Tinubu’s Cabinet: The Top 10 Round Pegs in Round Holes – PROF. TERLUMUN UTSEV

PROF. TERLUMUN UTSEV – (Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation)

One of the most befitting ministerial appointments made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is that Prof. Joseph Terlumun Utsev, the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation. His professional and career backgrounds make him a perfect fit for the job.

Prof. Utsev, a Civil and Water Engineer, academic, politician, philanthropist, entrepreneur, and administrator, was once a Commissioner for Water Resources and Environment in Benue state. He had also served as Director of Engineering at the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA). If you match these multi-faceted competences and experiences with the mandate and the challenges of the Ministry of Water Resources, you’ld see that President Tinubu was spot on in assigning the Water Resources portfolio to Prof. Utsev.

The core mandate of the ministry is to develop a framework towards  making the Water sector a pillar for food security, job creation, water supply, sanitation and hydropower as well as mitigate water-induced disasters like erosion and flooding.  The new minister, an academic of distinction, will naturally be at home with a working document of this nature: to repeal, adopt or adapt it to suit the realities on ground and his vision for the water sector.

It was Prof. Utsev’s contributions to the development of water resources and environmental engineering that earned him the appointment as the Commissioner of Water Resources and Environment in Benue State in 2017. In that position, he contributed immensely towards tackling the hitherto perenial water scarcity in Makurdi, the state capital, and other communities in the state. His involvement in the design and influence on the construction of the Idye Basin Phase II drainage also showcased his commitment to improving the state’s erosion control infrastructure. Now, as the minister of Water resources, he will definitely rely on this experience to deal with similar problems of flooding and erosion experienced in different parts of the country.

A few months before leaving office, Engr. Suleiman Adamu, the immediate past minister of Water resources, inaugurated a Presidential Steering Committee “to develop a comprehensive plan of action for the prevention of the recurrence of flood disasters in Nigeria.’’ Prof. Utsev  has inherited the chairmanship of the Committee from where he would direct the Federal Government’s efforts in ameliorating the twin problems of flooding and erosion.

In the area of water supply, Prof. Utsev also fits into his new role seamlessly, coming from his earlier position as Water Resources Commissioner.  Then, he was entrusted with responsibility for the water needs of Benue people. The new portfolio is like an expanded version of that assignment. The Federal Government, through his ministry, is responsible for policy, advisory and formulation, data collection, monitoring and reporting and making special intervention for the water supply needs of the entire country.

Even before his ministerial appointment, back in 2020, Prof. Utsev’s expertise had been acknowledged at the national level when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as the Executive Director of Engineering at the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority (LBRBDA) in Makurdi. There, he played a key role in supervising the construction of various engineering projects, such as dams, bridges, roads, boreholes, and drainages.

For him, therefore, being made Minister of Water Resources, is like returning to a familiar terrain, albeit at a higher level with wider responsibilities. He is now in charge of not only an Engineering Directorate; in charge of not only LBRBDA, but also of all the 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) in the country, and more. The over 408 dams located in various parts of the country, controlled by the RBDAs, with potential of 3.14 million Hectares (Ha) of irrigation land, are also under his supervision. Prof.  Utsev who was awarded the Best Honourable Commissioner in the Water/Environmental sector in Nigeria by Independent Assessors in 2018, can be trusted to rise to the occasion.

Professor Utsev’s background in entrepreneural education and administration will also come in handy for him in taking irrigation management in Nigeria to a new level. The new minister had served as the Deputy Director and later as a full Director in the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, (now Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, JOSTUM) from 2013 to 2017. During this time, he spearheaded the establishment of seven workshops, enhancing students’ entrepreneurial skills and generating Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the institution. The new policy thrust of irrigation farming in Nigeria being implemented through the “Transforming Irrigation Management in Nigeria (TRIMING)” project will definitely benefit from the new minister’s competence in entrepreneurship development.

Under the World Bank-supported project, irrigation farmers in the benefitting RBDAS are trained to be able entrepreneurs: to make contribution for themselves, carry out operations and maintenance by themselves. Who else is in a better position to understand and manage the new order than a minister with a demonstrable expertise in entrepreneurship development in the mould of Prof. Utsev?

Engr. Prof. Joseph Terlumun Utsev was born into the esteemed Utsev Akaa family of Mbaakura, Mbagen in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria. His academic journey was marked by outstanding achievements. He obtained a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Agriculture (now JOSTUM), Makurdi, graduating as the best student in 2004 with a Second Class Honours (Upper Division). His passion for knowledge led him to pursue higher education, earning both a Masters and PhD in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering from the prestigious University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

The new minister has acquired a reputation as an accomplished administrator and highly respected professional who has contributed significantly to the advancement of Civil Engineering education, research and practice.

Until his recent appointment as minister of Water Resources, Prof. Utsev was the pioneer Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Wannune, Benue State.

He is a Registered Civil Engineer certified by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers and the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers, among others.