, the code has no force of law. It’s merely an accepted convention.

However, if a law to enforce it is enacted, it will criminalize anyone who contravenes it. It is important that offenders whose conduct on construction sites lead to collapse, loss of life etc. are sanctioned to serve as deterrent to others.” Interestingly, Opaluwah, who is an avid listener to good music; who also spends his leisure time reading and analyzing contemporary news of both local and international media is also a sportsman, who represented his schools in table tennis and volleyball. He listed Jesus Christ as his first hero stating that: “He is who gave His life that I might have mine in eternity.

I will forever worship and adore Him as my Lord and Saviour.” His second inspiration happens to be his maternal grandfather, Hon Gabriel Arinka, an elder, sawyer, contractor and politician who influenced his choice of civil engineering as a profession. His life trajectory therefore, reminds us of the wise saying of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Benjamin Disraeli that: “The secret of success is constancy of purpose”. And as Mahatma Gandhi added: “Learn as if you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow.” Big kudos to Opaluwah!

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