presented at the 60th Anniversary Colloquium of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, held at the NAF Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja; By Engr Hilary Ijeoma OWAMAH,(Ph.D., MNSE, COREN Regd.), Senior Lecturer/Ag. HOD(Civil Engineering),Delta State University, Abraka;President, Academic Research and Entrepreneurship Development (A-RED) Initiative, Asaba.



It is indeed a great privilege to be invited as the guest speaker for this great occasion, being the 60th anniversary colloquium and celebration of this noble profession, the Nigerian Society of Engineers. It is sincerely, a rare privilege to be honored with this dignifying responsibility, in a national epoch-making event like this, given the caliber of engineers we have in and outside Nigeria and my being a youth.This really signposts the great things the leadership of the NSE has in mind for young engineers. The NSE without doubts is the fastest growing professional body in the country and this is a reflection of the consistent hard work of the President (Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu FNSE), the National Executive Council, and Committee, State Chapters and Divisions. At my last count, the NSE had 75 branches and 25 divisions,spread across and beyond Nigeria.It has also, in recent time, invested heavily in the automation of its operations in line with global best practices. Though a lot of progress has indeed been made, we are here in this colloquium hall, not to only reflect on these and many other achievements but to also discuss on how to move the body and our country Nigeria to the next level, through a re-engineering. Once again, I thank you all for finding me worthy to give this lecture. The topic is apt and timely given where we are today as a country and the efforts of the present Nigerian government to achieve sustainable economic growth and development, through technological breakthroughs.

1.1 Definitions

What is engineering?

It is a term used for the profession in which the knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences, gained by study, experience, and practice, is applied to the efficient use of the materials and forces of nature.

Who is an Engineer?-a person who has received professional training and whose job involves designing and building engines, machines, roads, bridges, etc. or their repairs and control (Oxford advanced dictionary)

What is Re-engineering?

-Systematic starting over and reinventing the way a firm/business/process, gets its work done.It is about radical improvement, not incremental changes[1-3].

  • In What Areas Do Nigerian Engineers Need Re-engineering For Optimum Contribution To National Development?
  1. In the training/education of would-be engineers
  2. Improvement of competence/skill

iii. Active participation in public policy and governance

My presentation today will be centered on all of these…….

1.3 Brief Explanation Of Economic Growth

A country’s economic growth is usually indicated by an increase in that country’s gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is an economic model that reflects the value of a country’s output. In other words, a country’s GDP is the total monetary value of the goods and services produced by that country over a specific period of time [4].

An Example of Economic Growth

Let’s say that a special orange grows naturally in Nigeria. Nigerians have used (eaten) this orange for many years, but recently, a wealthy American traveler discovered the orange and brought samples back to America. His American friends also loved this species of orange, so the traveler funded a large orange exporting business in Nigeria. The new orange exporting business, hired hundreds of Nigerians to farm, harvest, wash, box, and ship the oranges to grocers in the USA. Within a year, the orange exporting business added over one billion dollars to Nigeria’s GDP because, that’s the total value of the goods and services produced by the new orange exporting business. Since Nigeria’s GDP increased, this means that she experienced economic growth [4]

1.4 Brief Explanation OfEconomic Development

A country’s economic development is usually indicated by an increase in citizens’ quality of life.’Quality of life’ is often measured using the Human Development Index, not considered in economic growth, such as literacy rates, life expectancy and poverty rates etc.Using the Human Development Index factors like literacy rates and life expectancy generally imply a higher per capita income and therefore indicate economic development [4]

Example of Economic Development

Before the orange exporting business;many Nigerians may have lived in small villages many miles from one another.Only few Nigerians could have had access to schools, fresh water or healthcare. Nigerian men would have worked long hours to farm land that was naturally unsuitable for most crops, just to feed their immediate families. The reversal of all these negative socio-economic indices as a result of the explained economic growth is known as economic development. Engineering readily comes in for the design, construction and installation of machines and other equipment that can covert the raw orange juice to other usable products and also, the storage of the products, for the sake of sustainability and improvement of the economic gains (growth and development) earlier expressed [4]

1.5. Historical Background Of Technological/Industrial Development In Nigeria

The concept of technological development in Nigeria evolved through the years after political independence in 1960. There was a concern for economic independence from Britain. Economic development was to progress in an orderly manner without any dislocation to the system. The existing companies were to be encouraged and new ones were to be attracted to increase investment in Nigeria. Prior to the end of the civil war in 1970, Nigeria had a lot of resources but lacked the capital to effectively develop them. Foreign investments were hence vigorously pursued. Then were the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion (Indigenization) decree of 1972 and 1977, which forced the foreign firms operating in Nigeria to sell a sizeable portion of their ownership stocks to Nigerians [5-6]

After the Nigerian civil war in 1970, government revenue was given a big boost by the favorable developments in the oil industry. The volume of oil produced in the country increased tremendously with the development of oil fields in the Western Delta of Nigeria. The Arab/ Israel war of 1973 resulted in the Arab oil embargo on the West. This action shot the price of oil to $42.00 per barrel with consequent increase in revenue to Nigeria. A lot of this revenue was used to build bridges, construct high ways, build vehicle assembly plants, steel plants, aluminum smelter plants, the Kanji dam and other power generating stations, universities, polytechnics etc. Some of our fraudulent and visionless leaders also lavished a sizeable part of this revenue on notorious programmes like “Festac 77”. The remaining was stashed away in foreign banks in Switzerland and other countries. Today, even with our democratic dispensation, the status quo has not changed [5-7].

1.6 The Role Of Engineers In National Development

This refers to the application of the knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences, gained by study, experience, and practice in the provision of social amenities like good education, infrastructure, medical care and social services [1].

1.7 National Development-Fundamental Roles of Engineers

Engineers play fundamental roles in facilitating the functioning of modern society. Some of the three main duties of engineers are connection, supplying and protection of society.

  • ‘House’. Residential, Commercial, Institutional etc.
  • Connect’. Engineers link communities together through transport infrastructure.
  • ‘Supply’. Water, gas, electricity and sewage infrastructure – again, developed and built by engineers.
  • ‘Protect’. There are many ways in which engineers protect society, e.g. designing and constructing flood defences,

It is regrettable that over fifty five (55) years after independence, Nigeria still depends largely on foreign nations for her various technological and industrial needs. Its development is still grossly low in terms technological productivity [5].

2.1 Technological Backwardness

A country is said to be technologically backward when she is experiencing two or more of the challenges below.

(a) It cannot produce capital goods such as tractors, lathe machines, drilling machines, cars, trains, and other earth moving equipment.

(b) It is unable to exploit her natural resources except with the help of foreigners who will normally provide the technology and expertise

(c) It is unable to mechanize her agriculture

(d) It depends on other countries for the supply of its spare parts for her industries and machines

(e) It exports raw materials to other countries as against finished products

(f) It is unable to produce her own military hardware with which to defend herself.

A critical evaluation of Nigeria reveals that all the itemized challenges are alive and well in Nigeria and thus, Nigeria is a technological backward country [5].

2.3 Causes Of Technological Backwardness In Nigeria

The reasons are many;

  1. Discouragement Of Technological Growth By Our Colonial Masters

One of the reasons the British came to Nigeria was for their economic prosperity. They saw Nigeria as a ready market for their spirits, dane guns, mirrors and other goods. Before the advent of colonialism Nigerians were involved in many aspects of industrial and practical arts. They made their own hoes and other implements for farming, weaved their own clothes, smelted bronze and were able to cast an object as intricate as the “Festac mask” that was stolen by the British, they undertook tanning of hides and skin etc.The colonialists discouraged further development of Nigerian technology as they reasoned it was a threat to the smooth marketing of their imported goods. They termed our “ogogoro” an illicit gin, and prosecuted anyone who produced, marketed, or consumed the local gin [5].

  1. Colonial Education

The Nigerian education during the colonial period was deliberately built on wrong philosophy as can be confirmed from the statement of Lord Lugard:

The chief function of government primary and secondary schools among primitive communities is to train the more promising boys from the village schools as teachers for those schools, as clerks for the local native courts, and as interpreters: (Lord Lugard 1921)”.The aspect of education which emphasizes, skill and practical competence was however not an integral part of our colonial educational system [5].

iii. Industrial Policies After Independence

The major post-independence industrial policy embarked upon by Nigeria was import substitution industrial policy, targeted at :

  • (i) building of assembly plants in Nigeria;
  • (ii) importation of completely knocked down (CKD) parts to be assembled in these plants

(iii) establishment of steel plants, like Delta and Ajaokuta Steel Plants, and machine tool companies (like Oshogbo Machine Tool Company) that were supposed to produce capital goods. The import substitution industrial strategy did not go too well beyond the stage of building the assembly plants, as the technical partners knew that if Nigeria stopped importing CKD parts, their companies in Europe would automatically stop production and eventually fold up. It meant that Nigeria would no longer be a market for European cars [5].

  1. Inability To Commercialize Research Findings

We have a good number of research institutions in Nigeria, such as;

  • Product Development Agency, (PRODA) Enugu,
  • Federal Institute of Industrial Research, (FIIRO) Oshodi,
  • Nigerian Institute for oil Palm Research, (NIFOR) Benin, City
  • Rubber Research Institute of Nigeria,(RRIN) Benin-City amongst others.

These institutions have had a good number of findings/inventions but the private sector has not thought it fit to commercialize these inventions….for obvious reasons. Our universities and polytechnics have also invented different equipment, which nobody has bothered to commercialize for effective productivity [5].

  1. Reluctance To Develop Military Invention Made By Biafra During The Civil War

Necessity as we know, is the mother of invention. During the civil war (1966-1970), Biafra produced a lot of fighting machines, bombs and other sophisticated items using local technology.E.g. the “Red Devil” armored personnel carriers, Ogbunigwe (mass killer), orange peel mosquito coil bombs etc. (The African Guardian July 23 1997). They were reported to have extracted and refined their own petroleum products. But because of may be pride and inept leadership, Nigeria has not made a positive effort to cash on this war time inventions by sitting down and finding out how these skills can be further improved upon for enhanced productivity[5].

  1. Government Attitude

Government attitude towards breaking the jinx of technological backwardness in Nigeria is appalling.

In Nigeria you find all brands of cars without any one having truly been designed and made in Nigeria.

Policy makers take technological decisions without consulting Nigerian engineers and technologists. Where sometimes good policies are taken, follow up and implementation are usually an uphill task [5].

vii. Poorly Equipped Educational Institutions

Our universities/polytechnics/technical colleges that are supposed to train proficient engineers, technologists, and technicians are now filled with obsolete and in most cases nonfunctional equipment.

This is affecting the quality of products from these technological institutions.In the recent time, Indian engineers have been in high demand in the United States and other countries. But here in Nigeria, some of our engineering graduates cannot boldly differentiate between a bolt and a nut[8].


Technical manpower development is, undoubtedly, the most important issue confronting most of Africa. The continuous improvement in technical know-how is an index of a nation’s resolve to work its way out of low productivity, hunger, environmental degradation, poverty, ill health and a host of such vices. This therefore shows that there is need for the repositioning of the Nigerian engineering education. In order to make our engineers contribute optimally to national development [9].

3.1 What Are Some Of The Challenges Confronting The Nigerian Engineering Education And Training?

  1. Quality Of Raw Materials/Feedstock

The quality of the product of our public primary and secondary schools has become too low to adequately meet the requirements to study engineering courses in the tertiary institutions [9].

  1. Funding:

This is the single non–material resource which has been identified by all operators.The training of all cadres of engineering personnel is quite enormous, requiring a combination of huge expenditure on:

  1. procurement of training materials;
  2. development and maintenance of infrastructural facilities and;
  • Payment of salaries [9].

iii. Lack Of Adequate Training Facilities And Equipment

Presently, the older universities in Nigeria have obsolete tools and the newer ones cannot afford to equip their laboratories and workshops .Otubanso (2005) in “Education for Underdevelopment” quoted a chemistry professor as saying that “students no longer do practical but only the theory of practical.” If our students cannot do basic practical how can we aspire to a technological breakthrough? [5].

  1. Redundant Curriculum:

Curriculum is generally defined as the totality of all the experiences that a student is exposed to, in order to achieve a particular educational purpose.The practice of Engineering is changing rapidly and there is a need to regularly review the curriculum to ensure the training is not only relevant but also competitive.In most departments, the curriculum has not been effectively reviewed in the past ten-fifteen years, which means for example– the computer component in engineering curriculum still has FORTRAN – as a programming language.Furthermore, it is high time engineers got involved in Politics and Management as this is the only way decisions affecting technological advancement can be favorably appreciated and
implemented.Although a cursory appreciation of the curriculum on paper can compare favorably with equivalent materials in the developed countries. It has however been recognized that a very wide gap exists in the implementation from the feedback obtained from the employers of the graduates [9].

  1. Poor Utilization Of ICT In Training

Modern day engineering challenges demand that Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) be adopted in the training and practice of engineering [9].

  1. Poor Exchange Programme Schemes

Knowledge is understanding gained by experience or study.There is a dare need for ‘exchange programmes’ for staff and students to effectively appreciate current developmental trends in other parts of the world. Summer courses can be organized for staff, where experts are brought in as facilitators. This will be cheaper than sending people abroad [9].

vii. Institution-Industry Relation:

The industrial sector is the major consumer of the products from the tertiary institutions. There is therefore the need for adequate collaboration to ensure that the institutions produce graduates who will be fit for the industries.Government should, among others, give consideration to the establishment of procedures for the rewarding of industries that are contributing to technological development by providing incentives e.g. tax relief for such activities based on:-

  • Number of students employed for SIWES
  • Donations to tertiary institutions
  • Sponsorships etc.
  • Number of local engineers employed etc. [9].
  1. Poorly Tailored Staff Development Schemes

Staff should be encouraged or motivated to go to the industry and work for a period of time to get acquainted with the current technological and engineering practice in related industries.[9]


We must appreciate the fact that no situation is totally hopeless. Nigeria, as a nation, can exit the comity of technologically backward nations into technologically advanced ones if the following suggestions are implemented [5].

  1. Safe-copying of items already in the market

This requires that laboratories, workshops, and other facilities be developed for component analysis and for building prototypes of items to be produced.

  1. Encouragement of made in Nigeria goods

Government needs to sincerely encourage “Nigerian made” products and assist in improving their quality.

iii. Steady adequate energy production and supply

It was abundant energy supply that launched Europe into the industrial revolution. Nigeria has been flaring natural gas from oil wells for over 40 years, has an abundant deposit of coal and yet the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) now power Holdings company of Nigeria (PHCN) cannot supply electricity to Nigeria. Politics and corruption must be removed from the Nigerian Energy Sector [8].

  1. Engineers, technologists and technicians class struggle

Presently there is a cold war between (Engineers, Technologists and Technicians in Nigeria.Each feeling superior to the other. It is pertinent for all to know that they are all members of the same family and they need to work together to pull Nigeria out of the morass of technological backwardness [5].

  1. Appropriate technology

We need to embark on the acquisition of the technology that is appropriate and useful to us as a nation. That America has sent men to space does not mean that Nigeria must also send men to space. We need to look at our environment to see what our local people do, and fabricate machines tools and equipment that will assist them to do these things more efficiently [5].

  1. Good leadership

For Nigeria to be technologically developed there must be a leader who is sincere and has Nigeria at heart. Not merely by saying it as common with some of our leaders but by doing it [5].


A policy is a general guide that expresses limits within which actions should occur. Policies are developed from past problem areas or for potential problem areas that the government considers important enough to warrant public policy development. Public policy has a central link with governance because good governance is epitomized by good public policy making. Poor governance typically manifested by poor public policy is a major deterrent to human development [10].

5.1 Why Does Public Policy Matter? What Role Can Engineers Play In It?

Public policy matters because –

  • It sets the context and terms of success for the broader society and economy. E.g. our interstate highway system would have been a specific public policy designed to achieve specific goals;
  • improve transportation and help the economy, increase safety, etc.

Public policy is about what society can do together to promote the economy or meet social goals. So you can see that public policy makes a big difference. Now, how can engineers make a difference?

Engineers can make a big difference given that public policy needs to be founded on solid science.

For instance;

-Is nanotechnology safe or not? Can lawmakers answer that question? The answer is no, they rely on scientists and engineers to tell them.

Engineers know how systems work and how to apply science to get things done. If you are crafting a public policy, you also want to get things done in the real world.

Here are a few examples of public policy problems that engineers can help solve:

-Is climate change a real threat and if so, what technologies can we use to stop it, live with it, or reverse it?

-Is underwater drilling safe at five miles below sea level? If so, what standards should drillers meet to ensure we don’t end up with another BP disaster?

-Are self-driving cars safe and what engineering standards should be required before a self-driving truck can operate near a school?

My final thought on this:

If engineers who actually know how things work are not involved in helping craft and direct public policy, then important decisions about our nation’s future will be made by people who know nothing. Given that, I’d say it’s crucial that we engineers play a role in public policy debates.

5.2 Engineers General Approach To Public Policy

Members of our profession have for decades been involved in public policy-making. Yet our participation in debates about public policy, and engagement in its formulation are often misunderstood and undervalued by the public and not as effective as they should be.As engineers, our collective approaches tend to be adhoc, random and subject to the whims of a process we barely understand and rarely appreciate.Indeed, frustration among engineers is often high.

How often do we get asked to serve in some form of advisory role only to find our sound advice has been distorted, ignored or watered down? What transforms well-intentioned and competent advice into something quite different, or perhaps something barely recognizable? Why isn’t an engineer’s technical advice in the public policy process more respected and more effective?To some extent, at least, the answers lie in our low level of understanding of public policy making…A fascinating yet complex interplay of diverse interests and power relationships that brings together various actors with multiple perspectives in a quest to achieve something resembling a common objective [11].

5.3 Why Engineers Need Public Policy Training


Recognizing the need for more than just elegant technical solutions to demanding problems, undergraduate engineering curricula have traditionally included at least one course in engineering economics so that prospective engineers may be acquainted with the financial and monetary dimensions of their trade.

In a similar vein, mandatory and optional technical writing courses are offered in most programs to ensure graduates are able to communicate effectively, as well as possess a minimum aptitude for cross-disciplinary dialogue. What is certainly less appreciated, but perhaps no less important, is the role that public policy training could play in both graduate and undergraduate engineering programs

5.3.1 The Changing Face Of The Engineering Profession

Sometime ago, I came across a publication of the Old Canadian Engineering Body published in April of 1954 that bears the masthead “Silent Service Is Not Enough”.I then had this feeling that engineers have long had a tendency to keep their heads down;to focus on problems that lend themselves to rigorous analysis and technical solutions, andto avoid those that are less well defined and subject to the vagaries of public opinion [12].

The past ten years have witnessed a fundamental and dramatic change in the ethos of Nigeria’s engineering profession, from one that was, for the most part, focused inwardly on the technical workings of the profession.

to one that places equal emphasis on the external environment and the constraints within which engineering takes place. ….thanks to the NSE.

5.4 Reasons Of Our Reluctance To Wade Into The Sphere Of Government And Public Policy

I often hear engineers express disdain for politics (and politicians) on the grounds that much of what goes on in the political realm is not based on fact, or sound reasoning. Three reasons of our reluctance to wade into the sphere of government and public policy have been

  • a lack of understanding on the part of the public in general – and governments in particular – of what engineers do, how they do it, and why it is important, and
  • a profound lack of influence as compared to the other professions.
  • Engineers poor appreciation of their roles in public policies formulation and good governance [13].
  • Engineering education must respond to local challenges as well as global opportunities.
  • To innovate and reform engineering education, our country’s educators need to understand what an engineer is, and what skills and competencies s/he must possess.
  • Engineers must not only be knowledgeable about science and technology but also have the skills, competencies and values to address problems and opportunities in effective and creative ways.
  • Higher education, in general, is responsible for formally preparing the next generation of business leaders, technical professionals, government officials and educators.
  • The education of engineers must prepare them for the multi-disciplinary nature of the problems they will face.
  • Engineers need to speak up respectfully and contribute their knowledge and experience before public policies are cast in stone.
  • Public policy is shaped in a highly competitive environment.
  • Engineers must therefore compete in this environment in order to meet their obligations to serve the public and the profession[14-15].
  1. Appreciation

Mr President Sir, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for listening!

Engr. Dr. Hilary Ijeoma OWAMAH, 08035705814;


  5. Uwaifo, V.O., Uddin, P. S. (2009). Technology and Development in Nigeria: The Missing Link, J Hum Ecol, 28(2): 107-111
  14. Grant, A.A. (1988). Role of Civil Engineers in Shaping Public Policy. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering (ASCE), 114(1)
  15. Owamah I.H. (2018). Re-engineering the Engineers for Optimum Economic Growth and Development-a public lecture presented the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Ughelli Branch. September 1st, 2018.


  1. This is a refreshing presentation and worthy of commendation. However; few things are worth stating.
    You rightly stated that there is no much difference in curriculum with best practices around the world, this should tell us our stagnation may actually be due to wrong application.
    1. Wrong definition of Engineering and wrong allocation of duties is one.
    2. Government’s policy of employing people only for them to get salary, not to work and make profit for social responsibility of government.
    3. Engineer was gotten from “engine” which is a derivative of ‘ingenium’, a Latin word for brain or mind. For same emphasis, I spell as “Ingenier” which is more correct. By implication, Ingenier or Engineer means brainworker – as different from and opposed to handworker.
    4. The war time inventions and breakthroughs were treated as such because of politics.
    5. We dont have Universities in Nigeria but ‘Locaversities’ with staff and students sourced within the locality but using universal curriculum.
    6. Our continued malicious equating of HND and Bachelors in Engineering we never make us progress.
    7. Under paying of Ingeniers and absence of a standard remuneration will make them underperform.
    8. Ingeniers are suppose to attend event and subscribe to publications of professional international repute to get updates and keep current but nothing of such is being appropriating for.
    9. COREN’s last amendment clearly stipulates punishment for default in payment of fees but no mention of how such money should be derived.
    10. For more than 60 years of her existence, Engineering has not deem it fit to clearly define functional indices to rate her personnels but unrealistic emphasis on certificate and school of graduation. These are not as important as what such person or persons can deliver.


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