TRIBUTE TO ENGR. AUGUSTINE IKEBUDE OKOLO FNSE FAutoEI
By HR. Otis Anyaeji FAEng, FNSE, FAutoEI
To Engr. Augustine Ike Okolo’s spouse and family, I say be consoled. Ndoonu!
When the Council of the Nigerian Society of Engineers mandated me to establish the Automotive Engineering Division in 2006, my calculation was that Lagos was the best positioned location for rapid
professional level cross-fertilization of ideas, in the mobility engineering fields.
For a number of years one increasingly tried with decreasing success to get an automotive professional association take root in Eko. One later realised that for as many times as one would sow seeds on rocky
ground, for so long will a few of such seeds germinate, but fail to take root.
In 2010, I met the gentleman, Engr. Augustine Ike Okolo FNSE who simply introduced himself as an Engineer from PAN Limited (manufacturers of Peugeot vehicles in Nigeria). He offered to assist in midwifing the Automotive Division NSE to healthy existence.
Whenever I called for a meeting in Lagos, he would unfailingly show up. When on one occasion I scheduled a meeting in Lagos, and he was the only one that turned up, all the way from Kaduna, I voiced out during “Any Other Business” that if he could come from Kaduna, and I from Abuja, and no one came from Lagos, it might be easier for the latter group to show up if the meetings are held in Abuja or Kaduna.
One then fixed the next meeting in Abuja. Engr. Okolo came with ten other Engineers from the auto industry, Kaduna. Only three Engineers came from Abuja. This again got me thinking. Should we continue to have the meetings in Abuja and have more than 10 Engineers come from Kaduna, and just a few one can count on one hand attend from Abuja. When this scenario repeated itself on two occasions, I beat everybody to it and scheduled the next meeting for Kaduna.
Meanwhile, Engr. Okolo’s contributions at the meetings were of highest professional grade. Not entirely surprising, as it turned out that he was General Manager Operations PAN Limited Kaduna. He had responsibility for managing the production activities in all the factories at the Peugeot Plant in Kaduna. I progressively began to see that Engr. Okolo was interested in more than Mobility Engineering. He felt strongly that for mobility (Automotive, Locomotive, Marine, Aeronautical, Space) Engineering to succeed, Transportation Engineering must be gotten right.
Attendance at the meetings in Kaduna used to hover at between 40 to 50 Engineers. Naturally, Engr. Okolo was elected Vice Chairman of the Institute. We also decided to have the headquarters of the Institute in
Kaduna. From then, I identified him as a worthy successor in the office of Chairman, Automotive Engineers Institute. My confidence in Engr. Okolo was further bolstered when at the end of 2010 I listened to him make a presentation on Vehicular Emission Control to an appreciative audience. This was at the NSE International Conference, December 2010, Abuja. Incidentally, one won election as Vice President NSE during the AGM 2010 in Abuja. Thus in January 2011, President Olumuyiwa Alade Ajibola FAEng appointed me to the Corporate Resources function, which incorporates the annual conference planning responsibility.
Immediately the Conference theme was approved i.e. Transportation Development in Nigeria, Engr. Okolo informed me that he was preparing to make a presentation at the 2011 NSE Conference. I was expecting from him a paper from the perspective of mobility, precisely on Automotive Engineering. To my greatest surprise he came from the angle of “An Overview of Urban Transportation in Nigeria & sustenance of its Strategic Development.
In this presentation, Engr. Okolo’s point of departure was that urban economy and development is dependent and influenced by transportation. He then stated that owing to the inter dependency of various relevant factors, cautiously planned and incorporated transport facilities are imperative for urban areas. He pointed out that most transport facilities had failed due to lack of proper planning and design. And then he highlighted that considerations of pedestrians and non-motorized vehicle users had been neglected, or were completely non-existent. The effect of this, he explained, is the creation of messy mixture of traffic on our roads, even worsened by lack of parking spaces. He then lauded the adoption then of Vision 20:2020 and added that if the Vision Programme is sustained, it would lead to astronomical growth in the development of transportation infrastructure in Nigeria.
He concluded by recounting that the World Bank’s Institutional and Financial Reforms prescribe establishment of Road Fund for road maintenance, and private sector participation through concessions.
He then reiterated that one important pre-condition to assure sustainability of the urban transportation system development in Nigeria is the establishment of a road fund with clear legal backing and non-reliance on government budgetary allocations. His was my best paper in that conference. Nigeria is yet to realise this advice. Alas this is year 2020. Vision 20:2020 is gone with the wind, and a major milestone of year 2020 is that Engr. Augustine Ikebude Okolo FAutoEI died. What a country!!!
Engr. Okolo succeeded me as Chair AutoEI in 2012. In my second year as Deputy President/President- Elect NSE (2015), Engr. Okolo as Chair AutoEI kept asking what the Institute would contribute to the programme of activities marking my Investiture as President Nigerian Society of Engineers, come January 2016. Eventually, we settled for a Pre-Investiture Workshop on “Standards for Motor Vehicle Repair Garages”. The Workshop organised by Engr. Okolo harvested standards that form the bases of possible regulation of automotive vehicles maintenance in Nigeria. AutoEI should promote the implementation of the standards and commencement of regulation of auto vehicles repair and maintenance in honour of Engr. Okolo.
By the time one assumed office as President NSE, it was clear to me that the key success factor in that position is a keen knowledge of experts in various specialisations in the different disciplines of Engineering, and when and how to avail and deploy their skills. I arrived at the office knowing fully well that on issues of automotive engineering in whatever form, all I needed to do was remit same to Engr. Austine Okolo. And I could then go to sleep.
I recall that in February 2016, the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Road Safety Commission invited the Nigerian Society of Engineers, and other stakeholders to submit Memoranda on the introduction of Outdated Speed Limiter Technology by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC).
Engr. Okolo drafted the NSE position in which the Society aligned herself with the FRSC on the use of speed limiters in vehicles because of the benefits of better safety by avoiding overspeeding; reduced strain on engines, thereby increasing the life of engines; increased fuel and operational efficiency; reduced maintenance cost for vehicle owners; reduced pollution thereby improving the environment, etc.
Later in October 2016 when I desired that the Society make a diagnostic intervention on the various subsectors of the manufacturing sector, Engr. Okolo summarized the challenges affecting the automotive sector in Nigeria as follows.
“The industry’s decline has been caused by challenges which include infrastructural inadequacies and macro-economic instability leading to low level of output, high cost of production, low capacity utilisation,
poor logistics, etc. All these combine to add significant costs to production of vehicles in Nigeria.
He then explained further that the number one problem for auto firms in Nigeria is deficit in physical infrastructure, followed by lack of access to credit, insufficient demand, high cost of imported raw materials, poor access to foreign exchange for procurement of vital raw materials, completely or semi knocked down parts.”
Engr. Okolo proposed solutions to overcome challenges of the sector as follows.
“To succeed in revamping the Nigerian automotive sector, it would do the country a lot of good if the Nigerian Automotive Industry Development Plan (NAIDP) receives legislative endorsement and be fully implemented. The NAIDP will liberalise the Nigerian automotive sector, and this liberalisation will increase Foreign Direct Investment and induce competition, leading to significant productivity gains. Local supply capacity will be enhanced with strategic deployment of industrial parks across the country. The Plan will also create conducive ambience that will attract OEMs to set up vehicle assembly operations in Nigeria. It will also improve ease of buying cars in Nigeria through provision of appropriate vehicle acquisition
This diagnosis and prescriptions were adopted by the Society and resonated with the two Chambers of the National Assembly.
In July 2017, when the Senate Committee on Federal Character & Inter-Governmental Affairs convoked a stakeholders’ meeting on the new policy of speed limiting device, Engr. Okolo represented the President NSE and elucidated techno-economic principles that helped douse the tension generated by cost of acquisition of the device. This he achieved by throwing more light on the win-win aspect to both vendors and vehicle owners.
Engr. Okolo was the best a Homo Sapiens could be. I never saw him without a smile on his face. It is particularly not in good taste that I have, within a period of two months, to be writing tributes to mourn two of the greatest automotive Engineers produced by this country viz Engr. Ibrahim Khaleel Inuwa OFR, FAEng, B.Sc MechE M.Sc AutoE, and Engr. Augustine Ikebude Okolo B.Sc MechE, M.Sc AutoE, MBA
FNSE FAutoEI, FNIMechE.
May their souls rest in the bosom of our Maker.
His Royalty Otis Anyaeji, KtSGG FAEng FNSE, FAutoEI, FNIMechE
Obi Onowu n’Okija
Founding Chairman, Automotive & Locomotive Engineers Institute
Past President, Nigerian Society of Engineers
President, West African Federation of Engineering Organisations