Let’s start this piece by congratulating most respectfully, all engineers as we celebrate sixty years of the existence of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). Sixty hearty cheers to Nigerian engineers who for several decades have contributed significantly to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of Nigeria’s infrastructure – public buildings, roads, overhead bridges, telegraphy, telephony, rural electrification, dams, railway, etcetera. Most importantly, the contribution of the engineers to nation-building from the colonial period till date is worthwhile and commendable.
It is equally, necessary to acknowledge those engineers who established the NSE. These are trailblazers and engineering juggernauts, who, in their wisdom, seized the initiative to establish the NSE. It was through their dint of hard work and firm belief in a worthy endeavour that they established the NSE in 1958. Their determination and courage are hereby recognised for setting engineering standards and ethics of the noble profession in Nigeria which subsequent generations of Nigerian engineers have preserved till date. I am proud to be an engineer- a naval engineer for that matter.
Today, with the phenomenal advancement in technology, engineering has more than fifty branches. The latest in the broader engineering spectrum is referred to as genetic engineering whose rate of development when fused with nanotechnology and robotics will attempt recreating man and revolutionize humanity’s way of life.
These phenomenal technological wonders are taking place in the developed countries, while in Africa, the so-called Third World, countries are yet to understand the basic rudiments of the first industrial revolution. While developed economies are in outer space, African countries are de-industrializing. And while developed nations have gone far in recycling technology, Africans are still fraught with challenges of how to process basic raw materials for use by manufacturing firms in industries. This is purely the problem of leadership in African countries, not that of the engineer.
With respect to Nigeria, one of the primary causes of the nation’s backwardness is our ineffectual use of Nigerian engineers who are supposed to be the prime movers of a sustainable economy. To compound issues, the Nigerian society has bastardized engineering by patronizing counterfeit “engineers” and emergency contractors who, assisted by their political godfathers, defile with impunity the engineers’ ethical codes that are supposed to be sacred. This is embarrassing!
The embarrassment is such that foreign plumbers and carpenters and at times ex-convicts stroll into the country as engineers and they are awarded multi-million Naira contracts by those in government especially at the federal level. Housewives and girlfriends parade themselves as registered contractors and consultants, while house boys wear coveralls and carry the tally of artisans overnight. This ugly situation is very common at state and federal levels. What a shame to Nigeria!
When these counterfeits fail woefully, they still come back to the real engineers at a price though. Despite these inadequacies there is no sector of the Nigerian economy that is not influenced by engineering and engineers. What greater opportunity could Nigerian engineers have had if they were challenged to build our nation’s capital, Abuja, from scratch? Had it been Nigerian engineers were given the opportunity, the nation’s economy couldn’t have been as bad as it is today because the funds so expended would have remained in circulation within the country.
Perhaps, in order to address the embarrassment reflected above in Nigeria for several years, President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja signed and released a Presidential Executive Order Number 5 for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content in Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology. The Presidential Executive Order (PEO) Number 5 which takes effect on 2 February 2018, is to amongst other objectives, “improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components.”
In the same breadth, the Order states that “the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) recognizes the vital role of science, technology and innovation in national economic development, particularly in promoting made-in-Nigeria goods and services. And to increase the quantum of value created in Nigeria economy through increased Nigerian content in public procurement.” I say Bravo Zulu to Mr President for this presidential intervention through the Order. It covers a lot of areas ranging from expatriates quota to capacity development and procedures award of contracts.
The PEO Number 5 is more than a policy statement. It is expected to have a far-reaching effect because it has the force of the law. But Presidential Executive Order on its own will not invoke national economic development in a country where there is disregard for the rule of law. This writer, on 03 November 2015, reflected in this column in the second article of a seven-part series titled “Innovation: Complex but Inevitable,” that “available literature on innovation lays great emphasis on the role of human capital and institutions on technological innovation and economic development. These are areas regarded as most difficult for industrialized and less industrialized countries to achieve good scores in their development efforts. Research and Development (R&D) is one of the vital policy area that cannot be ignored by governments in order to secure technological innovation and ultimately economic growth.”
Though science explains why things happen, engineering elucidate how to make things happen, and technology makes things happen. Engineering is the link between science and technology and thus, a crucial component of the family. That is why engineers have must continue to play their role in the country’s economic development and maintain their rightful place in nation building.
It is on record that an engineer of Herbert Macaulay’s calibre was the prime initiator of Nigeria’s nationalism. Indeed, it is remarkable that Herbert Macaulay laid such a solid foundation for Nigeria’s independence and her ultimate greatness have continued to gain momentum till date.
I sincerely hope that the Presidential Executive Order will change the narrative of Nigerian Engineers and ultimately give Nigerians the promised liberation from poverty. Long live NSE. Long Live Nigeria!