Abdullahi Isa, a Nigerian Civil Engineer, had set himself many personal goals to achieve before he turns 40. Among his goals were owning a house in the city, having a private car, a good job, wives, and kids.

And all these and more, Isa, who is currently a site manager for a Chinese construction firm in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Gombe, had managed to achieve before attaining that age this year.

He was 23 when he set those personal goals for himself in 2002. That year, he was hired by the firm, Eighteenth Engineering Company (EEC) Nigeria Limited, which has handled and is still handling several road construction projects in the West African country.

“Now, I have a house of my own in the city where my two wives and children live. I have a private car. My kids are attending good schools. I can easily provide for my family’s needs. I am a happy man because I have a good job here,” he said, counting his blessings since joining the Chinese firm 17 years ago.

Isa, born in a rustic village in Gombe, moved to the city in 2002 in search of greater opportunities and a better future without acquiring sufficient formal education.

His story, he told Xinhua, could be likened to that of many homeless young Nigerians who had lost hope in life.

After several months of roaming the streets and doing menial jobs, he was hired by the Chinese firm as a labourer. “And that’s how I started learning the technology of construction and management from my Chinese colleagues,” he said. “I learned about carpentry, welding, and several other aspects of construction works for many years.”

He worked for many years as a labourer, foreman before getting promotion as a site manager of the EEC. Of all things that excite Isa about working in the Chinese firm, he told Xinhua News Agency, it is the company’s core policy to train and re-train its local employees that comes first.

Despite Isa had not attended any tertiary academic institution to learn about engineering, he has so far led at least three road construction projects in Gombe.

“I didn’t further my education after graduating from secondary school. I learned everything about construction here, and now I’m a master in the field.

I can complete an entire road project without the supervision of our Chinese colleagues.

“The EEC is very famous and has done a lot of projects in Gombe. Due to my experience working here, I’ve invited many friends and family members, including those who earlier mocked me, to this company, to get a good job to feed them and their family,” he said.

More than 100 road projects with a total length of about 2,400 km have been executed by the EEC, a subsidiary of the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), since entering the Nigerian construction market in 1999.

Isa is currently leading scores of local labour workers on another road construction project handled by the EEC.

The Chinese construction firm formally commenced the construction of the new road to open up rural areas in Gombe, aiming to boost the local economy.

The road construction will open up at least three communities in Yamaltu/Deba local government area of Nigeria when completed.

The 9-km road project, linking three farming communities in the area, Boltongo, Nono, and Deba, will be completed within 15 months.

Before the commencement of the road construction, local farmers had a big challenge in transporting their farm produce to urban areas. During rainy seasons, the situation gets worse as they find it difficult moving on the terribly muddy road.

Wan Lianyu, the managing director of the EEC Nigeria, said the implementation of these projects not only trained a large number of local workers and promoted local employment, but also greatly improved the local people’s livelihood.

“We hope to deepen cooperation with the Nigerian government on production capacity through the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by the Chinese government, so as to create more benefits for the people in Nigeria,” Wan added.