SPEECH DELIVERED BY ENGR. K.A. ALl, FNSE ON THE OCCASION OF HIS INVESTITURE AS THE 26TH PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERS ON THE 12TH OF JANUARY, 2008.
Let me begin by giving praise to Almighty Allah SWT for His mercies. It is by His Will that we witness another smooth transition in the leadership of our esteemed Society today. We will continuously pray for His infinite mercy in all our endeavours.
I feel extremely honoured and delighted to welcome you all to this auspicious occasion, and to say a hearty congratulation to our great Society as it turns 50 years in February, 2008.
Today marks another milestone in the history of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. Two years ago, I was elected Deputy President. Today I will assume the leadership of the Society. I am indeed humbled by the trust and endorsement by all of you to lead this elite club of the finest in the society.
My dear colleagues, as humbling as this is, the challenge is huge. What I glean from my discussions with most of you and the thinking of the wider society, the expectations are high but with teamwork even the insurmountable can be tackled.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I am very mindful of the tremendous challenges before the Nigerian engineer. We have continuously being confronted with advancing working economies even in the third world. We have experienced several problems of development in our country, Nigeria. We have watched, albeit helplessly as poverty deepens due to declining engineering presence in Nigerian growing cities and mini cities which continuously challenges the relevance of Nigerian engineers in the development of the country.
Most challenging is the near absence of basic infrastructure such as efficient transportation system, (roads, railways), energy, water supply, among others, recognized world wide as crucial to the socio economic development. They are indeed the driving force of development.
While the gaps in the provision of infrastructure are worrisome, the lack of a maintenance culture is even more disturbing. We have also watched helplessly as the investment in infrastructure has continued to decline at all levels of government. Obviously our dream of a great nation will remain a mirage until the issue of infrastructure is addressed.
It has become fashionable to hear our political leaders make reference to the Asian Tigers, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea as models for developing countries but we forget to realize that these countries have achieved these feats because of heavy investment in the provision of basic infrastructure. By extension they have invested in engineering development. That is, however, not the story in Nigeria as funding for infrastructure such as roads, railways, power supply has continued to decline.
Nigerian engineers must face the challenge the issue of infrastructure has posed. First, we must find practical ways to embrace and encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative in developing our infrastructure. This option seems the most feasible alternative to leverage additional funding. As the wheels behind the economic growth of any Nation, the Nigerian Engineer will have to accept and tailor the PPP options like all other economies are doing.
This calls for government support to the Nigerian engineer.
There seems to be some hope. The seven – point Agenda of the present administration with enormous emphasis on the provision of basic infrastructure, may well be a step in the right direction and compliment the effort by the immediate past administration to actively involve the Nigerian Engineer in national development as enunciated in the White Paper on the Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control.
The White paper clearly directed, among other things, that jobs up to N500m should be handled solely by wholly indigenous Nigerian Companies and further stipulates that no expatriate quota be granted for engineering job unless COREN certifies that there is no Nigerian, qualified to do such a job. The policy, when fully implemented, will ensure that our children are guaranteed job opportunities in their own country as is the practice all over the world.
In the year 2000, all the 191 Member states of the United Nations met and set up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These Goals which is an expression of a world that is yearning to build a better future and escape from the poverty trap is invariably another direct challenge to Engineers. To meet the goals in 2015, it is imperative that basic infrastructure have to be provided. Engineers, as acknowledged planners, designers and builders must be involved. The future of Nigeria is therefore about engineering.
As the president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, I must lead the way to address the problem of engineering practice in Nigeria. In this regard, I have a Plan for my tenure which I would like to share with you all. The plan is broad but it will serve as a guide for the next 24 months.
With your support, the Executive Committee will, during my tenure, work closely with COREN and other relevant government agencies to commence the implementation of the White Paper on the Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control. This is a strategic way to build indigenous capacities.
We will pursue the development of a Management Information System for the generation of good and reliable data and development indicators to facilitate Impact Assessment and monitoring for each Infrastructure Sectors.
We will take very seriously the Continuing Professional Development for the Nigerian engineer to engender acquisition of knowledge, skills and can- do- attitude. This will require continuous learning and ability to work productively in teams to take an integrated approach to problem solving. The overriding goal of these training will manifest in:
Creativity and entrepreneurship that lead to a proactive recognition of opportunities and subsequent actions to take advantage of them;
A commitment to ethical principles and to personal and organizational goals;
Thoroughness in examining the implications that engineering projects have for the health, safety, and welfare of the public.
My immediate predecessor identified the need for continuing professional development and established a School of Engineering Practice. The philosophy of the scheme will be vigorously pursued in collaboration with all stakeholders so that the Nigerian engineer will develop the right skills to compete globally.
We will continue to encourage various branches of NSE to promote the objects of our profession, and to reach out to the Local Government Councils to ensure that the planning and execution of projects at that tier of government meets the desired engineering standard. Branches of NSE must take deliberate steps to support the development of the rural areas of Nigeria.
My esteemed colleagues, it is time for engineers to take ownership. In the words of the outgoing President of the American Society of Civil Engineers Marcuson III:
Take ownership of public policy, seek resources to solve our infrastructure problems, and define a national timetable for action.
Take ownership of public safety, health and welfare by always making yourself heard when something looks as though it might not be safe, even when the probability of failure is small.
Nigerian engineers can no longer be yes people. Those of us who work as government servants are paid to give sound advice and expert opinions to decision makers. When a decision is made that flies in the face of public safety, engineers must challenge that decision.
Our responsibility to render ethical decisions to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public must be instilled in our students today, for they will be tomorrow’s engineers.
The NSE in the next 24 months.
At the beginning of my speech I congratulated us all on the forth coming 50 year anniversary celebration. The Society has really grown and today there are over 50 Branches spread across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. There are also 18 Divisions covering the diverse disciplines of the engineering profession. What are the roles expected of these branches and Divisions of NSE?
Divisions of NSE
The Divisions of NSE are the engines of professional growth. The much cherished professional development of the Society can only succeed with vibrant Divisions. In the last few years some of the Divisions of NSE did extremely well. We will further encourage all of them to bring out programmes that will further strengthen the practice of the profession. The Divisions should take advantage of the newly established NSE training school to organize workshops and seminars. They must aim at producing engineering codes and standards.
Let me congratulate my predecessor for the giant strides in completing the National Engineering Center, Abuja. We will ensure effective maintenance of the facility and initiate the development of the second phase during my tenure. In the same vein, we will continue to maintain and manage the National Engineering Centre, Lagos. The Council of NSE has approved the extension of NEC Lagos through a lease agreement with a Developer. My EXCO will act swiftly on this matter so that the Society can derive maximum benefit from the agreement.
While NSE will focus on its activities in Nigeria, we shall not forget our role in the international arena i.e. our participation in the World Federation of Engineering Organizations, WFEO, and the Federation of African Organizations of Engineers, FAOE.
The WFEO is an establishment of UNESCO aimed at promoting the engineering profession internationally. Over the years NSE has participated actively in the affairs of WFEO and today Nigeria is co hosting the WFEO committee on Women in Engineering. This is a no mean achievement. My EXCO will strive to strengthen the international committee to place NSE on a stronger footing in WFEO.
The Secretariat of the Federation of African Organizations of Engineers, F AOE, has for many years been hosted by the Nigerian Society of Engineers. Let me publicly commend Engr. Olu Awoyinfa, FNSE, who for many years was the Secretary General of FAOE and during whose tenure tremendous success was achieved. He has voluntarily retired and has passed on the baton to our own indefatigable Engr. Felix Atume, FNSE, mni, as the new Secretary General of FAOE representing Africa as an International Member of WFEO. I pledge to support the activities of FAOE to serve the African sub region better.
The Secretariat is the engine of NSE as it is involved in the day-to-day implementation of the Society’s programmes. We shall make efforts to improve on the working environment. We shall also promote hard working staff in addition to encouraging them to acquire higher skills. Courses will be organized in-house to equip them for higher productivity. While we shall apply the available resources to improve the welfare of staff, my EXCO will not tolerate indolence. The Executive Secretary will continue to enjoy the cooperation of my EXCO and in return we shall expect him to evolve effective strategies to implement the decisions of Council of NSE at all times.
I have a humble family background. I was not born with the proverbial silver spoon. I went through school by the special support of my parents and other relatives and the sponsorship of the old Benue State Government. I thank all those who were involved in my early education.
As a Civil Servant, I came across a wide spectrum of Nigerians who assisted me in one way or the other to succeed. They are too many to mention but God knows I am indebted to all of them. But let me specifically mention the Executive Secretary of FCDA, Engr. M.S Alhassan FNSE, who has supported me to this level. The present Honourable minister of the FCT and the previous ones all gave me their support to succeed. I thank them most sincerely.
The journey to the Presidency of the Nigerian Society of Engineers began many years ago. I served in various Branch executive positions and Council committees before I was elected Chairman of Abuja branch, and for many years I was a member of Council of NSE. From there I contested and won election into various positions, climaxing in my election at our Annual General Meeting in Kano, 2 years ago, as Deputy President. Along the line, I was assisted by many engineers. I thank all of you most sincerely.
The past Presidents of NSE have always been my inspirations. Many of them have honoured this occasion. I greet you Fathers of NSE. My relatives and my close friends and Associates have traveled far and near to share in my day of honour; I thank you all warmly.
Engr. O.W Uzebu, FNSE, my elder brother who has always stood by me is in charge of the arrangements for today’s occasion. I am greatly indebted to him.
The representatives of the Ghana Institution of Engineers, the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers are here to celebrate with me. I am indeed honoured by your presence.
To the members of staff of NSE Secretariat, I want to assure you that your show of solidarity will be reciprocated. Someone has always taken the brunt of my participation in the activities of NSE. Sometimes I am out of my base, for a long time on NSE assignments. That person holds forth under all odds. She is my wife, Hadiza. I hope I will enjoy even more support in the years ahead. I am indebted to you.
God almighty is entrusting the running of this great Society in my weak hands, but as He promised in the glorious Qur’an Surah 2 v. 286: Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope… May His will continue to be done in our individual lives, the live of our great Society, and our nation. I thank you all.
Engr. K.A Ali, FNSE