By Ed Malik, A | October 12, 2022
Engr. Saliu Osifueme Ahmed, Managing Director, Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority, is a civil engineer whose professional imprints in landmark projects dot the Nigerian engineering construction landscape.
Combining professionalism with business acumen he has managed firms providing engineering, management consulting, investment and hospitality services to individuals and private and public institutions across Nigeria.
To many who come into contact with him one way or the other, he comes across as a social entrepreneur and quintessential philanthropist, who has over the years volunteered his services and resources to humanity and society focusing on the needs of communities across the country – promoting literacy and health, alleviating poverty and hunger, and providing skills and empowerment, especially for rural dweller for the most vulnerable.
He is a selfless donor to worthy causes both directly and in partnership with numerous local and international groups, especially the Rotary International, where he is a ranking member. A man who is always socially involved in several communities where he has worked, Engr. Saliu Ahmed has received accolades and prestigious honours, including the traditional title of the Sadiq of Auchi Sacred Kingdom, the Alabunmu Alabuwe of Atosin-Idanre Kingdom conferred on him by His Royal Majesty, the Awosunye of Atosin, Idanre in Ondo State, as well as Rotary International’s highest individual recognition – the Service-Above-Self award.
Ahmed’s experience in the engineering field is quite extensive, spanning over three decades and covering general civil engineering construction and consultancy, transportation, water resources, irrigation and dams, and highway engineering, with considerable strength in digital presentations of soil profiles, pavement conditions, soil boring logs and graphics. He also has valuable skills in the field of rural water supply, institutional strengthening and facilities management.
Born in September 1965 at Auchi, in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State, Engr. Saliu Ahmed obtained a bachelor’s degree (B.Eng.) in Civil Engineering from the University of Benin in 1987 and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the same university in 2000. He is currently running a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Highway and Transportation at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State.
His pre-graduate education was a five-year secondary school education at Unity School, Agbarho, Warri, in Delta State where he obtained his West Africa School Certificate in 1982 and primary education at All Saints Primary School in, Auchi, Edo State
With several landmark engineering construction feats to his name, Ahmed, a COREN-registered engineer is a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and a Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Executives as well as a Fellow of the Institute of Supervision and Leadership.
In 1988, freshly-minted engineer did his National Youth Service, with his primary place of assignment being Enplan Group where he worked on the Jibiya Dam Project and numerous others. After his service, he started his career with Parkman Nigeria Limited where he was actively involved in the application of computers to solving engineering problems.
During his stint at Parkman between 1990 and 1993, he was solely responsible for organizing field survey data using the Digital Ground Model (DGM) software package for the World Bank-aided Reactivation of Pilot Irrigation Schemes in various parts of Kaduna State for the Kaduna Agricultural Development Project (KADP). He later left Parkman to join the Integrated Engineering Associates as Associate Engineer in charge of the company’s Roads and Highway Division.
A fast climber on the job mobility scale, he again left Integrated Engineering Associates after one year and took up appointment with Scope Engineering Consult where, between April 1994 and May 1996, he was the Resident Engineer on the OMPADEC-funded Benin-Ekehuan Road and Ikpako-Gelegele Spur route, responsible for the supervision of the activities of two contractors on the 23km roads.
In 1996, this upwardly mobile civil engineer once again left Scope Engineering Consult to take up an appointment with Afri-Projects Consortium as Senior Consultant Engineer/Field Coordinator where, for over four years, he served meritoriously, coordinating field activities of contractors and supervising consultants involved in the PTF-Assisted National Highway and Urban Roads Rehabilitation Projects.
As Senior Consultant Engineer/Field Coordinator, he was the field supervisory engineer for all the roads under rehabilitation in the seven states of Kogi, Edo, Rivers, Anambra, Enugu, and Imo, including the Lokoja-Okene-Benin road, Benin-Warri-Port Harcourt road, Onitsha-Enugu road, and the Onitsha-Owerri road, as well as township roads in the urban cities of Benin, Warri, Onitsha, and Port Harcourt.
From 1991 to 2017, Engr. Saliu Ahmed took the giant and courageous step he took on greater responsibility in the civil engineering field as director of two firms simultaneously, the Ark Consult Limited (a firm of planners, engineers and management consultants) and Virgit International Limited (a diversified investment company). While at both companies, he undertook a number of road/highway engineering projects, erosion and flood control works, irrigation schemes design and construction, and water supply schemes involving dams, embankments, water in-take, treatment, reticulation and distribution. His involvements cut across initial investigation through feasibility studies, field surveys, production of detailed designs, and preparation of contract documents and supervision of contractors’ operations. He was also involved in a number of drainage projects, water supply schemes involving dams, embankments, water in-take, treatment, reticulation and distribution.
After 26 years of continuous project management services in these two firms, the Federal Government in 2017 found Engr. Saliu Ahmed’s skills and experience useful in the public service and appointed him as Managing Director of Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority, an appointment that was again renewed in January 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari, having been satisfied with his achievement during his first tenure. As Managing Director of the most strategic river basin development authority in Nigeria, the onerous responsibility for the overall management of the Authority’s human and material resources within its catchment area spanning the three states of Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, and one senatorial district in Delta State, the Delta North Senatorial District, was thrown on him. Expectedly, he has, over the last five years, delivered results which have tremendously impacted and improved the fortunes of the people and community within this catchment area.
To his credit the Authority is today in a leading, strategic and enviable position within the country’s overall river basin development system. He has tremendously improved water access in a number of communities, rehabilitated irrigation infrastructure and increased farmland holdings to farmers. On his watch, Benin-Owena has also improved rural infrastructure like roads, institutional and commercial buildings like schools, community town halls, skills acquisition centres, and rural electrification from hybrid/solar sources.
The Authority has further undertaken the construction of dams for water supply and irrigation purposes and the maintenance of existing ones. Most significantly, Ahmed successfully reactivated and nurtured a number of commercial ventures with improved revenue generation capacity and remittances to the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Quite notably, the Authority under his administration has been in the forefront of efforts to improve Nigeria’s national food security by setting up a number of Integrated Farms, on the Songhai Model, in several places in its catchment zone, including Obayantor in Benin-City, Auchi, Okpe, Uneme Nekhua, all in Edo State with combined production, processing and training capacity for youths and interns in the practice of organic farming. This go-getter has also started a fifth farm in Ikole-Ekiti in Ekiti State, which development is currently ongoing. To boost farming in the BORDA area, Ahmed successfully reactivated irrigation facilities in five locations, including Obayantor and Ukpoke, both in Benin-City, Ayede in Ekiti State, Igbara-Oke in Ondo State, and Illah in Delta State, all of them ready to be put to use in this year’s dry season to support all-year-round food production in the country.
More than any other river basin development authority in Nigeria, BORDA under the administrative and management leadership of Ahmed has designed and implemented policies which have yielded significant results in all its mandate areas.
Engr. Ahmed’s life however, does not revolve entirely on engineering and work alone. He still devotes some of his time out of his usually busy schedule to provide services to humanity. The Service Above Self Award conferred on him by Rotary International and his attainment of the highest leadership level in his Rotary District in Nigeria attest to this. Ahmed’s Rotary journey started in 1991 when he was inducted into the Rotaract Club of Kaduna (community based). He was immediately elected as the club’s secretary and in 1992/93 served as its president.
Upon completion of his term as president of the Rotaract Club of Kaduna, he was on January 25, 1994 inducted into the Rotary Club of Kaduna, the second oldest club in the then District 9120 Nigeria. He was elected as secretary for the 1994/95 year but was unable to serve because he had to obey the call of duty as he received posting to Benin for professional assignments. But on return to Kaduna in late 1999, he was elected as President elect for 2000/2001 and served as President in 2001/2002. This was quite significant, because it was the year when the Rotary International theme was “Mankind is our Business”.
In line with this theme, Ahmed led the club to undertake one of its most ambitious community service projects – the donation of 10 brand new baby incubators to the special baby care unit of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) and Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, both in Kaduna. The incubators served to save the precious lives of new born babies and provided succour to several families.
The club also opened new vistas of relationship with the Kaduna State government and the United Nations International Children and Education Fund (UNICEF), Kaduna area office, which culminated in the formal induction of the then Deputy Governor of the State, Engr. Stephen Rijau Shekari as a member of the club.
With astute leadership and innovative initiatives, he successfully sustained the prestige associated with the Rotary Club of Kaduna and won for the Club the Best Rotary Club in District 9120, among several other awards for her weekly bulletin and international service.
In 2004/2005, he was elected as District Governor nominee for the year 2007/2008. He also chaired the Kaduna State Project team for the improvement of Maternal Health, Treatment and Prevention of Obstetric Fistula implementation, a project supported by Districts 1820, 1860, 1870, 1950 (Germany) and 1920 (Austria), and The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.
As District Governor from July 2007 to 30 June 2008, Saliu Ahmed increased the visibility of Rotary throughout the 14 States that constituted the then RI District 9120, Nigeria, through the execution of meaningful community service projects, and significant growth in the membership of Rotary Clubs across the vast District. He raised the membership of the clubs in the District by nearly 50 percent net growth, the second highest in the entire Rotary world and accordingly received the Rotary International Presidential Citation.
He also grew the contributions to the Rotary Foundation by over 500 percent during the one-year tenure. The District under his leadership sponsored an ambassadorial scholar for a postgraduate degree in public health to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; had a group study exchange with District 7670, North Carolina, USA, as well as sponsored six candidates to the Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand for a three-month study on peace and conflict resolution. As District Governor, Saliu Ahmed also hosted a multi-disciplinary medical mission from India which conducted various medical and surgical procedures free of cost for patients in the three senatorial districts of Benue State.
Engr. Ahmed did not rest on his oars in pioneering great initiatives for the club at the end of his tenure. He has remained active, increasingly active. In December 2009, he, with the active support of the District Governor of District 9140, Nigeria, Edo State government and local government areas in Edo North, pioneered the hosting of a second Rotary International Medical Mission in Auchi from December 2 – 14, 2009, during which over 3,750 patients were attended to and about 500 surgeries in ophthalmology, dental care, ENT, gynaecological, and general surgeries were performed free of all costs.
In 2011, he also pioneered efforts that culminated in the establishment of a Rotary Eye Centre – Erhlo Rotary – at the Central Hospital, Auchi, which today continues to serve the eye care needs of multitudes from across Edo State and beyond.
In March 2012, Saliu was again led the organization and hosting of another Indian Medical Mission in Akure, Ondo State, during which several surgeries in different specialties were conducted. Again, In December of the same year and in conjunction with fellow Rotarians, Saliu Ahmed, led a mission to provide corrective limb surgeries for polio victims from different parts of northern Nigeria in two hospitals – Federal Medical Centre, Keffi and the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada – from which over 500 patients benefitted.
The following year in May he participated in the organization and hosting of a multi-disciplinary medical mission to Ilorin, Kwara State, that benefited about 1,200 poor patients who needed different surgeries – eye, general, dental, obstetrics/gynaecology, among others.
This veteran Rotarian has, in partnership with Rotarians in Kolkata, India, provided support for over 40 Nigerian children for free surgeries in India to correct their heart defects. Additionally, and in partnership with the Rotary Club of Calcutta Metropolitan, Saliu drove a project that saw to the provision of a specialized bus for the Ahead School for Children with Disabilities in Kolkata, India.
A major donor to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, Ahmed has attended and participated in several District conferences, multi-district conferences, District seminars, presidential conferences, and a number of Rotary International conventions, in various parts of the world, including those in the United States of America, Canada, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Seychelles, among others. Also, he had served as District Rotary Foundation Committee Chairman for the RI District 9125, spanning 23 States and the Federal Capital territory of Nigeria from 2012 – 2015.
A versatile and highly productive civil engineer, Ahmed has executed many projects in his civil engineering career encompassing survey and design, consultancy and field coordination of contractors in the construction and rehabilitation of several projects, for both public and private institutions, including national highways of several kilometers traversing the States and numerous communities across Nigeria – projects that are too numerous to mention here.
As a business entrepreneur Ahmed is a notable operator in the hospitality industry, providing employment to young adults and promoting the highest ethics in the industry with the popular Regal Rise Hotel Brand which he owns and managed until he answered the nation’s call to manage the Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority in 2017.
A firm believer in the promotion of the common good for all, fairness and justice to all mankind irrespective of race or creed and the uplift of the works of the Almighty Allah on earth, Engr. Saliu has partnered with numerous local and international Rotarian and non-Rotarian groups to promote literacy and health in communities, alleviate hunger and strife, and provide skills to the unskilled.
Ahmed is married to Nafisah and Khadijat and Allah has blessed their union with four lovely children, two boys and two girls – Najib and Abdurrahman, and Fadilah and Amal, respectively. Saliu loves travelling and putting smiles on the faces of others.
Given Engr. Saliu Ahmed’s energy, efforts and commitment in translating President Muhammadu Buhari’s agricultural transformation policies into sustainable programmes of livelihood improvements within the Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority catchment area, no one will be left in doubt, even long after his tour of duty, that a transformational leader once held the reins at that Authority as his performance imprints will remain indelible for years to come.