BY ENGR. DR. CHRIS C. CHUKWURAH, FNSE, FNIM, Director, Physical Planning and Development . Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike. Pioneer General Manager, Delta State Urban Water Board Asaba. Chairman, Nigeria Society of Engineers, Ekpoma; 1990 – 1993. Author, Essayist and Development Engineer.
Paper Delivered on 10th March, 2018, at the National Engineering Centre Abuja, during the 2018 Induction Ceremony of Engineers by the Maitama Branch of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
1.0 Protocol. ..
(a) What is Economic Development?
(b) How do we explain and define Engineering and its Practice in the Nigeria clime?
(c) Has Engineering Practice impacted favourably or adversely on Economic Development in Nigeria?
(d) What are the factors that facilitate these impacts?
(e) What constraints and challenges do we recognize as solvable imperatives for Engineering Practice in Nigeria to yield optimal economic benefits?
(f) In what ways can Engineering Practice advance to National Economic Development?
(g) Are there identifiable engineering resources the country is not tapping technologically to enhance citizens well-being?
(h) On a global scale, are there lessons Engineering Practice in Nigeria can draw to improve on her impact on economic development?
(i) What other factors can advance these global lessons for Nigerian Economic development?
Answers to these and other searching questions, will form the main thrust of this paper as we interrogate and dissect the issues surrounding Engineering Practice and economic development in Nigeria.
First, let us understand the key terms.
3.0 Key terms defined and explained
Engineering and Economic Development are the key words of the title of this topical paper. The topic was chosen to bring to sharper focus the long gestation period it is taking the country to move from the classification of third world or developing country to an emerging 1st or 2nd World economy. A clear understanding of the key terms and their interplay will equip Engineering inductees, the public and other practicing Engineers to brace up to the urgent challenge and clear task before all Nigerians. That task is to develop Nigeria economically through effective an mutually rewarding professional practice of Engineering.
3.1 Economic development is a generic term involving a gamut of activities for the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services aimed at increasing the standard and quality of living of people (Chukwurah C.C., 1974) It is also a process of planned efforts to move people and human communities from poverty, ignorance and disease to a state of full employment, adequate wealth, prosperity, knowledge and good health. Economic development therefore, creates wealth, jobs and a decent civilized environment with personable healthy citizenry. Apart from creating these, it continuously maintains and sustains the good prosperous life of human communities.
3.2 Thus sustainability, of economic development is an essential ingredient of all worthwhile endeavours, efforts or processes for national economic prosperity. However, for economic development to be fruitfully sustainable, it must be;
c) Efficient and effective
d) Timely and cost-effective
This last quality for sustainable socio-economic development underlines the truism that Engineering and Technology are the chief creating force and agent in economic development. It also underlines the necessity for Technological Empowerment of Nigeria. Engineering and Technology are the muscle and weapons advanced economies use to maintain their social and diplomatic superiority.
In canvassing for this authentically proven necessity, I posited in my title Patriotic imperatives for the Great Nigeria Dream (1997), that “in the US and Europe, Engineering Technology has a living tradition and happy testimony of holding the key for constant improvements in the life of modernity, surplus and progress now available in those parts of the world. If Nigeria must catch up with them or indeed attain the desirable height of modern medium world power, it is necessary for the nation to promote Engineering and Technology in all its ramifications”. This can practically, fasttracked through sound Engineering Practice in Nigeria .
3.3 Engineering Practice is the authentic vessel for achieving this feat. Engineering Practice is the process and activities that exploit the forces, energy and materials of nature efficiently, innovatively and purposefully to create structures, goods and service to satisfy human and societal needs. It is in the vanguard to achieve sustainable socio-economic and industrial development of nations. Nigeria cannot be an exemption. Engineering is a distinguished profession with four cadres in over two hundred disciplines for its professional practice.
3.4 These four cadres are:
(i) Craftsmen (Artisan) (ii) Technicians (iii) Technologists (iv) Engineers.
The Engineer is at the head of this Engineering family and must lead the family team to achieve national, societal, private and public developmental goals. This stands Engineers out as transformative resource managers who must propel economic development . Each member of the family has distinct qualification, training and background that equip her for distinct roles and duties.
3.5 These duties to society involve:
(a) Design (b) construction (c) production (d) marketing (vendoring) (e) management (f) operations and (g) maintenance of structures, facilities, projects, tools, machines, systems and ancillary services.
Other duties are evaluation, valuation, certification, testing, safety, Research, Teaching and Supervision of Projects and Facilities
These Engineering Practice and Services areas bring socio-economic development when professionally planned, properly funded and well-executed as well as when all the engineering personnels in the team are well equipped and gainfully rewarded. This is one major ways Engineering Practice contributes to economic development.
3.6 Before we consider other ways these crucial contributions are made, it is important to stress that Engineering Practice and Economic development are mutually symbiotic processes and activities. While Engineering Practice is used to promote and accelerate economic development, socio-economic development is used to channel rewards, and to promote and innovate efforts in Engineering Practice. This point is very important because of the pivotal mutuality that must exist between the drivers of both process activities. The drivers are Government or leadership as Clients and Engineers in Engineering Practice as Consultants or Contractors. The important role Engineers play as both Client (when in Government), Consultants or Contractor is one of the reasons for the recurring strident clamour for Engineers to aggressively go for the role of Clients as Politicians/Government officials in leadership position in both public and private sectors of Nigerian economy.
It is noteworthy that only the Professional Engineer in fruitful Engineering Practice can variously or simultaneously play the roles of clients, consultants and contractors robustly. In these roles, he applies his leadership, analytical, numerical, communication and technical skills in development projects for sound economic development of Nigeria. The developed world and the Asian Tigers have realized the importance of Engineers in the Project Trilogy and usually ascribe Engineering Practitioners as the main drivers of economic development . Hence over there, Engineering Practice and Personnel are accorded highest respect, are highly rewarded and given high positions in Government and leadership. A crucial question at this stage will be: Can Nigeria continue to accord Engineers low respect, low reward and low positions in development project policy matters and expect sustainable or accelerated development? The answer is NO.
Hence, Federal and State Governments in Nigeria must recognize, reward and regard Engineers highly . Governments at all levels should patronize Engineering professionals and personnel in Engineering Practice and avoid quacks like plague. Engineers should head all engineering organizations as a matter of policy and practice to mainstream them into national economic planning and execution . Thus, the Presidential Executive Order No. 5 issued by President Buhari on 2nd February 2018 is a step in the right direction. It ordered among others that “all procuring authorities shall give preference to Nigerian companies and firms in the award of contracts in line with the Public Procurement Act 2007”. This illustrates clear appreciation by Government that Science, Technology and Engineering are vitamin Nigeria economic development and the strong desire to empower Engineering Practice to increase local productive contents.
However, until this order, and there is lack of central role-playing position of Engineering Practitioners in engineering organizations and procurement for Nigeria economic development . This has impacted adversely on Engineering Practice, as square pegs in round holes hardly lead Engineers in their field competently. Therefore, we must all join hands to ensure that Executive Order No. 5 is a success. It is even more worrisome when partisan politicians and quacks hijack Engineering Projects, make a mess of it and turn around to blame Engineering Personnel for lack of performance
However, for a favourable impact, it is imperative for Engineering Practice to assume a central role in promoting sustainable economic development in Nigeria. Hence, the critical vital question: in what ways can Engineering Practice advance economic development in Nigeria?
4.0 Ways Engineering Practice advances economic development
There are many ways Engineering Practice has acted as game-changers around the world which can apply to our country when given correct focus. We shall consider very vital ones listed below. Generally, however, if we list all the physical development challenges facing Nigeria, there is none that sound focused Technology and Engineering Practice cannot solve. This includes the challenge of constructing adequate Power Plants, functional Refineries and safe Cattle Pens for cattle ranches. Infact, developing Cattle Ranches as a challenge is nothing but Farm infrastructure development.
4.1 Infrastructural development
The wide range of infrastructure covered by our NSE-powered National Infrastructure Scorecard is revealing. They range from roads, bridges, airports, seaports, schools, houses, telecommunications, digital infrastructure, sanitation, health facilities, water, dams, power, energy and waste management. Each of these elements of infrastructure improves quality of life. Planned investment and their professional execution creat jobs, good life and wealth. These are acutely needed for Nigeria to eliminate or reduce her high rate of poverty at 70% of population, high unemployment and extend life expectancy currently at an average of 54 years by recent estimates. These challenges have remained insoluble despite inconsistent Government plans to resolve them and despite our vast untapped resources .Such untapped resources are mostly solid minerals like bitumen, coal, clay, Uranium, iron one as well as perish agro-produce. Even the tapped resources are not efficiently done due to low productivity which sound Engineering Practice could eliminate.
4.2 Increased productivity
Engineering Practice in driving economic development creates facilities and systems for efficient production, distribution, travels , leisure and agriculture. It enhances efficiency in business and industry. Industrial productivity is enhanced by Engineering Practice and leads to massive and efficient creation of goods and services. It also enables these goods to reach target markets very efficiently and promptly. Here, the place of good roads, bridges and communication facilities cannot be overemphasized. It is noteworthy that of the five productivity improvement skills, four are Engineering and Technology based viz; materials, processes, products, computer-aided. Engineering Practice stimulates economic development by promoting efficiency and effectiveness for high productivity in schools, homes, businesses, markets and industries.
4.3 Facilitation of timely decision-making in commerce and industries.
Sound decision-making and timely execution of decisions are given fillip by sound Engineering Practice. Engineering Practice transforms the 7Ms innovatively and positively. The 7Ms are money, man, materials, methods, market, management and maintenance. These 7Ms positively affect production, distribution and consumption in society. In Nigeria, the maintenance challenge will be drastically reduced by sound Engineering Practice with a boost and leapfrog to economic development.
4.4 Leap-frog in value of Annual Goods Produced and Services Provided (GDP) Plus net income from foreign investment (GNP)
There is a correlation between provision of infrastructure through Engineering Practice and GDP. Results from interplay of Engineering Practice in advancing economic development increases the annual stock value of goods and services, including infrastructure. This is increased GDP . Increased GDP and GNP are the direct results of productive activities of motivated healthy citizens with high productivity. This in turn impacts positively on other economic factors such as interest rates, inflationary rates and exchange rates. I make bold to say that unless Engineering Practice is given centre stage in all physical and agricultural projects in Nigeria, the wobbling and fumbling of these three economic rates will continue to torment our development.
4.5 Enhanced leisure, entertainment and sports are advanced by professional Engineering Practice by setting high standards in the design and provision of facilities for these relaxation and life-enhancement areas of human and societal activities. We need to plan not only to construct these facilities but use Engineering Practice duties to maintain and sustain them.
4.6 In the final analysis, the poor showings of our country’s per capita GDP, GNP, interest rates, inflationary rates and exchange rates are due to the unfavouarable conditions of Engineering Practice in the country. This must be revised to yield good positive impact especially in the light of Nigeria huge engineering resources endowment. Many of our solid minerals including coal, clay, iron ore, agriculture products are still untapped and others inefficiently tapped. Engineering Practice will help Nigeria plan realistically for the exploitation of these resources.
However, for Engineering Practice to do so in a sustainable manner, Government support is mandatorily required to create the enabling environment free of corruptive and negative influences. This position is validated globally by history.
What are the abject lessons for Nigeria from global Engineering Practice as it relates to economic development?
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