EVIDENT TRUTHS OF OUR PROFESSION
VALEDICTORY REMARKS BY ENGR. OTIS ANYAEJI, FNSE, FAEng, 30TH PRESIDENT (NSE 2016 & 2017) ON THE OCCASION OF THE INVESTITURE CEREMONY OF ENGR. ADEKUNLE O. MOKUOLU, FNSE AS 31ST PRESIDENT NSE, ON SATURDAY, 13TH JANUARY 2018
I greet all you beautiful and lovely people that have congregated here to keep Nigerian Engineering company. This is happening as my successor in office, Engr. AdekunleMokuolu, FNSE is being invested with paraphernalia of office as President of the great and honourable the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
The title of my remarks is “Evident Truths of Our Profession”. This has been chosen to enable one lay bare some of the fundamental issues that change and progress for our profession depend upon.
First, I return to the topic of my Presidential Address “MISSING LINK IN NIGERIA’S DEVELOPMENT: Insufficient Engineers in the Policy Space.” It is still true that there are not enough Engineers as Ministers, Ministers of State, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of relevant committees in the National Assembly, even as there are eleven (11) Engineer distinguished Senators, and over fifteen (15) Engineer honourable Members. And I had to follow up that with a world press conference in 2016 talking about the models of appointment of Ministers in the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA) and even in Singapore. In the US for example, they have about 16 ministries or departments as they call it, but they have 225no. Ministers (Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Under Secretaries).There they really define the policy elements which each of these Secretaries will man and the Senate interviews them based on those elements. This helps to ensure the capability of those being nominated for the particular positions. That system gives them the opportunity that in a particular ministry/department, that you have people who understand the activities within such ministry.
In the United Kingdom, they have over a hundred Ministers (Secretaries of State, Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Junior Ministers). This 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 where one or two ministers are in charge of a ministry. But what you would find is that ministers in Singapore, for example, their deputy Prime Minister is an Engineer, and has training in Public Administration. You find that half of their ministers have basic training in engineering, and also have training in different areas of management. I am happy now that the President and C-in-C has realized that the provision in the constitution about the appointment of ministers is just a minimum, to ensure that all the states in the country are represented. 36 ministers are too few to cope with the diversity of the policy elements that are to be dealt with at the ministerial level. We really have to expand that and try getting more qualified good hands into the system so that from policy formulation we get things right because if policies are wrong and faulty, implementation cannot overcome that handicap.
Secondly, a few days ago, discussions on the Council platform were on the issue of who is the CEO of the Society. On the NSE website, the section on ‘Structure and Leadership’ says “The President is the Chief Executive, and directs the programme and mandate of the Society on behalf of the members.” I may only add here that the President as CEO is responsible for strategic direction and overall supervision of all functions. As Chairman of Council, the President leads the Council.
The Executive Secretary is like Chief Operating Officer responsible for day to day execution. This then takes us to the third truth of our profession, that in a Professional Engineering Organisation or Professional Engineering Institution, strategic planning rules, not the personality of a President. In giving strategic direction to the Society, the President has the responsibility of making sure the Society is doing the right thing at the right time, and must continue to formulate workable strategic game plan that puts the Society in a position to consistently perform well.
The fourth truth is that following from our President’s function to reflect upon and evaluate things in terms of their impact upon the whole Society to discern what decisions and actions are best from the standpoint of the entire engineering professions, there is continuing need for advocacy. Some of the issues that will not go away soon include promotion of Nigerian Content, renovation of Engineering curriculum and faculties, engineering regulation &legislations, steady workload for Nigerian Engineering firms, proper placement of Engineers as heads of Engineering based agencies, etc.
Only a few days ago, Engr. S.T. Kolo posted information on China completing the world’s longest sea bridge. Engr. S.O.Uwaifo FNSE commented inter alia“… Nigerian Engineers are in jail in Nigeria…” This is the fifth truth, that state-regulation of a profession is akin to imprisoning of such professionals in that country. State-regulation imprisons innovativeness, it jails creativity, and places economic development in detention. Engr. Uwaifo pointed out that Engineers have to be free to dream, and not before.
Incidentally, President Vincent Maduka, OFR a little while ago pointed the way to Engineers being liberated from this jail Engr. Uwaifo wrote about. Paraphrasing Engr. Maduka we hear,
“I would like to suggest that NAE re-examine the NSE memart issue from these two angles. (1) If you’re not NSE (FNSE) you can’t be FAEng. So I don’t think the NSE memart issue should be personal only. For the same reason, I wonder why NAE can’t discuss it (including on our platform) until the NSE Council decides? (Apologies PP, NSE) (2) Charter status for the profession and regulation of engineering: (a) I believe the UK arrangement is chartered (b) ICAN in Nigeria is chartered and I reckon they are not answerable to any ministry/minister: they are self-regulated, like all mature bodies and professions. (c) During the debate over the mode of executing the repair of the Abuja runway earlier this year, the President of COREN admitted that he was instructed by “the minister” to make a public pronouncement on this technical matter in Public opposition to certain NSE “experts”. (3) The issue in my view is not what runway view was “right” on an engineering matter, but who pronounced judgment on an engineering issue. Under a chartered regulation and practice a Chartered Engineer’s (reasoned) pronouncement would have prevailed. I wonder the grade level and profession of the schedule director in the Ministry of Works responsible for COREN. Perhaps the NAE could take an analytical interest, for aye or for nay? Point by point.”
Past President Maduka hit the nail on the head with this sixth truth. Let us pay attention to his and Engr. Uwaifo’s words.
Self-regulation or Charter recognizes the maturity of a profession, and respects and honours the special skills, knowledge and experience that a profession possesses.
When a profession is chartered or self-regulating, it means that the government has delegated its regulatory functions to those who have the specialized knowledge necessary to get the job done.
Another truth I came about recently through Prof. P.B. KualeFAEng, FNSE is as follows in his words or something similar:
“any civilization is certainly destroyed if it comes in contact and remains in romance with corruption, violence and sectionalism.”
This seventh truth is very valid for us as both engineering and the Nigerian Society of Engineers are civilisations.
The eighth truth of our profession in Nigeria is that the Divisions of NSE are national Professional Engineering Institutions, each having custody of a body of knowledge, and relevant codes of practice and standards. On the other hand, the Branches of NSE are local outposts of the headquarters of NSE, and are socially oriented and do not have the mandate to speak for any discipline or specialization in engineering. Now, there are 69 Branches but if the economy moves and engineering is able to establish a technological base in Nigeria, there ought to be a Branch in every local government headquarters.
These are some of the modest achievements that were recorded during my tenure:
- Installation of 1No. 450Kg 6 passenger lift (through surplus from Investiture donations)
- Tiling of external walls of auditorium and tower (which has given NEC a unique façade in the Central Business District)
- Provision of seven hundred and seventy-six chairs (776) in the Auditorium, Gallery and breakout meeting rooms together with 25 tables (10-seater each), through a donation.
- Provision of 7no. Solar yard/street lamps at back of Auditorium/Ph.1.
What is actually needed in developments of profession is that there ought to be strategic planning that will lead the profession and not necessarily about the strength of the leader. We have in the last two years been able to get the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to nominate an Engineer, to be the Chairman of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).
In structural changes, we reverted the NSE management system to change from functional support areas to engineering professional based areas for effectiveness, and constant focus on the core business of a professional engineering organization.
In legislative activism, we stepped up advocacy to maintain a presence at the National Assembly in such a way that for the first time the Senate introduced the practice of establishing a technical committee after they have come up with a bill. The Committee was set up after the third reading and was chaired by a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. And many of such technical committees on bills were chaired by our members.
We have tried to address the structure and character of the engineering community in Nigeria. We have challenged the dichotomy between COREN and NSE. We have been promoting the establishment of one apex body to be an engineering council that will combine the functions of professional association and the regulatory agency. This is what obtains with ICAN for those of the Accounting profession and NIM for those of the Management profession. We have been arguing that we getthese two engineering bodies (NSE & COREN) merging as one apex body that will cater for the development of engineering in Nigeria. This will stop the practice of double fees/subscriptions being levied on Engineers. Lawyers and Accountants pay fees/subscriptions to only one body. They also do not attend two conferences, one for professional association, and the other for professional regulation.
We have made effort to get the legislators to look into that. We have a draft and are hoping to speak for the Chartered Institutes of Engineers to eventually emerge as unifying body of both organizations. These are some of the things we embarked on and we hope that in the fullness of time most of these objectives will materialize for the betterment of the engineering profession, and smoother and faster growth of our fatherland.
I regard those achievements as modest and foundational, and I expect that the 31st President and his team will achieve even more. I wish him success.
On this note, I am very happy to handover to Engr. Adekunle O. Mokuolu, FNSE as the 31st President of the great and honourable the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
Engr. Otis Anyaeji, FNSE, FAEng
30th President NSE (2016-2017)