In the grand scheme of things, I’m probably not going to be able to visit Bayelsa without stopping over at the beautiful Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa again. That is how amazing my time at the NIMechE International Conference and Annual General Meeting and International Conference was.
Being a three term servant of the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers (NIMechE) University of Port Harcourt chapter, I’m fairly familiar with the affairs of the NIMechE but that didn’t prepare me for the flood of information and opportunities the conference opened me up to.
The NIMechE Annual International Conference brought mechanical engineers nationwide to Aridolf Resort and Wellness Spa in Yenagoa Bayelsa state for its thirty second edition of the Annual conference.
On the sideline of the conference, the NIMechE student members also known as NIMechE-NSF also had their conference and were well represented with students from well over fifteen institutions across the country gracing the Conference.
My conference experience started rather quite late and since you are already here, I might as well let you know why. The NIMechE International Conference was scheduled for 9th to 11th of October with the last day being for departure.
On Tuesday, while preparing for the trip to Yenagoa with my colleagues in school, I got an acceptance email from MTN Foundation in regards to the MTN ICT and Business training workshop I applied for some weeks back. The training was supposed to hold in GRA, Port Harcourt that Wednesday and the AGM was to start on Tuesday, you can imagine the dilemma I felt at this point.
If I stayed back for the workshop, I’ll miss two days of the AGM, if I go for the NIMechE AGM and pass on the training, I also lose. In the end I opted to stay back and attend the MTN Foundation ICT and Business Training Workshop.
The training was concluded late on Wednesday around 6pm and given the traffic gridlock coupled with the fact that one pair of my shoes got spoilt, I told myself it was looking like I wouldn’t make it to Yenagoa that day and unfortunately I was right. I couldn’t get a car back to my place in school and I ended up booking a ride with PamDrive.
That was my only saving grace that day. I got to my house in school around quarter past nine in the evening that Wednesday. I was obviously not going anywhere.
I left for Yenagoa very early the next day being Thursday, I must confess the first thing I thought when I got to Yenagoa was, “na so so swamp full everywhere for here”, lol. I’ll admit the city is beautiful.
Then something that always gets me riled up happened to the driver who took us to Yenagoa. One thing that is almost present in every community in the cities I have been to in Nigeria is the presence of a group of youths who call themselves “taskforce”. Their only apparent job is to erect virtual toll gates at some parts of the city and collect money from drivers’ unfortunate to fall for their trickery. The driver alighted a passenger along the Tombia axis in Yenagoa and before the driver could get back on the road, we were surrounded by raggedly looking touts and the next thing out of his month was; “where is your ticket?” The driver tried to explain to them that he tried to pay at the “virtual toll gate” and was told by the boys there that they had no change for him. They didn’t want to hear any of that. They took his keys and when he came down to go plead with one who was surprisingly well dressed and appeared to be the one in charge.
The one with the keys got behind the wheels of our car and was about to drive the car to God knows where,it was at this point I lost it and told him not to drive the car anywhere that I didn’t know him and I didn’t enter the car with him so he shouldn’t take me anywhere I don’t know. At this point I was ready to get into a brawl against my better judgement. I was that furious with the situation. Fortunately for me the driver came back and told the guy to come down and go talk to his boss, that he had settled with him.
The said boss gave a signal to the intruder who then came down from the car. The countenance of the driver changed after that incident and he looked on the verge of crying, I asked him how he settled the issue, he told us he had pay them three thousand five hundred naira (N3,500) to let him go. Now picture this, we were seven in the Toyota Sienna that took that trip and we all paid one thousand naira each (N1,000), he essentially lost more than half of his profit to jobless youths who don’t have anything better to do than to harass those actually working.
Like many things in this country, I can’t do anything about this issue, so I put in the list of things I will work on later in my mind (hopefully it’s not an issue by the time I can do something about it) and continued my journey.
I took a ‘keke’ to Aridolf Resort and got there around 12pm. After going through registration, getting my tag and conference materials, it was already quarter past 12pm.
I joined the National Students’ Forum for their AGM, I later found out that I missed quite a lot. I already knew I missed a lot but someone actually telling me somehow made it worse but I was determined to make most of the time I had left. I found out a team from my school came first runner up for the Speak Out for Engineering (SOfE) competition organized by IMechE and NIMechE.
After the brief session, we were given a few minutes’ break. I used this chance to network with students from other schools. I met a lot of people from universities from the western and northern parts of the country.I met students from Obafemi Awolowo University, some from Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, some from University of Ibadan, some from the Ahmadu Bello University, some from Lagos state University and lots more. It was an enlightening evening for me as I got a chance to talk to mechanical engineering students from other schools and compare their experiences to mine.I was also lucky enough to meet the founder of Alo-Timeys – Mr Timothy Adefemi.
After the break, we had a seminar lecture from Kennedy Osagie who is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of OdumaLife Foundation. He told us about the importance of collaboration and told us how opportunities were present for engineering students and students in general who were willing to contribute value to in whatever situation they find themselves. He also shared more light on the NIMechE Innovation Challenge which started in 2017.
Then it was time for the NIMechE National Students Forum elections. (I didn’t run for any position if that’s what you’re wondering). I remember being locked out of the venue by DSS operatives that were stationed at the entrance because I stepped out to use the restroom. I tried to explain that I was already in the room and had just stepped out, I even showed them my participant tag and the DSS operative just looked at me and said “wait”. I was let back in because I was starting to make a scene at the entrance (I shall not be denied my right to vote, *wink) to the venue.
Mr Samuel Onah emerged as the newly elected NIMechE National Students Forum president for the 2019/2020 session.
Like always University of Port Harcourt also emerged with an elected position as Awani Alero was returned as the Assistant Secretary General of NIMechE National Students Forum. She was also part of the two-man team from University of Port Harcourt that emerged first runner up in the SOfE competition.
After the elections,Mr Edwin Ndaliki representing Dr Boma Douglas from the Engineering Forum of Nigerians UK also addressed us.
The NIMeche National Students Forum Annual General Meeting was presided over by the outgoing NIMechE National Students Forum president – Oluwaseun Richard Lawal from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ex officio – Aalo Emmanuel from Rivers State University and the NIMechE National Students Forum coordinator.
Many issues concerning the student body were addressed.
The issue of a platform big enough to contain all NIMechE students was one of such, another was the need to create a partnership with companies and organization so that NIMechE students can benefit by getting internship opportunities to build their knowledge of the industry before they graduate. A lot of other important issues were discussed as well. The AGM ended with major resolutions reached and the new executives will be charged with making those implementations.
Next up was the Annual Dinner and Award Night. This part of the AGM I had mixed feelings about. The Dinner and Award Night started quite late which was not part of the plan and the company that handled the catering service…well, my mom said if I don’t have anything nice to say about something I shouldn’t say anything at all so I’ll use that advice today.
One thing that kept making me proud of the AGM was that the mechanical engineering industry in Nigeria seems to be aware of the need for us to be able to create sustainable products that do not damage the environment and one of such methods is the use of Additive Manufacturing (3D printing). From the little research I’ve carried out, Additive Manufacturing seem to have some very important benefits; one is that it reduces the amount of waste material left over from manufacturing as opposed to large amount of unused materials left over from traditional manufacturing. One of the brilliant thing about Additive Manufacturing is that you only use the required amount of raw material you need for the product as specified in the CAD design, thereby also reducing the cost of production.
Some of the main highlights of the night included the award given to the young man who built a formula one car chassis, swearing in ceremony of the new fellows of NIMechE, a sixteen-year-old kid was given a scholarship throughout the duration of his tertiary education; he was also paired with a mentor who was to monitor his progress and make sure his brilliance is harnessed and developed to its full potential. The night saw the inauguration of the newly elected council of the NIMechE with Prof. Mohammed Baba Ndaliman who is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Minna emerging as the newly elected NIMechE National Chairman.
The AGM also saw the emergence of the first female Deputy National Chairman of NIMechE in person of Engr. Mrs. Funmi Akingbagbohun. The night ended with the inauguration of the newly elected NIMechE National Students Forum executive council by the NIMechE National chairman Dr Robinson Ejilah.
After the Award Night, a lot of people became scarce, lol (some were tired and retired to their respective hotel). Since we were still revved up, we decided to hit the disco and have a bit of fun before we retired to our hotel for the day.
We left Aridolf Resort and Wellness Spa around 3 am for the hotel where we lodged.
The next morning, we were to depart for Port Harcourt but we made a little detour back to Aridolf Resort to collect our certificate from the LOC (Local Organizing Committee). We left Yenagoa for Port Harcourt around a few minutes after one in the afternoon on Friday and got to Port Harcourt a few minutes to three in the afternoon.
All in all, the week was a wonderful one, I’m already looking forward to the 33rd AGM in whatever state it might be held in, hopefully my employer will excuse me to attend as I would be on my Industrial Training by this time next year, fingers crossed.
Anthony J. Oyakhilome is a mechanical engineering undergraduate, a youth leader, a creative designer and a digital marketer who uses his knowledge and skills in the digital world for brand promotion and awareness campaignsfor brands like Trace Tv, SmartTeller, Hult Foundation, YALI Network, United Bank for Africa, Sabi Africa and many others. You can follow him on twitter @mr_oyakhilome