INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF THE 27TH PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERS, ENGR. CHIEF OLUMUYIWA ALADE AJIBOLA, FNSE, C.ENG.
ON 16TH JANUARY, 2010 AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE, ABUJA
I give God all the glory for making this day a reality. Though the journey has been long and arduous, like the proverbial King David in the Holy Bible, I humbly testify that the Lord has been my help and my guide in the journey to date.
Today indeed is special in the history of our great Society, as it marks the beginning of the second decade of the millennium. Thus the challenges are in legion and multifarious in nature and dimension, due to the exceptionally rapid rate of development ushered in by the millennium through the explosion as it were, in Information and Communication Technology which has dictated paradigm shifts to the ways of life, the world over, from Governance to Trade and Commerce.
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is a professional society founded and nurtured by our great forebearers, Past Presidents, Secretary Generals, Council Members, etc as a common voice for the engineering profession in Nigeria on the basis of high ethical standards to enhance competence in service, promote professional development, and welfare of its members. It is also the point of connection of Engineers with the Society, including government, public and private sectors of the economy.
I salute the tremendous work done before me by these great men of vision. One can only build on the magnificent foundation that has been laid. This I promise to do as the 27th President of the Society. I must not fail to mention in particular my immediate predecessor Engr. Kashim Abdul Ali FNSE from whom I have learnt a great deal.
My sojourn of over 20 years in the NSE service has been informed by my deep rooted vision for the role that engineering can play in the transformation of our nation into an advanced and prosperous economy. This has been a dream that I have nursed since my school days and which has powered my career to date.
My vision is to see NSE develop into a world class professional body, able to satisfy all the professional needs of its members as well as the Society, thus conferring on the Nigerian Engineer the respect, dignity and recognition, he/she deserves from the Government and the Society alike, to assure his/her active participation in all Engineering based aspects of our national Economy.
In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to call on my very resourceful professional colleagues within the executive committee, in council and the entire membership, to join me in re-creating a positive future, for Engineering in Nigeria, and by extension, the Nigerian Engineer, which will be based on high ethical standards, hard work and commitment to the true spirit of service to the profession and our dear Nation Nigeria.
In order to achieve these objectives, we must work together as one body regardless of which part of the profession we are working from, Public or Private sector. It is just a career path, our professional destiny is the same in the long run, i.e. ability to practice our profession in an environment that allows us to serve humanity make a decent living, and even excel in the process! Given the rigours of our education and training, I humbly submit that we deserve a pride of place in Infrastructure development and national wealth creation.
2.0 PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
What we claim to deserve must however be earned. Engineering is an intellectually based profession. We must therefore first continuously deepen and widen our intellectual base through periodic knowledge updates in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Programmes to bring us to speed with current knowledge in our various specialized fields.
Fortunately this has been recognized in the restructuring exercise carried out at the Secretariat in which a full fledged Directorate of Professional Development has been created. It is our desire to put this department to work by supporting programmes that will be run at our Engineering Resource Centres in Lagos and Abuja, and at such locations as may be dictated by specific needs. It is therefore our intention to upgrade these centres to International Standards and work in close association with the Oil and Gas, Engineering-based and Engineering Delivering Ministries and Agencies, Private Sector Industries, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Bureau of Public Procurement, COREN, ACEN, Specialist Divisions of the NSE, World Bank and other multilateral donor organizations, universities and other professional bodies (Local & International) to meet the capacity building needs of our members.
3.0 ALIGNMENT WITH GLOBAL PRACTICE
As observed earlier, in this Information and Communication Technology driven age, there is an urgent need to align ourselves with emerging Engineering practices in project delivery. This will equip us with the capacity to cope with procedures in a management setting that allows many complex activities to be performed in an optimal manner for effective project cost, quality and time frame control.
It is our aim to update our members in the Procurement Process, Construction Practice, Software Applications to Design, Entrepreneurship, Quality Assurance Quality Control (QAQC), Health Safety and Environment and the art of Project Management through relevant seminars and workshops.
We shall also maintain the thrust already given to the development of Nigerian Codes and Standards as applicable to Engineering Practice within the Nigerian territory. Arrangements are at an advanced stage for the hosting of stakeholders workshops to realize the process. The first of such working workshops is to hold before the end of the first quarter of the year.
We recognize the relationships that have been established by my predecessors, between our great Society and International organizations such as WFEO, FAOE, CEC, ANSTI, UNDP, UNESCO etc. and other Engineering Institutions. We hope to strengthen these ties through active participation, with the aim of deriving maximum benefits for our membership. We shall also encourage as a matter of course, our members to present papers in international fora to showcase progress and challenges of engineering practice in Nigeria. This would help to project our nation as one with active professional engineers who fully understand their challenges and can find solutions to them.
Our Annual Conference for the year 2010 is planned to be an International Conference.
4.0 ROLE OF DIVISIONS AND BRANCHES
Our real professional strength in providing service to the nation lies in our Expert Divisions and Branches. We recognize the growth and definition of the major Divisions. However, we shall endeavour to re-define and strengthen them through constant interaction, to be alive to their responsibilities for the professional development of their members. They must be equipped and prepared to promptly respond professionally to national and international challenges and issues.
They must also serve as the points of primary contact with the Society. They must therefore advance the role of the Engineer in the Society so as to maintain our relevance to the lives of the people and by so doing court their confidence and retain the professional role of Solution Providers.
As part of the role of the Engineer in the Society, we hope to explore a partnership with Government through the initiation of an Infrastructure Rating Programme (IRP) with the active participation of Nigerian Engineers in the diaspora.
5.0 WELFARE OF MEMBERS
The welfare of our members has always being paramount in my heart. To the glory of God, it was during my tenure as Chairman Welfare Committee that members began to enjoy discount on hotel accommodation cost of building materials etc in different parts of the country. It is my belief that considering the important role that we play in our nation’s economy, we should have a good reward to live well with our families. We shall continue the pursuit of better conditions of service for our members in public and private sectors, good remuneration, and other welfare packages. We shall also continue to impress on our compatriots in Government and Private sectors of the economy, the need to use the services of Nigerian Engineers in their project execution. This is the only way to build a lasting economy and engender all round prosperity.
6.0 NSE WEBSITE
One of the significant steps in our move towards enhancing our performance in a world class setting as a professional body is the upgrading and re-branding of our website to International standards and populating it with information, materials and appropriate data of interest to the Engineering world, particularly our own members. To this end an Editorial Board will be inaugurated soon in the new year to collate, edit and control the quality of information/data to be posted on the Web.
The portal will also carry a Professional Networking Database the “PRONET” of Engineering firm members of the Society with adequate information on fields of specialization, services provided, size of organization, management structure, experience etc. This will provide the foundation for a structured capacity enhancement of Local Content as well as further Policy development in this direction. More details on how to subscribe to the PRONET will be given soon.
7.0 ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND OTHERS
I can say with confidence that Nigerian Engineers have appropriate Professional and Managerial competencies to midwife strategic dreams of Government on infrastructure Economic and National development and are ever ready to be involved, but have been distanced from the policy stages of such plans in many instances! Could it be because Engineers are involved at the project execution ends of the policies? Even this is not strictly so in our country! That stage is most often ceded to our foreign counterparts to the detriment of the project, our selves and the nation!
What most often happens is that many errors which may lead to infrastructure failures, occur at the policy development stage, thus rendering an otherwise positive looking project, a white elephant of sort after implementation. Examples abound where foreign experts have been relied upon to lead Project development without sufficient knowledge, of local conditions, available support within existing infrastructure or local material and economic environment etc. The result is that the Nigerian Engineers who inadvertently inherit the project for maintenance will have an uphill task in realizing such objective since they were not part of the project evolution!
We therefore solicit government to involve us in Policy making positions, which are pivotal to Infrastructural Development, such as, Works (Highways and Housing Urban Development etc), Power, Steel, Agriculture, Oil & Gas, & Energy, Water Resources, , Transportation (Aviation, Railways, Waterways etc), Information & Communications. Mining and Industry, Human Capacity building, Environment, Manufacturing, Health, Education, Science and Technology, Rural Development, Immigration< Foreign Affairs etc.
It is our view that the 7 Point Agenda, Millennium Development Goals, and Vision 20-2020 can only be realized when the main Engineering and Technological responsibilities thereof are driven by Nigerian Engineers supported, by other professionals and if required by their foreign counterparts.
8.0 IMPORTANCE OF ENGINEERING PROFESSION TO NATIONAL OBJECTIVES IN A DEMOCRACY
When I ponder on the profession of Engineering, its immense benefit in shaping the lives of mankind, it sometimes comes through to me as a human being of limitless capacity and an intimate ally to every aspect of the human life. Let us for a moment suppose that Engineering is a human being! What sort of person is Engineering?
I would say Engineering is a very wise and powerful person indeed, deriving its great all round prowess from the Creator Himself. He is not a native of any particular country, yet a potential citizen of every country that adopts him. He has no ethnicity! That is why after turning Europe and America into places to behold, his work in Asia has gained significant acclaim, not to talk about China which is now tending towards a kind of paradise on earth with facilities! If I may ask, Is Engineering a Nigerian citizen? Its hard to answer, it appears that its adoption papers are still being processed and my information is that the process cannot be abridged! It started from the Executive and must pass through the upper and lower houses of legislature and finally sworn in by the Judiciary! Several attempts have been made in the past to shorten the process to no avail. I would like to take this opportunity to call on members of the Engineering family and genuine admirers, as well as all citizens to whose eternal benefit, Engineering citizenship will be, to come together with one heart and voice to prevail on the major players to shorten the process.
Seeing the feats performed by Engineering in Europe and America, and after becoming a citizen of countries in South East Asia etc. I would say that it is about time that Nigeia gives citizenship to this ‘wonder being’ in the Nigerian Engineer. It is then that sustainable progress can be made in our developmental efforts as well as production through industrialization.
It was the Industrial Revolution mid-wifed by European Engineers with the active support of Governments and all and sundry, that put Europe initially ahead in the league of Nations. This was realized by successive Governments in that region of the world, and up till this moment, Engineers enjoy special status in those nations who appreciate that the success of Engineers and Engineering determines their real competitiveness and market shares of the world trade, and high quality of life.
Little wonder, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, while addressing the first U.K Engineering Assembly in Birmingham on 3rd September 1985 said, ‘the success of the Engineering Profession and Industry is the key to our future and prosperity’. She had earlier commented that the fact that she spoke at the opening ceremony at all, as the Prime Minister, demonstrated her Government’s commitment to Engineering in Britain. Distinguished Chairman Sir, I commend this spirit to our leaders if we are expecting similar results from the profession. The effect of Mrs. Thatcher’s action is clearly evident in the superb state of Infrastructure in Britain to this day.
In the same light, more recently, President Barrack Obama in his widely read book, “ The Audacity of Hope” while discussing his political philosophy that saw him clinch the Presidency of the strongest Nation on Earth, the USA, demonstrated a clear vision of the route to prosperity when he wrote “I believe in the free market, competition, and entrepreneurship, and I think no small number of Government Programmes don’t work as advertised. I wish the Country had fewer Lawyers and more Engineers”.
I believe these thoughts were not meant to berate Lawyers, the profession to which himself and his wife belong! He only confirmed that for rapid actualization of National objectives, the Engineers’ role is crucial. Later, as President of the USA, his economic recovery strategy could be seen to leverage on Engineering and Technology projects. He has also embarked on intensive efforts to put America ahead in Technology once again through new Science Engineering, and Technology education policies.
9.0 THE FUTURE
For the future to be better than even our dreams as a nation, our National policies on Engineering and Nigerian Engineers, must go through a complete ‘rennaissance’. The Nigerian Engineers must be the focus for development. If we fail to appreciate this principle we may learn later in the hard way! I made this same passionate plea fifteen years ago, when I delivered the 1st Engr. Lawrence Arokodare Memorial Lecture in Ibadan. Sadly enough, it does not appear that much has changed since then! Although some infrastructure have been added, the Nigerian Content is rather low. As shown above, nations achieve prosperity and greatness through the commitment of their Engineers and encouragement by all. Unless we adopt this strategy, real economic development may elude us for a long time.
Any Nigerian project, no matter how complex it is perceived, in which Nigerian Engineers don’t play an active role throughout its project cycle, may be likened to the acquisition of what I will describe as a luxury toy’ in that they may not be maintainable in the long run, at costs considered reasonable, when put against the procurement of a replacement!
It is time to legislate the Nigerian Content into projects in all sectors of the Nigerian Economy with well specified conditions to be met by all if we are looking at a future of sustainable development, industrial production and general prosperity.
10.0 SUGGESTIONS TO GOVERNMENT
· 1st the White Paper on Strategic Policy on Engineering Development and Control must be reviewed immediately and enacted into law.
· Our country should device a means of growing existing well conceived and managed Engineering Companies who are distinctive in their performance and production into sustainable and growing concerns so as to boast of a big basket of Highly Competent Nigerian Technical Companies, able to compete favourably with their International counterparts.
· Engineers must be more involved at the highest levels, in policy formulation for Engineering based Ministries, Departments and Agencies, in order to achieve effective and sustainable policy frameworks and implementation thereof.
· Nigerian Engineers in the Public sector must integrate themselves with those outside in order to advance the common goals of the profession. They must realize that, the benefits in the long run are immesurable!.
· Nigerian Engineers must take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Nigerian Society of Engineers to further develop and kit themselves up with modern tools and practices in order to become more effective in their professional delivery.
My gratitude goes first to my parents Canon Emmanuel Olajuyitan and Chief (Mrs) Julianah Tijuara Ajibola of blessed memory, who provided the high quality education and opportunities for me in life to attain my goals. My Partner, for 33 years Engr. Dr. Gabriel Olatunbosun Adefolaju also of blessed memory, who worked tirelessly with me to realize this lofty goal!
Mr. Chairman Sir, distinguished colleagues and guests, kindly join me in observing a minute’s silence for the souls of these great people whose lives were nothing but exemplary.
I thank all my other Partners at INTECON PARTNERSHIP LTD, INTERWORKS ENGINEERING LTD, and AUTOMATED GEOTECHNICS LTD, for their patience, tolerance and support. They are wonderful people and outstanding Engineers ready to sacrifice all for our much loved profession and Country Nigeria.
My sincere thanks goes to my predecessors, the Past Presidents who have all demonstrated their love for me and the profession without any reservation.
I must also thank my colleagues who chose me to lead our great Society. I appreciate you and promise not to disappoint you. Let me also take this opportunity to thank all my relatives and friends from different parts of the world, for being there for me.
I must particularly thank my children Babajinmi, Omololu, Modupe, Olufemi and Eniola, for their understanding and support throughout and for showing me that they appreciate my goals, when the all chose careers in Engineering and Computer fields. My thanks goes to our Royal father of the day HRM, Kabiyesi, Oba Okunade Sijuade, Olubuse II, whom I owe a lot of gratitude for the love he has showered on me since my childhood. Apart from honouring me with the distinctive chieftaincy title of ‘Agbaakin’ of the source, Kabiyesi has been key to my professional confidence through the high level assignments which he has entrusted me with, even from the early stages of my professional life. I am truly grateful, your Royal Majesty Sir. Ka abiyesiAde a pe lori, bata a pe lese.
Let me now doff my hat for the woman who chose to tolerate me and my Engineering idiosyncrasies, even when they made little meaning to her initially! Her love for me translated into her love for Engineering through construction, which she loves doing till today. She is the proud Director of Bomason Nigeria Ltd, a company which is reputed for producing the best quality Sandcrete Blocks in her domain! The sweet mother of my wonderful children, my Chief pillar of support, I say a big thank you to you, Ajoke, for being the love of my life and the best wife of the universe. Thanks indeed, Yeye Agbaakin.
To all those present here today from far and near, my heart goes to you in gratitude.
I most sincerely thank our Corporate partners and friends for their support, in cash and kind.
12.0 NATIONAL SECRETARIAT, AUDITORIUM PROJECT
Permit me Mr. Chairman Sir, to intimate this august gathering of the bold step the Society has taken through the initiative of my Predecessor to start the Construction of the Auditorium phase of the New Secretariat project in the Federal Capital, Abuja. This project has already commenced and the contractor, is a Nigerian Engineer of whom we are very proud.
This structure when completed will be an All-purpose Hall, which will serve to house our Council; and provide appropriate accommodation for our planned Professional Development activities, and even International Workshops and Conferences.
I implore you all to contribute towards this project so as to keep the tempo for toward the earliest completion. The project cost is N0.6 Billion Naira.
Your generous donations will be highly appreciated.
Some of our programme thrusts have been indicated. The key is the continuous enhancement of the professional quality of our members through Continuous Professional Development, in readiness for a bigger role in Engineering projects.
I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our leaders to seize the bull by the horn at this auspicious time in history, by considering the Nigerian Engineers as being critical to the attainment of our National goals and challenging them accordingly. Nations are built by Nationals! The same applies to the Oil and Gas and other Industries.
The value of involving us at the policy levels cannot be over emphasized. The success of the emerging world economies of South East Asia today depend on putting round pegs in round holes!
In essence, this is the time to execute the ‘Citizenship’ of ‘ENGINEERING’ as a Nigerian with immediate effect! This means the adoption of Nigerian Engineers as the vehicle of National Development. The colloquium of yesterday clearly shows that both developed and Developing Nations who are successful have hinged their development on their National Engineers. Nigeria is blessed with a crop of good engineers who if given the opportunity will create the type of self reliance we need as a nation through their services.
We must take this decision to avoid going into reverse development, while the rate is increasing for other Nations. The greatest asset of our Nation is its citizenry.
Once again on behalf of the Nigerian Engineers, I declare that we are ready for the partnership that will result therefrom. The Nigerian Society of Engineers will provide training, guide the observance of ethics and respond to feedbacks on the implementation.
Nigerian Engineers must imbibe the art of entrepreneurship and move to the market place, learn to hawk their skills, and manage their businesses! We must become more creative and innovative and consider ourselves as an integral part of the larger Society.
I am sure we can live up to our tough training and excel in our Nation.
Long live the NSE
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Thank you all.
Engr. (Chief) Olumuyiwa Alade Ajibola, FNSE
27th President, Nigerian Society of Engineers