Address by the President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers at the Pre-Conference Press Briefing on the National Engineering Conference and Annual General Meeting on Monday, November 20, 2017
Gentlemen of the Press, I am elated to inform you that the Nigerian Society of Engineers shall host her annual National Engineering Conference/AGM “Abuja 2017” with the theme “Diversification of Nigerian Economy: Engineering Perspective”, on Monday, 20th – Friday, 24th November, 2017, at Chida Event Centre, Utako, Abuja.
Our Special Guest of Honour is HE President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, FNSE and our Chief Host is the Honourable Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Alhaji Muhammed Musa Bello. While the Keynote Address will be delivered by the Hon. Minister of Science & Technology, Engr. Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, FNSE, FAEng.
This year’s conference being the fiftieth (50th) in the series is unique to us. It is against this backdrop that we have decided that this platform will be effectively used to 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 3,500 Engineers and their Spouses have registered online and we expect more of our members to register onsite. The conference is also expected to bring together 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.
The Conference Planning Committee has structured the transactions in four plenaries and sixteen concurrent technical sessions. All in all, ninety-two papers are to be presented covering sub-themes in Engineering Industries, Electric Power, Energy Sources, Chemical, Petrochemical, Polymer, Gas, Materials and Metallurgical Solid Minerals, Agro-Allied, Automotive, Locomotive, Railway, Information Communication Technology sectors.
2017 Conference at a Glance
Day 1 (Pre-Conference Activities)
• Board of Fellows/College of Fellows Roundtable Forum/Symposium on “Engineering Education and Capacity Building”
• Nigerian Content Committee Workshop on the theme “Nigerian Content Act for the Diversification of the Economy”.
• First/Second Technical Sessions
• Opening Ceremony
• First/Second Plenary Sessions
• Commissioning of NSE Spouses wholly sponsored project – fully equipped classroom blocks
• Technical Sessions
• Cultural Nite
• Third/Fourth Plenary Session
• Technical Sessions
• Welfare Nite
• Post-Conference Press Briefing
In between, there shall be programmes for graduate/student members, spouses, and much more. At the end of the five-day event, a Communiqué arising from the proceedings and recommendations thereof will be presented to the Government and the general public.
Before we delve into the issue of engineering perspective on the diversification of the Nigerian economy, it is pertinent to address a national issue that has become topical.
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.
OPTIMUM NUMBER OF MINISTERS
At my investiture as President in January 2016, and at the opening ceremony of the National Engineering Conference “Uyo 2016”, I called the attention of government to the apparent small number of ministers we presently have in Nigeria, compared to other countries such as the US, UK, and Singapore.
Now that government is giving serious thought to the issue of appointing more ministers and unbundling some ministries, it is important to emphasize that nomination and assignment of portfolio should be carried out even before the screening exercise by the National Assembly. With our Industrial Engineering background, Engineers can sure assist Mr. President in designing a sustainable governance structure.
National Engineering Conference “Abuja 2017”
A diversified economy has concomitant impact that leads not only to sustainable chain of profitable activities, but ultimately boosts the living conditions of citizens. Our expectation is that this crucial meeting will provide insight on how Nigeria can gradually shift away from over dependence on oil and gas resources which largely account for a chunk of government’s revenue.
Development of the Mining Sector
The Nigerian Society of Engineers is worried by the pace of Nigeria’s industrial development caused by the dearth of the Metallurgical and Materials Industries and the sluggish pace of the Mining Industries inundated by artisanal Mining hamlets.
To redeem the moribund Steel and other Materials Industries in Nigeria, Government is urged to de-regulate the Steel and other Materials Industries in Nigeria.
For example instead of allowing the infrastructure at Ajaokuta Steel Complex Limited (ASCL), Itakpe Iron Ore Company, Delta Steel Company etc to lie idle, the various aspects of the Company like Rolling Mills, the Foundry shops, the Machine shops, the Furnaces, etc should be effectively put to good 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.
FMITI recently responded to our letter, stating that the Fed government had decided that no part of the ASCL shall be operated on piece meal basis. The matter has been escalated to the Vice President with advice that ASCL was built and operated on piece-meal basis on a backward integration policy.
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.
1. Large scale mining is lacking in Nigeria. Investment in large scale mining and minerals processing should bring impetus to the sector and assist proper economic growth and industrialization This will boost the nation’s GDP and diversify the foreign revenue sources for a more stable and robust economy that creates significant wealth and jobs creation for our teaming unemployed Nigerians.
2. There is need to provide financial support to entrepreneurs in the mining sector, to bridge the funding gap. The renewed effort of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to revitalize steel manufacturing should be aligned with the delivery of key infrastructure projects like rail and dams so that the huge steel and cement requirements of these projects are fully met through local production.
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.
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 LOCAL RAIL TRACKS PRODUCTION
o Foreign exchange saver and earner
o Local Human Capacity Development;
o Opening up of the Central Rail line and optimization of its utilization to spur industrial and economic growth through quick access to wider markets;
o Cheaper transport and long distance bulk haulage costs; longer useful life for roads
o 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 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), was coming from agriculture. The foundation for agricultural research and production was laid. Regional governments expanded the production of food by embarking on various programmes to achieve the purpose.
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. Production of domestic crops was added to the cash crops. And shortly after this, the country became self sufficiency in food and fibre production as regions became specialists in particular crops; oil palm for the East, cotton and groundnut for the North, 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. Poor credit facilities
iv. Inadequate research and demonstration facilities
v. Absence of incentives for indigenous design and manufacture of needed farm equipment
vi. Inadequate infrastructural facilities such as roads, water supply and electricity, etc.
This has resulted in:
• Food shortage.
• Massive unemployment.
• Structural disruption in the economy.
• Heavy importation of domestic food items and raw materials.
• High rural to urban migration and
• Low capacity utilization of Agro-based Industries.
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.
• Study the immediate and remote causes of failure and/or poor performance of previous programmes on agricultural mechanization in Nigeria.
• Strengthening and adequately funding existing establishments whose mandates, goals or functions are related to agricultural mechanization.
• Ensure consistency in government policy on Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development.
• Promote adaptive and innovative research towards the development of indigenous machines for farming and processing techniques. Agricultural Engineers can directly and indirectly influence the small scale agro-industry and the large scale agro-industry in the following ways through Research and Development, Food quality, Coordination.
• The Bill before the National Assembly on National Agricultural Land Development Authority be passed into law as soon as possible. Government should establish National Farm Settlements and Youth Empowerment Agency to promote mechanized system of farming. Agricultural Engineers should be the major stake holders in the agency as they are better trained and equipped to carry out mechanized system of farming.
• LOCAL CONTENT AND ECONOMY
Local content is a global science. It involves the commitment of specialized engineering industry to leverage on the capacity and capability of indigenous people and businesses in order to support a long-term development of a nation’s entrepreneurial capacity.
Nigeria, conscious of the value and desirability of this science, enacted the “Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act in 2010. The template of this Act, whose jurisdiction covers the Oil and Gas Sector of the economy only, need to be adopted for all sectors pending the enactment to govern all sectors of the economy.
Why Nigeria Content or Local Content
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.
Nigeria Infrastructure Development and Management
A low hanging fruit in our national development efforts is the immediate implementation of the local content in infrastructure development and management as a catalyst to economic growth and an enabler for the up scaling of the quality of life of the average Nigerian now and in the projected future.
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
Five major areas can be strategically targeted, managed and midwife to become economic enablers in the procurement of infrastructure projects in Nigeria.
1. Engineering/Technical Services Consultancy- Consultancy services for the design of all infrastructure projects.
2. Materials Inputs for Nigeria Infrastructure Projects – Production, marketing & installation.
3. Human Capital Development – Employment, Empowerment, capacity building & Transfer of technology.
4. Procurement of Infrastructure – Linkage of public procurement with in-country production and productive capacities.
5. 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.
Suggestions for Consideration & Implementation
1. Government should deliberately create opportunities for indigenous Nigerian firms to participate in infrastructure projects and development throughout its life cycle for a maximum impact on our economy.
2. As a strategy towards attaining at least 70% local content, specific incentive should be offered to ensure the capacity building of the local firms to meet the emerging challenges.
3. All infrastructure projects design and production should be domiciled in Nigeria and Nigerian firms should by policy lead the consultancy, engineering/procurement/construction consortia where international expertise is necessary.
4. Construction materials such as steel, cement, etc., must be locally sourced. This can lead to new industries and expansion of existing fledging ones.
5. The inputs for the implementation of National Infrastructure projects should be sourced locally as much as possible from existing facilities.
6. All projects from conception and design, through procurement to post construction management should be implemented in a manner that will ultimately achieve in-country competency as a guarantee to full life-cycle sustainability by the involvement of indigenous Engineers.
7. Nigerian firms already engaged in manufacturing of products necessary for implementing National Infrastructure projects should be identified and supported to meet the international standards and requirements of the products.
8. Foreign companies undertaking infrastructure projects in Nigeria should not only register their companies in Nigeria as is the case now but should mandatorily form a partnership with indigenous firms in order to jointly execute the projects and transfer appropriate technology.
9. Expatriate quota should be granted for a defined period only in fields where the qualifications and competence of Nigerian Nationals cannot be ascertained, for the purpose of capacity development and job creation, and must be contingent on training at least 2 to 5 Nigerians within the period of its validity.
10. All projects must be implemented in line with Nigerian codes and standards and or international codes and standards domesticated to Nigeria and rendered in English language.
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 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.
1. That most of the major projects considered for award to be handled by Nigerians except in some specialized projects, foreigners could be involved but in meaningful association with registered Nigerian engineering professionals, including Engineers as interviewed and approved by FMST to ensure that they play the role required, pursuant to Chapter 3 of the CAC Act 2004 and other relevant regulations on acquisition and transfer of technology.
2. The federal government should accord the indigenous firm the opportunity to participate in national development through award of contracts and appointment as consultants.
3. The Government should use indigenous professionals and firms in the planning, design and execution of all projects and only engage foreign experts when it is certified by an Inter-ministerial Committee with secretariat in Federal Ministry of Science and Technology that such expertise is not available in Nigeria. Where possible foreign firms should be attracted to come into Nigeria and establish their production facility for the supply contract.
4. The turnkey projects should be considered only when work is highly specialized and is of high value. Nigerian Engineering and other professional firms must be associated, and be effectively involved, in such projects right from the planning stage.
5. That only registered engineering and other professional firms must practice in the country. Government should immediately move towards gradual disengagement from the use of imported materials, wherever possible, in favour of locally available materials.
6. Government Involvement in regulating construction and infrastructural development should be given top priority so as to encourage the effective participation of our indigenous professionals and contractors.
7. Review the local content preference in public procurement to 15% from the current level of 10% to promote local production in the short run.
8. All manufacturers and producers in the country should be encouraged with the support of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) to manufacture/produce with high standards that will compete effectively at the international market.
9. Government to demand that foreign contractors and suppliers and consultants should demonstrate as prequalification condition that there is an established partnership to work with Nigerian Firms for the purpose of technology acquisition and transfer.
10. Government should Promote Nigerian codes and standards and domesticate relevant international standards in general and for construction and infrastructural development in particular. The Nigerian Society of Engineers, in conjunction with her professional institutions, has put up a draft of about 50 codes and standards and has started the process of consulting stakeholders for consensus building in fulfilment of procedural due process.
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.
Majority of our public water utilities are operating at less than 50% of their installed capacity. This is very worrisome and need to be addressed urgently. There is general prevalence of low service delivery amongst the State Water Agencies (SWAs).
Nigeria lacks a National Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for the water sector leading to weak policy implementation across SWAs.
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) in July, 2017 led to the death of more than 21 persons, loss of properties, means of livelihood and environmental sanitation challenges.
• Government should make funds available for the rehabilitation of our water infrastructure and water distribution networks expansion, so that the SWAs can achieve full capacity utilization.
• The problem of manpower shortages in core professional areas in the water sector should be addressed with a sense of urgency. There is need to direct all water sector organizations to develop Staff Succession Plan (SSP) for their respective agencies.
• Government should consistently engage Nigerian engineering firms for consulting, contracting, manufacturing, services, maintenance, fabrication and vendoring jobs.
• FMWR should develop and implement a National Monitoring and Evaluation Framework and a National Performance Score Card for the water sector; awards in the form of equipment grants should be given to deserving Agencies.
• Local Governments should be incorporated into the NCWR. A national sanitation agency should be established in order to fast track access to improved sanitation facilities in Nigeria.
• Government should consider exploring the installation of sustainable early warning systems where they do not exist and ensure adequate maintenance and upgrade where they already exist across the country. In the immediate aftermath of a flood, the relevant agencies (i.e. Ministry of Environment, National Emergency Management Agencies (NEMA) etc. should ensure rapid response to provide immediate relief to victims.
• The relevant agencies must ensure complete evacuation and resettlement of high risk settlements especially those developed along the flood plains.
• Government should hire relevant engineering and other professional firms to carry out a detailed hydrological study of the affected areas and advise government on immediate and long-term measures to avert a re-occurrence and/or effectively mitigate it when it occurs.
• 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. The Committee to its credit and the overall benefit of the Society has been very proactive in that regard, judging by attendance during National Council meetings (Power, Works, Hydrology, etc) memoranda submitted and results recorded this year.
• Following our robust contributions and advocacy we have early gains and achievement in the one year interactions at the level of policy formulation in all the Councils attended.
• Another notable gain is communications received from MDAs requesting to collaborate with the NSE to further their set goals; example of which is from the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on the NAADI project.
• We have also received direct appreciation from MDAs in recognition of our contributions at the floor of the Councils leading to clear policy decisions.
• Conclusively therefore, it is correct and sufficient to say that we have created clear links between the NSE and MDAs/Stakeholders in all the economic sectors of our nation and we have approved policy papers of these MDAs as communiqués resulting from the council meetings, which the NSE should use for its continuous strategic planning.
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. Through its active participation and engagements with developments in engineering at the regional and global level, the society’s visibility and influence has been growing in leaps and bound. 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.
The NSE nominated Engr. Akintunde for this coveted Award based on his sterling qualities and contributions to the development of the engineering profession nationally and internationally. 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. The most intriguing and historic moment we have been looking forward with enthusiasm since the beginning of this year, is 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.
As President of NSE, I had the approval of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Uyo November in 2016 to nominate Engr. M.B. Shehu to vie for this position as per the election rules of the WFEO. 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.
I thank you for attending this press conference.
Engr. Otis Anyaeji, FNSE, FAEng