– Samuel Ayara
As with charity in societies around the globe, development must always stay conscious of the home as the nucleus that bears the brunts, causes and effects of every action; be it environmental, social or economical. This in part explains why most of the top ten construction companies in the United States of America are American indigenous Civil Engineering Companies, with Bechtel topping the league, while the Turner Corporation, AECOM, The Whitting Turner and Kiewit Corporation following in the order of their listing. The underlying drift in this is the assurance that a firm with maximum American interest would better serve their society.
Just like the liberal American society, in Germany, the first five of the top ten construction firms include Bagels Baumaschinen, Zeppelin, Multimon, Miltex and Max bogl; dominating the top five spots does not make the rest of the first twenty construction outfits in Germany foreign owned. The story takes same drift across Europe and the Asian continent; even struggling climes of the western world, will hardly trust their development in the hands of foreigners.
Remaining a shopping ground for never do wells have become the lot of most of the African continent, which has almost aimlessly opened out to foreigners, and in the circumstance given up all that could pass them for a sovereign people, with keys to their development safely tucked in the loins of non-nationals. Nigeria in its listing of best construction companies clearly betray local content, lining out Julius Berger, Setraco, Reynolds, ELALAN and Costain (marginally Nigerian owned) as first five of her ten best civil engineering outfits.
Nigeria is not alone in this darkness of foreing dominance and inability to grow a system that encourages indigenous participation, Ghana in the same region also lists Arup, Mitcheletti & co, Aurecon, Joshob construction and Desimone construction as their top five construction firms, with all on its listing owned by foreigners, while they are completely condemned to the downwardly spiralling economic realities of capital flight.
This receding presence of indigenous fronts in civil engineering holds more blames for the government than the professionals – upon graduating and obtaining required certifications to practice civil engineering, the Nigerian government has glaringly abandoned graduates of this field to fate in the capitally intensive endeavour of setting up civil engineering firms. Elsewhere, the government has a way of bringing these professionals together and getting them empowered to function, this is where ours’ is grossly short on capacity building.
Leading the change from this dark narrative, Governor Udom Emmanuel in Akwa Ibom State has arguably done more than any state administration in Nigeria at encouraging indigenous construction firms and entrusting them with very sensitive projects, which some have been delivered within time and to specifications. A classical example of state sponsored leap in capacity is the continuous rising of a homegrown construction brand that has been positioned to square up in the national league of construction firms; the Hensek Integrated Services, owned by Engr. Uwem Okoko, an Akwa Ibom son.
By sheer commitment to sustaining an expansive rise, Hensek has proven in ways than few that the hitherto lack of confidence to deliver on jobs can be replaced with precised delivery that guarantees user satisfaction. For the Ikot Abasi born construction entrepreneur, his advent on the Akwa Ibom construction space has cemented plausible goodwill for other indigenous hands in the construction industry, as they have necessarily found a standard to pattern their delivery after. This is good for the state, we can now agree that indigenous contractors are not synonymous to failed and abandoned projects.
Not much defines capacity than seeing him lead his team to succeed where others were adjudged to have failed. A 2021 visit by the Uyo branching the Nigerian Society of Engineers to some of his project sites was quite instructive as it offered convincing grounds to submit that in keeping to professional standards, Hensek has not only made the state proud, but has shown class distinction at preserving the values of his profession. Little then wonders his not long ago fellowship investiture by the Nigerian Society of Engineers; one of the very few our state is blessed with.
With an estimated staff strength of over one thousand, I have seen a fellow who almost amounted to naught rise to the ocassion of a productive living, since joining Hensek Integrated services; this could only have been possible because Okoko stepped in to bridge the gap of confidence and in the process won a chunk of the space we used to watch lesser qualified foreigners dominate. It has been consoling to realize that major work sites around the state is now devoid of chimney-styled men who dehumanized workers in such manners that made labour distasteful.
In expanding capacity, Hensek has shown through numerous examples how much the people can grow when an indigenous brand grows. Not only has capital flight been checked, his scale of commitment to corporate social responsibilities is such that has never been experienced in the state; from massive medical outreaches, to entrepreneurial suports, educational grants and other social interventions, Uwem Okoko in sustaining the streak in quality deliveries, has shown that charity can better begin at home when a home figure is supported to stand.
On the firmament of infrastructural interventions is the imposing presence of Hensek integrated services, and in such manner that has seen him spread tentacles to almost all of the state’s ten federal constituencies. How he sustains this energy and not compromise quality is manifest in the top of the class outcomes his jobs have recorded; with attendant lesser post construction consequences, which is a departure from the poor adherence to environmental impact analysis and professional advices that in times past got government always running to project site to salvage unpleasant situations.
Investing patriotism in building infrastructures in Akwa Ibom clearly stands Hensek out as an idea we must strive to preserve if we seek to keep experiencing the class act he has so far brought to bear in his deliveries which so far include Construction of 12.1Km Ikot Akpan Abia-Oboyo Ikot Ita-Enen Nsit Road in Nsit Ibom LGA, the 9.5km Ring Road III from Aka Road – Nwaniba Road, 17.84Km Ikot Ikpo Inua-Ikot Etenge Ndon-Atan Eka Iko- Ikot Akpabio-Ikot Okpok-Ikot Efre Road with 4No Spurs and 3No. Bridges in Ikot Abasi LGA, 3.5km Ring Road II from Aka Road to Abak Road, Uyo LGA, Expansion of Airport Road, 4.6km School of Arts and Science Road Ikono, Mkpok-Okat Road in Onna LGA, 13.7km Obotme-Ukpakon-Nturi-Okpoto- Ikpanya Road with 30m span Bridge in Ibiono Ibom/Ini LGAs, these clearly excludes the mono-kilometre roads and countless interventions the company has undertaken in the last six years.
It is by far unassailable that this doyen of civil engineering services has in the last ten years expanded his equipment base in a manner our clime has never experienced with an indigenous firm. These strides have been phenomenal of the preparedness he arrived the construction sector with, when he took the bull step of incorporating Hensek Services in 2006; a time most people thought such investment as a risk they could not dare. So far Hensek holds the bragging rights for an expansive equipment inventory, which has taken off the burden of relying on people outside the state for construction essentials; little wonder that he reserves the right of first refusal for every job the state government revoke from non-performing contractors.
In emphasizing the urgency of growing capacity for other indigenous engineering brands to emulate, we must be concerned about the staying power of our indigenous firms, if Akwa Ibom must attain such heights of reckoning that the larger Nigerian society will come to the light of our commitment to scaling up local capacity to measure up with reputable international standards. We must not lose the deliberate inroads Hensek has won in this regard and must strive for a future our indigenous firms can completely replace foreign companies in every possible specialty.
Akwa Ibom will grow to help bridge Nigeria’s infrastructural gap when Hensek and more of his kind are developed to rise to the challenge; no time is too late to commit heart, mind, might and will in metamorphosing our indigenous brands to ideas the world cannot ignore; it is a truism that when the passion is right, nothing is impossible.
Samuel Ayara writes from Ibong Otoro in Abak LGA.