Why NSE is setting up national monitoring groups, by Olorunfemi

Ademola Isaac Olorunfemi is the President of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). Recently he led a team of the group on a visit to New Telegraph office in Abuja where the editorial team on hand took him up on some issues. Excerpts
NSE is 56 years old, what are your greatest challenges so far?
We have come a long way as a professional body; our objective is to care for our members, their welfare and training in the overall interest of the nation and mankind.
We need the cooperation of stakeholders like you, but more importantly that of government, which has not been forth coming.
In treating national issues, it is important that our government from time to time recognise the role of professional bodies and they should also be adequately contacted. In most cases, you just find the thing going and you struggle to go in there.
It must be made a policy that all national policies and efforts in specific areas of professionals and, particularly engineering, because in all we do, you are looking at 90 per cent or more engineering, what we are doing is mainly engineering, so we should have input.
We should also be looking at making laws that will make specific portfolios reserved for engineers. In developed countries, their lawmakers have allocations specifically made for professional bodies, not by contesting any election. That is very important.
On the transformation agenda, we have had so many inputs in terms of the national infrastructure integrated plan, but it is important for government to have it as a policy to always enquire from professional bodies like NSE what their inputs are, and then follow up on it. Direct request should be made to the society so that we can be held responsible.
In the last 56 years, we have written volumes and volumes of submissions in all areas you can think of and I can assure you, in less than one week, we can provide professional analysis because they are all in the shelf, there are so many things we can give, but they just gather dusts where they are. Government must deliberately know that this group of people must be approached.
It should be possible to make it into a law, but our involvement should be about government itself looking for those they think should be contacted. We should be contacted as a corporate body so that you can also hold us responsible.
There is no way you can hold NSE responsible for what government is doing if we do not have an input that is documented. We will continue to engage government. I think it is pertinent for the president to have direct communication with presidents of professional bodies, all hurdles should be removed. We can share ideas at every possible time.
So, basically, engineers are relevant to the success of the transformation agenda of President Jonathan?
Everything about the agenda is engineering. Every component of the Millennium Development Goals from which the agenda is derived is about engineering.
How can the engineers come in handy in the face of the insecurity challenges facing Nigeria?
All efforts being taken so far, in the ultimate end, it is technology that can really arrest this. Like you know, this is not likely to go away totally as you have seen all over the world. But what will bring the impact to the barest minimum is what technology can achieve. Building is one aspect.
There are other areas of prevention, because if you come to prevention you start looking at bringing out technologies such that the whole place is open.
As a country, we must be able to fashion out something that can put everywhere under surveillance, with camera, internet coverage and other gadgets, so that, sitting down in your office, you can see a certain radius of everywhere.
The interesting thing is that it is not rocket science. It is something that we can adapt and modify. Nigerian engineers in those areas are doing well.
There are also gadgets, but more than that, we should be able to prevent it from happening and this is about surveillance. It is about gadgets that will reveal all of these things.
As engineers, we must be a step ahead of these evildoers, because they are now doing things to beat security check. In the advanced world, you find out that nothing happens even in the store or the street corners that people don’t get caught, because everything is under surveillance camera.
We can do it too. But you know some of the story that contract has been awarded and all of that, where are they? Corruption, point blank! So those are some of the issues.
It is not something difficult. Part of what we are going to be advocating is that government and her agencies should have level of surveillance and all that, but those things must be domiciled.
Unless it is domiciled, the cost will be too high for us to accommodate, but the issue of corruption must be tackled, because the one we claim have spent money on, there is no result. Otherwise we would have been able to capture some of those things on films.
When you came on board, you talked about setting up some monitoring groups. How far have you gone?
From the onset of my presidency, I resolved to galvanize the rich experiences of several members of our society in diverse posi- tions to be able to advice government appropriate- ly on key policies. I am happy that the idea has r e c e ive d wide acceptance, leading to the estab- lishment of a body referred to as NSE Monitoring Action G r o u p s (NMAGs).
The NSE M o n i t o r – ing Action Groups will m o n i t o r policies and programs affect- i n g critical sectors of the nation’s economy, for the purpose of engineering input and liaising with relevant stakeholders from public and private sectors to ensure coordinated action for a sustainable infrastructural development.
The monitoring group is expected to, among other things, organise a census of all abandoned, dilapidated, moribund and below-capacity running agro-based and agro-allied industries and water supply/sanitation/irrigation facilities and fully assess what it would take to rehabilitate such systems with a comprehensive feasibility report to guide practical intervention that can bring back the erstwhile rural industrialisation and wealth creation in the agricultural sector.
It will also undertake a comprehensive study of the present state and future infrastructure projections for critical sectors of the national economy, and also identify gaps and financial needs to bridge such gaps. For instance, currently, there are groups that are looking at the iron and steel with specific mandate on those government iron and steel and their peripherals. There is also a group looking at railways, the automobile industry and the power sector. So, what you see us coming out with is not mine.
It is an aggregate of ideas of professionals, put together by those who are known in those specific areas. We are pushing all of these issues and we will continue to engage government. We are planning to see Mr President with a position as to what we think the country should be doing to join the league of developed nations.
Your world engineering conference is coming up soon. How far have you gone with the planning? Have you gotten the necessary buy-in from the relevant stakeholders and what efforts are you making in terms of the current security challenges to have a hitch free conference?
Let me use this opportunity to appeal to you to extend the plea to government to forcefully come into this world engineering conference.
Yes, the president has given written directive one year down the line that government is in support of it and the minister of works is doing that. I mentioned earlier that government at all levels should be more accessible to some group of people, not just the human rights and political groups, but the professional bodies too.
We need government at this level to make pronouncements, to give written commitments the way it was given during the World Economic Forum. I and NSE cannot give assurance on security, we don’t own anything; it is only government after God that has security.
Government need to come in urgently at this time to make emphatic pronouncements, give us tenable assurance that we can put before the whole body to say ‘yes Nigeria is ready to receive you, these are the evidences.’ During the World Economic Forum, the minister of information came out and it was on CNN and all of that.
We need that level of intervention by government. This is not in any way smaller than anything that has happened in this country. We are telling you about a gathering talking about infrastructural development in Africa.
The conference has as its theme, “World engineering conference on sustainable infrastructure in Africa.” This is the first time the world body will even allow a theme that is looking at a continent. It is usually a general theme. So, government must come out boldly now. We have gotten some support in terms of joining us in the planning, but there must be pronouncements to all delegates all over the world to come to Nigeria.
This particular conference, we are backing it up, we are taking all measures, and we are putting all weight of the Federal Government to back it up that is very important.
Preparations are in high momentum and the zeal and enthusiasm of Nigerian engineers looking forward is immeasurable. WECSI is the next big international event in Nigeria after the World Economic Conference (WEF).
It is not just an NSE event. The world will be coming to Abuja to brainstorm on strategies for developing sustainable infrastructure in our land; that makes it a Nigerian event; and that makes us all stakeholders.
Source: Telegraph Nigeria

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