CHALLENGES OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE IN NIGERIA BEING BY ENGR OKEY EZEMA

CHALLENGES OF ENGINEERING PRACTICE IN NIGERIA BEING A PAPER PRESENTED BY ENGR OKEY EZEMA FNSE, FNICE, MD ZEMAS AND PARTNERS NIG LTD. TO CIVIL ENGINEERING STUDENTS IN NIGERIA .25TH JUNE 2020

Protocol
For one to deliver a speech on this sensitive topic that may touch the trigger of other stake holders in the built environment, one ought to have paid his dues in Engineering politics and practice in Nigeria.

On the Political arena, I am privileged to have served Nigerian Society of Engineers Jos Branch as Assistant Secretary, Secretary, Vice Chairman and Chairman of many Committees including PIFAC, Membership and Award Committee. I have served as Secretary COREN ERM Inspectorate Jos zone Pioneer Chairman Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers Jos Chapter as well as National Executive Member of the Institution for two consecutive terms. At NSE Headquarter, I am privileged to have served in three major Committees namely Codes and Standards, Prevention Investigation and Failure Analysis Committee as well as Presidential Committee on Science Technology and Innovation Committee. I am also privileged to have served the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers as Ag. Executive Secretary from May 2018 to December2019.

In Practice, I have handled the Structural analysis and design of many public and private projects in Nigeria. I have equally supervised the Construction of many Federal Government Projects in Nigeria from foundation to commissioning including ten Projects at the University of Jos.

With this background, I am delighted and heartily accept your request to unveil the challenges facing the profession in Nigeria Today. This will serve as a guide to the future generation of Civil Engineers in Nigeria.

Before 1980 it was very prestigious to practice as an Engineer in Nigeria. Construction and production works abound everywhere. Many Italian, British, German and French Companies were having field day in the construction sector. There was oil boom and the Government of the day had enough to invest in Infrastructural development. Huge sums of money were invested in design and construction of public and private buildings, roads, bridges, refineries, hospitals, banks etc .The cost of building materials were relatively cheap. There were more than enough jobs for professionals in the built environment. Upon graduation, many multinational companies usually flood the gates of higher institutions scouting for Engineers to serve in their establishments. Upon completion of your National Service, you are sure of juicy employment with mouth watering conditions of services including official cars, car loans, house, and health care and insurance. Choice luxury cars and nice houses in the society were owned by professionals then especially those in the built environment.

NYSC PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT:
The problem of the present generation of Engineers in Nigeria starts with the NYSC primary assignment. We are living in a country where School Proprietors have resorted to the use of Corps members in preference to employment of well trained teachers. Usually Engineer Corps members are at the receiving end as they are always well sought after to teach Mathematics, Additional mathematics, Physics and Chemistry.
The same schools hardly employ the Corps Engineers after the primary assignment on ground that they are not trained Teachers {no certificate in Education}

On completion of National Youth Service Corps, the Engineers are hardly employed by Engineering based organizations due to lack of experience in design, construction, management etc. How could they have acquired experience when they were denied the opportunity of serving in engineering-based organizations who often reject them at the incipient stage for lack of jobs.

MASS EXIT OF MEGA COMPANIES AND MULTY NATIONALS
The socio political atmosphere in Nigeria degenerated so badly that many foreign companies had to leave the country. Riots and epileptic power supply forced the complies to leave. Some manufacturing companies who were major employers of Engineers like Jos Steel Rolling Mill, Ajaokuta Steel Companies, the Aluminum Smelting Company at Ikot Abasi, Peugeot Automobile Company of France among many others had to wind up throwing many Chemical, Electrical Mechanical and even Civil Engineers out to the labor market. Many Engineers were turned to traders just to make ends meet after going through the academic stress of a profession adjudged by Guinness book of World records as the hardest profession in the World.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION:
Even when these mega companies were in Nigeria Racial discrimination was a major problem the Nigerian Engineer had to contend with. I was privileged to have worked in the Plateau State Mid Land Bank Loan Project in the late Eighties as a young vibrant Site Engineer with Sir Alfred McAlpine Overseas ltd London. There, the expatriates were earning their salary in hard currency, they had maintenance allowances as well as individual brand new official cars, houses, and domestic staff to take care of their cooking, driving, laundry, gardening etc .The Nigerian Engineers with many dependent relations were left to manage the meager salary they were paid for health, transportation, housing, dependent relations and other logistic expenses. I thought this situation was peculiar to McAlpine until I served in another foreign company Afro Planning and Development Co ltd Jos a British owned design Consulting Engineering Firm. The story was the same., I worked with another major Construction company, Transproject Nigeria Ltd a Bulgarian owned Consultants and Contracting firm., the firm that handled the construction of Jos Stadium complex. The story was the same. The stories from my colleagues in BOUYEGUES, Balfour Beatty Engineering Ltd, Broni Prono, Dalbato and Gianpoli, Costain West Africa were the same. Julius Berger had better conditions for their staff those days irrespective of your race.

QUAKERY
The jobs of the Nigerian Engineers have been high jacked by the Politicians and powers that be. Everybody has become Social Engineer according to former NSE President Engr. Shonubi FNSE.

The decree establishing COREN Decree no 55 of 1970 amended by decree no 27 of 1992 now act CAPE 11 2004 specifies in clear terms that COREN shall ensure that only registered Engineering personnel are involved in the execution of Engineering jobs. Here in Nigeria you find every profession feeding fat in the engineering domain with the usual building and infrastructure collapse syndrome. This major problem is responsible for the large number of unemployed Engineers in Nigeria.

Architects are not helping matters either. The Architects are usually the first point of call by prospective clients. Rather than assemble a team of Structural, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers at design and Construction stages as practiced those good old days, they often do everything thereby denying the Engineers opportunity to do the work they are well trained for. This is Quackery of the highest order and one of the major reasons for the collapse of buildings here and there.

NSE POLICY INCONSISTENCY:
I have observed that every new President of our revered Society the Nigerian Society of Engineers prefers to devise new policy rather than consolidating on the gains of the policies of their predecessors.

Many of our leaders in the past came up with nice policies intended to reduce drastically to the barest minimum the problems of our Engineers in practice. However policy inconsistency has derailed most of the well intended programs. A few of the affected policies are outlined here.

Realizing that many older Engineers can no longer take on younger ones to train due to lack of jobs, one of the Past NSE Presidents introduced Students Industrial Working experience Scheme in Engineering SITSE a program where the Trainer and the Trainee are to be remunerated by the Federal Government ,a modified version of the present Industrial Training Scheme. This policy did not see the light of the day, probably jettisoned by our Law Makers. This reduced the dream of transfer of practical knowledge to the younger generation of Engineers.




ERM
The second well intended policy is the Engineering Regulation Monitoring Program of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria tagged Engineering Police Watch Dogs. When this was inaugurated it was an arm of COREN independent of NSE, Fully financed by COREN and made up of tested and trusted well seasoned Engineers with track record of accomplishment. Again, under the leadership of past NSE President, the ERM was domiciled to NSE in all the States of the Federation with limited funding which paralyzed their efficiency making all the quacks to stage a comeback with full force.

PIFAC: The Prevention Investigation and Failure Analysis Committee PIFAC
This very important committee was formed with the primary objective of taking proactive action to identify structures that are at the verge of insipient failure, prevention of such failure through specification of remedial measures or recommending planned demolition to minimize physical losses and prevent fatalities. How effective is PIFAC in Nigeria today, who funds PIFAC, how does Development Controls cooperate with PIFAC? These are questions yearning for answer. In some states, Property owners are hostile to PIFAC members. Some usually chase out PIFAC men from their property or deny them outright access. I remember one case of building Collapse in Plateau State we visited. It was very difficult to identify the owner of the structure –a two storey building that was supposed to have been approved by Development control. On one occasion a building marked for demolition was saved by Military intervention. We were even chased out from one property by the youth of the area. Who is ready to stake his life? The resultant effect is blame game like the ones being witnessed in Abuja and Lagos.—We issued stop work order the owner continued before it collapsed meanwhile innocent lives are gone. In Lagos State for instance, the job of PIFAC has been high jacked by Lawyers and builders in the name of Building Control Prevention Guild and is fully recognized by Lagos State Government.

Another NSE President on assumption of office domiciled PIFAC to the Divisions. Recently four storey building crumbled in Abuja, Nigerian Institute of Building NIOB took the center stage at NTA and AIT news report. Engineers remained at the back bench watching with heavy heart the Builders speaking with authority on an issue that should naturally enjoy the explanation of Engineers.

Draughtsman and Builders now send structural designs with calculations for approval by Development control. We are only heard of once the buildings crumble with serious accusing fingersb by the general public.

CORUPTION IN ENGINEERING PROJECTS:
Corruption in engineering project has remained a major challenge to the practicing Engineers in Nigeria. Kick front and kickback syndrome that reared its ugly head some years back looks like it has become the order of the day. To get jobs in Nigeria despite evidence of competence is a herculean task .Some people are so corrupt that they need money sometimes upfront to influence your chances of getting the jobs and where you cannot afford it you watch helplessly the incompetent ones smiling home with the contracts. Most of the contracts end up being abandoned or poorly executed as the Contractors in a bid to save money hardly use competent Professionals for the execution. This issue was assuming a frightening dimension at a stage when a past President of NSE had to Launch War against Corruption in Engineering Projects. It was so bad that some Government workers had to be awarding jobs to companies they are affiliated to in one way or the other contrary to engineering professional ethics and code of conduct. Today the War against Corruption in Engineering projects launched a few years back is in limbo.

THE BUREAU FOR PUBLIC PROCUREMENT:
The establishment of BPP was a great relief to the Nigerian Engineers in Practice. Contractors must show ample evidence of track record of performance and competent technical crew to execute the projects before they are pre -qualified. Little did we know that this evidence ends up with issuance and sighting of photocopies of the certificates of the professionals? Dubious companies claim people’s certificates without getting them involved in the actual execution of the contracts when awarded. This negates the very essence of establishment of the BPP.

COMPANY REGISTRATION WITH CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION CAC.
Engineering Companies are expected to have registered Engineers in the Board of Directors list before they can be registered. How many registered engineers in Nigeria today are receiving dividends from Companies they are expected to be serving as board members? Your guess is as good as mine. Your name and certificates are there but the people enjoying the proceeds are different.

LOCAL CONTENT:
Through the efforts of our NSE leaders, the Government approved that jobs less than N500, 000,000.00 are to be reserved for Nigerian Indigenous Contractors. This has been revised to a limit of N2.5B in the Government gazette of 16th April 2018 We heaved another great sigh of relief over this news. How well do the indigenous contractors treat their professionals? Most of them exploit their staff to an impossible condition leaving them in perpetual abject poverty less than even the minimum allowance paid by the expatriates. Who do you complain to in absence of Engineers Labor Union? The leadership of NSE will tell you they have fought and succeeded for the implementation of the Local Content Act so salary negotiation is our individual task? Again we find ourselves at cross roads.

Just recently the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation General Mohammed Buhari GCFR signed into Law the Presidential Executive Order no 5 on Local Content. This well intended Executive Order is expected to put food on our tables through award of supplies and contracts to many indigenous Companies in preference to the expatriates. Many Engineers are not excited about this development as the terrain still looks gloomy.

NATIONAL BUILDING CODE:
The Federal Legislators are yet to pass the National Building Code into Law. Hence no major punishment for those that breach the rules in the Built Environment Hence the building Industries remain all comers’ affairs. Despite the high rate of building collapse in Nigeria we have not yet heard of any conviction. With this development many quacks invade the building terrain without fear of conviction in event of problems thereby high jacking the jobs of the Nigerian Engineers. I want to really thank our Leaders and The President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces President Buhari for signing into Law the COREN Amended Act which now empowers Engineers to prosecute infractions in the Engineering domain. The Present COREN President has already set up high powered Panels for the implementation of the provisions. With this there is hope rising if the tempo is sustained.

NIGERIAN STANDARD CODE OF PRACTICE:
Another major issue hampering the successful performance of Nigerian Engineers is over dependence on foreign codes of practice .From year to year; The Nigerian Society of Engineers Codes and Standards Committee keep meeting at National Engineering Center Abuja once or twice a year. I have served as a member of the Committee. It is very obvious that at this rate our hope of getting Nigerian standard Code of Practice remains a mirage. This is a capital intensive venture that requires financial impute by Government. In 1972 Nigeria produced her first Code of practice. Since then the code has never been revised to suit the prevailing situation. Engineers are left to rely on British Standard Codes, Euro codes, California Codes while other countries like India, Malaysia have domesticated the EUROCODES. Our Structural Engineers keep designing structures based on high yield strength of about 460N/mm2 without integrating the Nigerian Situation. In my view Nigerian Standard Code of Practice is a collective responsibility of the Federal Government COREN.NSO.ARCON, NIOB, NSE and other stakeholders in the built environment. It requires a lot of fund and research and should be treated as such if we want to realize the dream




ENGINEERING BASED MINISTRIES
Our Ministries have been hijacked by Lawyers, Architects, and Quantity Surveyors etc. Today the Ministry of Works, Power, and Housing are manned by Lawyers and the likes. In some states Commissioners of Works, Transport, and Housing and Urban Development are manned by people from other professions who have very little to offer in Engineering domain. while we watch with heavy heart and self pity as they run the Ministries by proxy.

LATEST REGULATION IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY:
The Federal Government of Nigeria on 16th April 2018 released official Gazette no 51 volume 105 concerning COREN Regulation on the Construction Industry. This is another great signal of brighter years ahead. Highlights of the Gazette include:
• Designs of all major Engineering works are to be carried out in Nigeria.
• All contracts up to N2.5B are to be reserved exclusively for Nigerian Engineering firms.
• Copies of all stamped working drawings are to be kept on Site for inspection purposes.
• All major engineering contracts shall have a training component for training of engineering personnel.
• All drawings for the works shall be duly cross checked and endorsed by duly registered Engineer.
• COREN Council can only recognize Codes of practice of Practice of IEE, ASHRAE, ASME, NFHA, CIBSE, ASCE, British and American Building and Engineering Codes.
• Regulation Compliance Committee –Division of COREN to be established to ensure compliance with BPP laws, Local Content laws etc
• In case of building collapse, the owner shall fund all investigation costs, preliminary report shall be ready within 2 weeks of collapse while final report will be presented within 90 days of incidence and shall be made public. Culpable Engineers shall be tried by COREN tribunal.
• Upon completion of works a certificate of Fitness designed by COREN shall be completed by the consulting Engineer and handed over to the owner.
For other details see the Federal Government official gazette no 51

THE WAY FORWARD
1. More Engineers need to go into Politics. From Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers, we are privileged to have some members like Honorable Solomon Maren, our BOT Member Engr Ganiyu Johnson among many others in Senate and House of Reps.
2. NSE needs to be more consistent with policies.
3. The BPP should go beyond sighting of certificates of professionals. Mandatory involvement of showcased professionals with their current practicing license will help. This is addressed by the gazette no 50 of 16th April 2018.
4. The National Building Code should be approved. It has gone through first reading.
5. The Nigerian Standard Code of practice should be produced to guide designers.
6. NSE needs to come out with blue print on how to make the Presidential Executive Order 5 and this latest Government gazette beneficial to the Nigerian Engineers.
7. NSE should re-launch war against Corruption in Engineering Projects and pursue it aggressively.
8. CAC should design a means of ensuring the remuneration of Professionals submitted for company Registration.
9. Government needs to vigorously pursue peace restoration in the country .By so doing many foreign Firms will have faith in the country to do business. This will provide jobs for many Nigerian Engineers.
10. Quackery in Engineering Profession shall be pursued to a standstill.
11. NSE should revisit the Students Industrial working Experience Scheme in Engineering SITSE and pursue its approval vigorously.

CONCLUSION:
I want to thank the Leadership of NICESA South West zone being Coordinated by Hon Nnamdi Azubuike for this interaction with the Engineering Leaders of tomorrow. Having addressed the Civil Engineering Students in October 2018 at Calabar International Convention Center, it is my candid advise that you all should study the above submission to know the pitfalls ahead in order to prepare for a better tomorrow.
As Elders of the profession we will continue to do our best in any area we find our self for the betterment and advancement of the younger generation of Engineers in Nigeria.

The struggle for the emancipation and restoration of the dignity of the Nigerian Engineers is a task that must be accomplished by the Special grace of God. Together we shall put our hands on the plough until the deed is done. Greater together, victory is certain.

Thanks for your audience.

About CHIEF ENGR.OKEY EZEMA FNSE FNICE:

Engr Okey Ezema FNSE is a Civil/Structural Engineer based in Jos, Plateus State, Nigeria. He is the Managing Director of Zemas and Partners Nig Ltd a consulting Engineering firm based in Jos..He is a Fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers,Fellow Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers and COREN Engineering Regulation Monitoring Inspector. He has successfully handled the Structural analysis and design of many projects in Nigerian.He has equally participated in the Construction of many Federal Government projects in Nigeria as Project Manager. He has served as a member of national exco of Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers for two consecutive terms. he lso served as the Insitutution Ag Executive Secretary. Engr Okey Ezema FNSE was listed on page 208 of Nigerian Role Models A Compendium of Distinguished Nigerians[PIFAC]. He can be reached at : okeyezema@yahoo.com

Other papers from the Author: FLOOD MENACE IN NIGERIA: PLATEAU STATE FLOOD DISASTER by Engr OKEY EZEMA

BUILDING COLLAPSE MENACE IN NIGERIA CAUSES, CONSEQUENCIES AND PREVENTABLE MEASURES BY CHIEF ENGR.OKEY EZEMA FNSE FNICE

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