Opening Speech by the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers at the Opening Ceremony of the National Engineering Conference and Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen
It is with great joy that I specially welcome you all to the NSE 2017 National Engineering Conference “Diversification of the Nigerian Economy: Engineering Perspective”.
This year’s conference being the fiftieth (50th) in the series represents not just a unique milestone for us but offers a veritable platform to brainstorm and set agenda for government on engendering good governance, spurring economic growth, and stimulating the technological advancement of our great country, Nigeria.
So far, reports from our I.T. Centre indicate 5,000 Engineers and their Spouses have registered online and we expect more of our members to register onsite. The conference has attracted a rich assemblage of top government functionaries, captains of industries, policy makers, professionals and other relevant stakeholders to exchange ideas and chart the best course for Nigeria’s diversification drive.
OPTIMUM NUMBER OF MINISTERS
At my investiture as President, at the world press conference and at the opening ceremony of the National Engineering Conference all in 2016, the theme of my speech was on the missing link of Nigeria’s development journey – insufficient Engineers in the policy level. And that was to speak to the anxieties of Engineers at ministerial and other high policy level in the country. Talking about the models of appointments of ministers in the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), and even in Singapore.
In the United States for example they have about sixteen ministries or departments, but they have 265 Ministers, in the form of secretary, deputy secretary, and assistant secretary etc and they really define the policy elements which each of these secretaries will man and the senate interview them based on their assigned portfolio, which ensures their capability of those who are being nominated. And that system gives them the opportunity, that in a particular ministry or department that you have people that understand the activities within such ministry.
In the UK also they have about 24 ministries and with over 100 ministers and that is what also enables them to appoint people of knowledge and experience into the different ministries.
In a place like Singapore, their model is slightly different. They have a situation where sometimes one or two ministers are in charge of a ministry. But what you would find is that ministers in Singapore are such that, for instance, their deputy prime minister is an engineer and also had training in public and business administration. You find that half of their ministers have basic training in engineering and also have training in different areas of management.
We are happy that the President FRN has realized that the provision in the constitution about the appointment of ministers is just a minimum and all states of the federation must be represented. But 36 ministers or a few more, and a handful of ministers of state are too few to cope with the diversities of the policy elements that are made to be deployed at the ministerial level. We really have to expand that and try getting more good hands into the system, so that from policy formulation we get things right, because if policies are wrong and faulty, implementation is inevitably inhibited or compromised.
We also have to look at the question of configuration of the ministries, which unfortunately in Nigeria is subjected to frequent changes as government comes and goes. But in the UK, the ministries are matter of establishment under the law.
The kind of arrangement of merging power, works and housing under one minister can be very effective in a country that is as small as the size of one state in Nigeria, because under normal situation housing is supposed to be on its own as a ministry, because it has the widest linkage effect and impact of establishing manufacturing industries in the country.
Now that the President is giving serious thought to these issues, we expect His Excellency to unbundle some ministries and bring on board more professionals at the ministerial level, so that there will be more effectiveness and efficiency in government business.
And if the government must merge some ministries, which in my opinion is a good move, then there is need to appoint more ministers with the requisite knowledge and experience to handle the affairs of such ministries. In such an arrangement, accountability is assured.
NATIONAL ENGINEERING CONFERENCE “ABUJA 2017”
Our expectation on this conference is a rich set of deliverables that will lend insight on how Nigeria can gradually shift away from over dependence on crude oil. And in all honesty, any nation that seeks to diversify its economy without the inputs of engineering and the participation of Engineers, that nation is simply embarking on an exercise in futility.
DIVERSIFICATION THROUGH MINING
Nigeria is highly endowed with solid minerals, with presence of specific minerals in the thirty six (36) states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Considerable reserves of about forty (40) types of solid minerals are reported to exist across the country, with potential to support large scale production in midstream and downstream industrial activities in country, if proven through exploration. Mining is therefore a key area for diversification of the economy.
BRIEF ON MEDIUM SECTION AND STRUCTURAL MILL (MSSM) AJAOKUTA STEEL COMPLEX
Ajaokuta Steel Plant is fully owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Medium Section and Structural Mill (MSSM) is an integral part of the Ajaokuta steel plant, with installed capacity of 560,000 tons/annum.
Instead of allowing the massive investments in facilities at Ajaokuta Steel Complex Limited (ASCL), Itakpe Iron Ore Company, Delta Steel Company etc to waste away, the government should ensure that their various plants like the Rolling Mills, the Foundry shops, the Machine shops, the Furnaces, etc are effectively put to productive use.
The Society had in April 2017 forwarded to the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment (FMITI) a business plan for the reactivation of the Medium Section and Structural Mill of ASCL whereby over a period of ten years an investment of N700 billion would yield over N1.5 trillion.
Standard Gauge Railway Rails Production
Standard gauge rails production at the MSSM can be achieved. Expert opinion on this project is that apart from adding value to the MSSM, it will expedite the meeting of the requirements of Nigeria and other West African countries in railway rails and generate significant profit as well as social benefits. This includes the creation of thousands of direct employment at MSSM and indirect jobs in transport and services.
Mill Reactivation and Operation
In 2010 a comprehensive technical audit of Ajaokuta Steel Complex, including MSSM, was carried out. The audit results showed that the MSSM equipment were in satisfactory condition.
Socio-Economic Benefits of In-Country Rail Production
· Foreign exchange saver and earner
· Local Human Capacity Development;
· Opening up of the Central Rail line and optimization of its utilization to spur industrial and economic growth through quick access to wider markets;
· Cheaper transport and long distance bulk haulage costs; longer useful life for roads
· Positive impact on regional development; creating sustainable opportunities in isolated and impoverished communities.
The application of space science and technology is not just essential but inevitable in the socio-economic development of our dear country.
Space technology is still at its infancy stage in Nigeria, therefore government needs to invest heavily in facilities and human capacity building.
The federal government should create an environment which promotes space entrepreneurship in all of its forms, from research funding to unified and simple regulations to promote public private partnerships as well as equity funding of space related start-ups for the benefits of current and future generations.
It is also expedient to:
a. Propose an Executive Bill that will establish a regulatory framework for communications satellite business in Nigeria, rather than the unregulated regime currently in operation. This would lead to high revenue from landing rights permits and sundry charges.
b. Acquire two new additional satellites which will serve as backup, which is the edge other foreign satellite operators have over NIGCOMSAT Limited.
Engineering Dimension to the Diversification of the Nigerian Economy
Before and shortly after independence, Nigerian economy was agro based – 80% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) coming from agriculture. In 1963, Nigeria became a republic and agriculture was placed on a residual list where 6.3% of the total national outlay was devoted to agriculture. And shortly after this, the country became self sufficient in food and fibre production as regions became specialists in particular crops; cotton and groundnut for the North, oil palm for the East, cocoa for the West and rubber and timber for the Mid West.
The impressive condition of the economy in the sixties remained up to the early seventies when government made a gradual withdrawal from agriculture and focused on oil as the main source of income. Presently the Nigerian agricultural sector is characterized by:
i. High production cost
ii. Lack of agricultural inputs (hybrid seeds, fertilizers and agro-chemicals)
iii. Inadequate infrastructural facilities such as roads, water supply and electricity, etc, resulting in food shortage, low capacity utilization of Agro-based Industries et.
The Way Forward
To diversify the Nigerian economy, the following actions are needed to be taken by the government.
· Formulate and implement a national policy on agricultural mechanization. Nigerian Agricultural Engineers should be encouraged to drive all policies and programmes on Agricultural Mechanization.
· Strengthening and adequately funding existing establishments whose mandates, goals or functions are related to agricultural mechanization.
· The Bill before the National Assembly on National Agricultural Land Development Authority be passed into law it is still pending. Government should establish National Farm Settlements and Youth Empowerment Agency to promote mechanized system of farming.
LOCAL CONTENT AND ECONOMY
No nation desirous of political and economic independence hands over totally its socio-economic development and management to foreigners. In order to galvanize our national development and upscale our productive capacity as a nation, there is a need to make urgent and necessary policy shifts in the management of the economy.
Capital Flight Due to Poor Policy on Nigerian Content
In the last fifty years, Nigeria has witnessed a high volume of capital flight from the oil and gas earnings due to the inability to put in place and sustain a viable policy of maximizing the value for money derived from developmental expenditure in the public and private sectors of the economy. In order to stem capital flight and invigorate the economy, there is the need to put in place a policy that conserves and ensures circulation of public spending as much as possible within the Nigerian economy.
The Effect of Nigerian Content in Infrastructure Projects
Six major areas can be strategically targeted, managed and midwife to become economic enablers in the procurement of infrastructural projects in Nigeria, viz
1. Engineering/technical services/consultancy services for the design of all development operation, infrastructure projects.
2. Engineering, procurement, construction contracts
3. Materials inputs for Nigeria infrastructure projects – production, marketing & installation
4. Human capital development – employment, empowerment, capacity building & transfer of technology.
5. Procurement of infrastructure – linkage of public procurement with in-country production and productive capacities.
6. Facility management of national infrastructure – life cycle costing for public infrastructure and a sustainability model as a cardinal ingredient of project acceptability and implementation by government.
GUIDELINES TO FEDERAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (FEC) AND MDAS FOR THE PLANNING AND EXECUTION OF PROJECTS, PROGRAMMES AND CONTRACTS THAT HAVE SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND TECHNOLOGY COMPONENTS
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had at its 17TH meeting on 10th May 2017 directed the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology to develop a policy to guide Council, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), on the application of local content technology to improve the local content in the execution of projects, programmes and contracts with Science, Engineering and Technology components in Nigeria.
The Hon. Minister Science & Technology, HE Engr. Ogbonanya Onu, FNSE, FAEng will speak to this issue. We are grateful to him for taking the Society and working with her in developing and refining the guidelines. A workshop to be jointly hosted by the FMS&T and NSE will hold in December 2017, to discuss this and the Road Map for Science Technology & Innovation, recently launched by FMS&T.
The objectives of the policy guidelines are:
1. To increase the quantum or composite value added to or created in the Nigerian economy by a systematic development of capabilities through the deliberate utilization of Nigerian human, material resources and services in the execution of Nigerian projects, programmes and contracts with science, engineering and technology components.
2. To accelerate the process of technology acquisition and utilization for rapid and sustainable growth and development of the Nation, amongst others.
We are awaiting an Executive Order from the Office of the Attorney General to give force to that policy, which we believe would unlock doors of boundless opportunities for engineers and engineering firms.
INVESTMENT IN WATER SECTOR
Reports indicate massive investment have been made in the provision of safe water for both urban and rural dwellers in the country. Regrettably, these investments do not reflect in the quality of life many Nigerians are living as cases of diseases associated with water contamination persist. The national access to safe drinking water of 69% does not represent the situation on ground.
Flooding is a global phenomenon and is caused by a combination of factors which include climate change and other environmental factors.
The floods recorded in parts of Niger State, Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) which led to loss of lives, destruction of properties and environmental pollution, demand urgent government intervention.
Advocacy lies at the heart of the Society’s core mission and objectives, and in recognition of that, the National Advocacy Committee was set up by the Council of NSE, to among other things, articulate the Society’s position on all socio-economic policies as they affect the welfare of engineers and the interest of engineering firms in Nigeria.
Following our robust contributions and advocacy we have early gains and achievement in the one year of interactions at the level of policy formulation in all the Councils attended.
We have cheering news on the issue of enhanced entry point for Engineers, which shall be revealed at the appropriate time. We thank HE Engr. Mrs. Ebele Okeke, FNSE, CFR, OON and indeed our Branch Chairmen for the great efforts.
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS UPDATE
At the international arena, the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) has been breaking new grounds with series of heart-warming and unprecedented accomplishments. Last week, the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) in a letter signed by its Executive Director, Jacques de Méreuil, informed me that our revered former President, Engr. Ifedayo Akintunde, FNSE, FAEng (1987-1988) has emerged as the winner of 2017 WFEO Medal of Engineering Excellence.
Today, we are so delighted that this Award, which will be bestowed on him during the WFEO Gala Dinner on 1st of December 2017 in Rome, has reaffirmed our trust in his competence and integrity in this noble profession which he has dedicated his entire life to.
The most remarkable aspect of this cheering news from Rome, is that it is first time an African will ever win in any category of the WFEO Awards, since the maiden edition of the Awards in September 1989 in Prague, in the defunct Czechoslovakia, during the 12th General Assembly of WFEO.
In addition, at this year’s WFEO General Assembly holding in Rome, Italy, there is another history-in-the-making for us in the NSE and the entire members of the engineering family in Africa, being the endorsement of Engr. Mustafa Balarabe Shehu, FNSE, by the Federation Of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO) to contest for the position of President of WFEO.
The nomination and endorsement of Engr. Shehu’s candidacy for this highly exalted position, is premised on the enormous achievements recorded by the FAEO during his tenure as President of the continental engineering body (2015-16). Prior to that, Engr. Shehu also recorded ground breaking accomplishments during his tenure as President of the NSE (2015-16).
Engr. Shehu’s aspiration to become the next President of WFEO, is undoubtedly another bold step that deserves all the support it can get. It is pertinent to note that no candidate from any country in sub-Sahara Africa, has ever had the privilege of running for this position since the inception of WFEO in 1968. It is therefore, another unique opportunity for Nigeria and Africa to make history. Meanwhile, we at the NSE have given our full support and encouragement with a view to making this dream a reality.
It on record that Engr. Shehu has received letters of support from Engineers Australia, Bahrain Society of Engineers and the Institution of Engineers Brazil, as part of the fulfilment of election requirement.
THE NIGERIAN INFRASTRUCTURE SCORECARD
Infrastructure development is critical to attaining human capital, social development and economic growth of any nation. The impact of infrastructure development on nation building cannot be over-emphasized. It is therefore convenient to say that the growth of any country’s economy is largely dependent on the status of its infrastructure.
This year, the National Infrastructure Report Card is well structured in a manner that would guide government at all levels in prioritizing their investment decisions in the critical areas of the national development needs.
To this end the time to develop Nigeria is now and the development of the nation starts with the infrastructure growth which is the fundamental requirement for our desired development of being among the top 20 economies in the world.
MODELS FOR REGULATION OF ENGINEERING IN A COUNTRY
The pattern for regulation of engineering in any country is in two modes:
1. Regulation by the government, or
2. Self-regulation by the profession
In the 1970s, regulation by the government through a parastatal was imposed by the Minister responsible for engineering in Nigeria, even though five years earlier, self-regulation through charter was granted to Accountancy in Nigeria.
Regulation by government through parastatal is used for professions in their infancy, while charter is granted to professions that are matured, and who have more than 5,000 members, and have shown ability to manage and support the affairs of their associations successfully over a number of years.
The Nigerian Society of Engineers over the years has membership in excess of 40,000, and even with less than 10% compliance in subscription payment raises more resources than the government parastastal regulating Engineering.
Thus, the engineering association is capable of regulating the practice of engineering in Nigeria, in addition to running the services of a professional association without resort to public funding. The National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives should take note of this in the present saga of amendment of COREN Act or Charter for the engineering profession in Nigeria.
I thank you for listening, and I welcome you all once again to Abuja, the Centre of Unity.
Engr. Otis Anyaeji, FNSE, FAEng