Umahi Lacks Managerial Competence To Pilot The Affairs Of Ministry Of Works
Early protest at the federal ministry of works by staffs of the ministry is a testament of the incompetency of the incumbent minister of the ministry, Senator David Umahi, his ego and pride is unsurmountable stepping on toes and bypassing due process in the ministry may jeopardize the progress of the ministry and is a call for concern.
Soon after his inauguration as the minister of the federal ministry of works by the president Bola Ahmed and his subsequent assumption of duty at the Federal Ministry of Works, the new Minister of Works, Senator David Umahi, by his utterances and body language left the most staff of his Ministry with little doubt about the impending danger of incompetence, arrogance, and impunity that the new helmsman will bring to the enviable Ministry.
According to information obtained from sources in the Ministry revealed that the minister displayed his early signs of managerial incompetence when the Minister, rather than following laid down guidelines for the take-off of his duties, called for a meeting of top management staff and contractors of the Ministry within 24 hours after he assumed duties.
His action was totally in violation of sections of “Briefs For New Political appointees” paramount among which required him to take a brief of activities of the Ministry from the appropriate Officers.
The requirement for taking briefs was designed by the Tinubu-led administration to acquaint Political Office Holders with the basic knowledge of their respective offices with a view of avoiding embarrassment and probable stagnation of the administration’s much-valued Renewed Hope Agenda.
One other major violation of sections of the Briefs for New Political appointees is the appointment of Chief of Staff by Umahi.
Umahi’s hasty decision to call for a meeting within 24 hours after arriving at the Ministry appeared premeditated because most parts of the meeting were used by the Minister to launder his image as one of the best-performing Governors in 8 years and also tacitly threaten his audience and “their backers in high places” that he was ready to step on toes in achieving Mr President’s Renewed Hope Agenda.
Sources at the meeting revealed utter shock and dismay among participants who thought the Minister was in a hurry to tell Nigerians his vision for the enviable Ministry.
Umahi also exhibited professional incompetence as an Engineer when, immediately after the meeting with the staff and contractors of the Ministry, he commenced a tour of Federal Highways without first taking briefs on the respective projects, contrary to engineering projects management procedure.
Many staff of the Ministry, contractors, and other stakeholders were at a loss as to why, despite a considerable number of files and other documents requiring his immediate attention, the Minister decided to rush to project sites.
Ironically, only a few construction activities are ongoing at most of the project sites due to the increased frequency of rainfall at this time of the year. Not surprisingly, Umahi’s decision to embark on the hurried inspection of projects boomeranged when he started making false statements and seriously exposing his professional incompetence.
Cases abound where Umahi made statements and gave directives unbecoming of an Engineer, thereby putting the enviable engineering profession in a bad light. One of such embarrassing directives was during the inspection of a section of the Enugu – Portharcourt expressway where he told the contractor handling the project to expose successive layers of the road pavement to traffic (and by implication, adverse weather conditions) for 30 days each before the provision of the surfacing layers. He had also stated at some fora that excessive traffic loading has no bearing on premature road failures, thereby ridiculing the engineering profession and granting tacit approval for the overloading of Nigerian highways.
Ironically, the Federal Government under the past Buhari administration had made some progress regarding the provision of weighbridges to curtail excessive traffic loading on the major Federal roads in the country.
Added to the needless delay in checking and understanding urgent matters on his table especially matters regarding major road projects such as the Abuja – Kaduna – Kano road, Onitsha – Enugu road, Enugu – Portharcourt road, etc., is the decision by Umahi that Federal roads will henceforth, be built using what he usually refer to as “concrete technology” as if concrete has not been in use for highway projects in this country.
Experts have confirmed that concrete technology has always been an integral part of road projects. However, they contend that there are 2 main types of road pavements…flexible and rigid. While flexible pavement is usually surfaced with bituminous surfacing materials, rigid pavement is usually surfaced with cement concrete materials. The experts therefore concluded that Umahi may be referring to concrete paved roads instead of the somewhat bogus “concrete technology”.
The Minister has been bragging about the huge success of his past administration in Ebonyi State in concrete technology and is determined to replicate it at the Federal level given the 50-year guaranteed life span of concrete pavement against flexible pavement with a life span of between 20 and 30 years. However, not long after the much-publicized acclaimed success of Umahi’s concrete technology, some photographs of failed parts of his concrete pavement were shared on some platforms.
Other credible sources indicate that Umahi is deploying intimidation tactics and flaunting the President’s name to cow staff and contractors of the Ministry into silence and paving the way for fostering his cronies for the seamless execution of his agenda in the Ministry.
Stakeholders are at a loss as to why a professional Engineer will rush to the President to request express approval for the wholesale adoption of concrete pavement on all Federal roads without recourse to relevant Professional and Regulatory bodies such as the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute, etc for relevant inputs given varying ground conditions and other environmental factors in different parts of the country.
International best practices also require pilot sites to monitor performance over some time. Impeccable Ministry sources also indicate that there is serious concern about imminent stagnation and probable abandonment of most of the projects because the Minister is very eager to foist his concrete technology on already existing contracts which were duly awarded by the Federal Government based on flexible pavement arrangement.
Efforts by the contractors and very senior Engineers of the Ministry who are more experienced than Umahi to make him see the reason for the likely negative legal, financial, and logistic implications on already existing contracts have been met with harsh and demeaning statements, insisting that Mr. President has approved the use of concrete technology, hence he (Umahi) cannot be bothered by any amount of blackmail from contractors and other stakeholders.
Further information from Ministry sources reveals that Umahi exhibits hypocritical tendencies in his dealings with staff. During meetings which he usually held intermittently between site inspection tours, he portrayed himself as a godly person who shows love and respect for fellow humans and always urged the staff to emulate him by doing the same.
In most of the meetings, he praises the staff, calls some of them by their names, and commends them for very good performance of their duties. However, to the surprise of many, he usually turned around much later in the same meetings to humiliate his audience through insults, unfounded allegations, and even curses.
Another worrisome issue regarding Umahi is the alleged role of a Retired Director in most of the Minister’s actions/utterances. The said Retired Director who bowed out of the Ministry early this year and was known for various irregularities while in service, appeared to have prevailed on the Minister to employ him with the sole aim of continuing his irregular acts on a higher scale under the Minister’s protection and also to unleash needless vendetta on Officers that merely frowned at his irregular activities while in service.
This is aside from trying to mislead the Minister on important policy matters mainly for selfish reasons. One such instance is the impending posting of an Officer out of the Ministry’s Headquarters for flimsy reasons.
More embarrassing and utterly strange was the situation where, before the whole world, Umahi betrayed his inner hatred for an officer when he called on the officer to listen to him while addressing the press somewhere between Warri and Kaima, along the East -West road. This is very unbecoming of a Minister of the Federal Republic.
Keen observers believe that Umahi’s actions have seriously dampened the morale and enthusiasm of very important stakeholders in the Nigerian road sector which may put the laudable goals of the Tinubu-led administration in jeopardy unless urgent steps are taken to address the anomaly.