By Miriam Humbe
The Nigerian Building and Roads Research Institute, NBRRI, was established in 1977 by law to build capacity and to conduct integrated research and development in the building, roads and construction sectors of the Nigerian economy. NBRRI is also mandated by law to design buildings and roads best suited to the Nigerian environment, handle issues of cost and specifications for structures, bridges and roads in association with other regulatory bodies and to look at alternative construction materials to alleviate the condition of life in the country among other things.
Another area the institute has ventured into in the last three years is the construction of skills acquisition centres spread across the six geo-political zones of the country. The main idea behind these centres is to provide facilities that would train the local people in different aspects of skills, also called ‘NBRRI technologies’. The centres are also meant to offer a structure that harnesses abundant locally available construction materials in the form of laterite and long-lasting burnt bricks in order to make a difference in the lives of people.
In the face of prevailing deficit in qualitative infrastructure necessary for accelerated development, the skills acquisition centres and the training they offer to benefiting communities may be availing the nation unparalleled options in the much required sustainable infrastructure, beginning at the grassroots.
In a recent encounter with Peoples Daily in Abuja, Director-General of NBRRI, Prof. Danladi Matawal, while speaking on the viability of these projects, said, “We have also been involved very successfully, in promoting NBRRI technologies for access and feeder roads particularly; we have such projects in Kaduna and the constituencies that are benefiting from these facilities have been full of praises for NBRRI”.
Since 2013, NBRRI has made its presence felt in Benue state as well and the projects there are still ongoing. “We are planning more for road projects. The skills acquisition centers are in two categories: there are those belonging to NBRRI like in Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Plateau and the one in our complex in Otta, in Ogun state which is providing an expansion facility for our laboratories and offices. The second category is the one brought as constituency projects by the National Assembly members mainly from Benue. Also, in 2013, we have new projects in Ogun, Ondo, kano and Sokoto”, Prof. Matawal said.
When these projects are being constructed, it is expected that the people living in those particular constituencies where they are sited, should participate so that they can benefit in the end. It is also acceptable that when the projects are completed, there should be facilities for community assembly, carpentry, computer and ICT training, training for construction techniques, metal work as well as for women (cosmetology and weaving). So in virtually all the centres, there is one complex that is provided with cheap alternative technology for people to have a central facility for community services.
He explained that the philosophy behind these projects has well been achieved. “Firstly, we have completed a number of these facilities, one centre has been handed over, the one that is going to be an extension for offices in Otta is about to be handed over and is going to change the outlook of the institute (NBRRI) there because the conference hall itself will provide an attraction for people to come and rent in addition to having a cafeteria for staff and people outside to come and eat. Also, one has been finished in Benue, the centres in Akwa Ibom and Plateau have gone very far. When they are all completed we must then begin to look into the next phase which is to equip these centres in order to make these facilities useful”, Prof. Matawal said.
On the other hand, although the centres are built for the communities, there is the possibility that someday, they can be centres of research for the institute. The centre in Otta is going to be phenomenally useful because ever since the institute (NBRRI) registered its presence in Otta when it moved to that location, there has not been any tangible building expansion. Presently, the Building and Roads Research departments appear congested in one building; and the laboratory facilities are in dire need of a bigger space than the one they are in now. So the new Otta centre will actually address some of the office and lab challenges that the institute is facing at the moment.