Engr. Kashim Ali is the President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria. He Spoke at a news conference that the crisis ravaging the nation’s power industry could be linked to lack of professional management. Excerpts
What measures has the council adopted to arrest the spate of building collapse across the country?
Anybody found culpable will be investigated and brought to our tribunal and, if found guilty, would be convicted. Now, beyond that, what other things are we doing? A long time ago, we set up the Engineering Regulation Monitoring Team and we have them in over 50 locations in all the states in Nigeria. What they do is that they go out to look at construction works that are going on in various places. Meanwhile, I will like to explain the job of engineers in the construction of buildings. For instance, in this building, the job of the engineer is to make sure that the columns from the ground up to the top of the building are strong enough to carry whatever load is placed on this building.
So the engineer’s job is to provide that. Now, in a building where there is no column or slab, what will be the engineer’s duty? If it is in the upland area in Nigeria, his role will only be on the issue of electrical power and mechanical plumbing, and that is for a bungalow where there are no columns. He will not be responsible for issues of columns and slabs. But when bungalows collapse, engineers are called upon and sometimes, we are a bit embarrassed about this.
What are you doing to ensure things are properly done?
When we notice that something is not going well with a construction process, whether it is a road construction or a housing project, we look for the authorities that are responsible, and usually our members are there. We now go to the development control unit of that state or city to make a report that a building on a particular location in the city is likely going to collapse, if they don’t effect certain corrections. After that, we also find out whether there is a registered professional that is involved in the construction of the building and take his or her record. We tell the person to make necessary corrections because if anything happens he will be held responsible. Most times, when our team find some of these instances and meet qualified people on site, they make corrections and the corrections are taken and you never hear of collapse.
If you do all these things that you have explained, why then do we still experience cases of building collapse?
Whenever there is a collapse, it could be that we did not see the building in question in the course of our inspection. We also support the authority in doing their investigations and we submit our findings to help them prosecute those found wanting. So this is what we do. I will like you to know that whenever a building collapses, it is a criminal matter and we take it very seriously. But many times, when this happens, government does nothing about it and it is unfortunate. Because the people who normally have these houses that collapse are big people in the society and are classified as untouchable. So you (media) must help us propagate the advocacy that no life is better than the other and no one should die as a result of building collapse.
The government is particular about diversifying the economy for increased revenue generation. Do you think it can tap from engineering activities in its drive to boost the nation’s revenue?
Talking about diversifying, the question is, do we have the capacity? And even if we have the capacity, does the government recognise our capacity to lift it out of the revenue problems that the country is currently in? Do we have the capacity? The answer is yes. Does the government recognise our capacity? The answer is also yes. What is actually happening is that in the process of using the human resources we have in Nigeria, government often derails. Government is aware of what it has; it is aware of the fact that capacity abounds. But sometimes when they want to invest in critical infrastructure, they look for the wrong person to advise them. When they have a position to fill, they fill such a position with the wrong person.
I will give you an example, in the power sector, which is one of the areas of our economy that we have huge challenges; if you trace it back over the years, you will notice that the leadership of that sector had always been in the wrong hands. It is only during a brief period that the minister of power was an engineer. Now at the lower level, the Niger Delta Power Holding Company is responsible for the construction of National Integrated Power Projects. The essence of the company is to build power plants all over the country. So who is better placed to build power plants? But who is in charge of NDPHC?
It is an accountant. You want to regulate the power sector in terms of how it operates; professional regulation is not about laws and criminality. What you should be looking at should be professional misconduct, which is different from criminal negligence. So there is a special training you go through to be a regulator. To regulate any professional process, you need to be trained in that area. But in our case, who is doing it? A lawyer. And you say there should be no crisis in the power sector, there will be crisis. The crisis is there and you will continue to have it magnified until the right thing is done. So why waste our resources in putting people in areas in which they have no competence.
So, advocacy on that is important. For instance, scrap the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission; transfer their roles to the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Authority and let them move on and then we will have a slim bureaucracy and effective management. Put the right person to manage the NIPP projects and you will see that things will change. So, this is the unfortunate thing that happens to us in our country. Therefore, when you talk of capacity, the truth about it is that there are many Nigerians who are doing great things in the engineering sector.
Can you tell us about COREN and its activities?
COREN was established by decree 55 of 1970 and amended by Decree 27 of 1992, now the “Engineers (Registration, etc) Act, CAP E11 of 2004” Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Act establishes COREN as a statutory body of the Federal Government empowered to regulate the Practice of Engineering in all aspects and ramifications in Nigeria.
It is a body empowered to regulate and control the training and practice of engineering in Nigeria and to ensure and enforce the registration of all engineering personnel including engineers, engineering technologists, engineering technicians, engineering craftsmen and consulting firms wishing to practise or engage in the practice of engineering.
COREN is also empowered to accredit training institutions and regulate the practice of engineers, technologists, technicians and craftsmen in Nigeria.
According to the decrees that set up and empowered the body, it is illegal for engineering personnel to practise or be employed, except for the purpose of training and apprenticeship, without being registered by COREN:
Anybody corporate or individual employer who engages the services of unregistered engineering personnel or consulting firms commits an offence against the law of the land as stipulated by the COREN decrees.
Source: The Punch