A 2021 ANNUAL LECTURE OF THE NIGERIAN ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING Delivered by ENGR. PROF. A. F. OGUNYE, D.Sc; FAEng. PAST PRESIDENT, NAE TO THE NIGERIAN ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING (NAE) LAGOS, NIGERIA. JUNE 24, 2021
It is my great privilege and pleasure to be called upon to deliver the Annual Lecture of this highly distinguished academy for this year, 2021. I felt specially honored to have had the privilege of serving the Academy in the highest position of President, some years ago, 2012 – 2014. This opportunity is a most cherished icing on the cake, for me.
As many of us know, my 50 years career trajectory has traversed both the academia and industry. This has given me considerable and balanced exposure to issues related to the impactfulness, or otherwise, of the Engineering profession on a developing economy such as ours. I have had ample time to reflect pensively on these and it is my delight to share my thoughts and ideas with you, my highly esteemed colleagues, today.
In examining the topic of this lecture, a number of distinct concepts are evidently embedded. These are:
• Engineering & Technology
• Government Policy Framework
• Growth & Development
Though undoubtedly we have a very highly enlightened gathering of accomplished Engineers and other professionals here today, it is essential that we are all on the same page in respect of the meaning and essence of each of these concepts.
2. ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY
In a very direct and simplistic sense Engineering may be described as that aspect of human endeavor concerned with the application of scientific principles for delivery and sustenance of functional and efficient social, economic and industrial infrastructure and products which underpin human civilization. This succinctly captures the ubiquitous role and centrality of Engineering in sustaining contemporary society.
Technology on the other hand may be simply summarized as the art or system of applying scientific knowledge to practical problems and is evidently closely related to Engineering. In a sense it may be considered as a bridge between Science and Engineering.
The importance of Science to Engineering and Technology indeed cannot be over-stated. It essentially provides the basics and fundamentals. In a world where multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving is on the ascendency this inter-relationship is of increasing value.
3. GOVERNMENT POLICY FRAMEWORK
Every meaningful government is able to carry out governance through a labyrinth of laws, statutes, regulations, guidelines, executive orders, position statements, etc. These, in a broad sense, may be construed to represent the policy framework of the government.
4. GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
Development, as pertains to a nation, has to do with the extent of progressive delivery of improved living standards to its citizens. On the other hand, growth, usually measured in terms of aggregate economic expansion or increase in gross domestic product (GDP), is essentially a component of and a contributory factor to development.
A universally accepted composite measure of long term development strides of nations is the Human Development Index (HDI), devised by the United Nations (UN). This is a three dimensional interplay of the following factors relating to citizens:
• Long and healthy living (health)
• Access to knowledge (education)
• Decent standard of living (GDP per capita)
Two other factors which in my estimation are very pertinent to the well being of the citizens of a nation and worthy of mention are:
• Poverty Rate
• Unemployment Level
It is noteworthy however that both are indirectly reflected in HDI measurement, through the standard of living or GDP per capita factor.
5. NIGERIA & DEVELOPMENT
Having laid out the fundamentals, it is pertinent to now examine how our beloved nation, Nigeria, has fared in its march to development.
5.1. General Perspectives
With an estimated population of over 200 million, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and accounts for about 15% of the entire population of the continent, of nearly 1.35 billion. Population growth rate in the country is estimated at a staggering average of 2.6 % per annum, compared to a global population growth rate of 1.05%.1
The Nigerian economy had a history of rapid growth in the decade between 2005 and 2014, with an average annual growth rate of nearly 6.5%. Following the shocks associated with the global oil industry crash in 2014, the growth rate slumped thereafter and remained at an average of about 1.2% per annum through the second half of the last decade (2015-2019)2
The global economy on the other hand grew by an average of 3.2% between 2005 and 2014, dropping to 2.8% in the subsequent period, 2015-2019.2 Evidently Nigeria recorded a relatively impressive growth rate in the decade, 2005-2014, fueled by a booming global petroleum industry. The performance following the petroleum industry slump has however been comparatively abysmal, pointing to policy failures in resetting the economy to respond to the new realities.
The GDP per capita of Nigeria, on the other hand, was estimated at $2,149 in 2020, ranking 134th in a list of 186 nations.3 Nigeria must evidently be considered a poor nation on this score. Given the rich endowment of our country this should never be.
5.3. Poverty Rate
According to the World Bank, extreme poverty is defined as living below a daily income of $1.25 (about N500). About 87 million out of Nigeria’s population of 200 million are listed in this category, signifying a poverty rate of over 40%.4 With this, Nigeria has the highest poverty population concentration globally, and is therefore now sadly regarded as the poverty capital of the world.
5.4. Unemployment Level
As defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) the unemployed in any society are members of the economically active population who are without work but are available for and seeking work. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimates that unemployment level in Nigeria in Q4 2020 was as high as 33.3%, compared with the global average of less than 10%.5,6
Our HDI in 2019, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was 0.539, positioning Nigeria lowly at 161 out of 189 countries of the world surveyed. This is also very disappointingly below the Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA) average of 0.5477. Adjusting for inequality in the distribution of wealth among the populations of the various nations, Nigeria’s HDI drops to 0.348, whereas the average for SSA is 0.3807, highlighting a dangerous and disturbing gulf between the rich and the poor in our country.
6. GOVERNMENT POLICY & ENGINEERING/TECHNOLOGY
The underperformance of our economy as catalogued above can be placed squarely on the corridors of public policy. Unquestionably, the policy issues are of very wide dimension, spanning beyond the realms of Engineering and Technology. Nevertheless, very many are of technological nature and are clearly related to Engineering.
A few such Engineering related policy issues may be highlighted, as follows, and explored a little further. These are:
• Petroleum Refining & Downstream
– NNPC Refineries/Modular Refineries/Price Deregulation/PH Refinery Rehabilitation
• Steel Development
• Railways Rehabilitation & Upgrade
• Covid-19 Response
• Research & Development
• Energy Transition
6.1. Petroleum Refining & Downstream
i. NNPC Refineries: The collapse of the 3 Refineries and resort to importation of over 80% of domestic requirements of petroleum products in the last 10-15 years smacks of serious policy failure and is most disturbing.
ii. Modular Refineries: Investment of public funds in modular refinery projects and positioning them as solution to the reliance on imported fuels and the vexed issue of lack of opportunities for the Niger Delta Youths represents a misguided policy direction, which has not delivered and will not deliver the expected results. Besides, their configuration and mode of operation are essentially attended by the destruction of value of crude oil, leaving devastating environmental footprints and creating costly despoliation of the eco-system.
iii. Price Deregulation: As Engineers, and with special reference to the Chemical Engineers, we are concerned about optimal utilization of petroleum resources and prevalence of conducive environment for investment in the sector, especially in Refining. Appropriate market driven pricing is central to the achievement of these goals. Unfortunately, policy makers have dithered on the compelling need for deregulation of the market, backed by creative measures to assuage the needs and concerns of the labour unions. The recent flip flops by members of the government on this issue attest eloquently to the very unfortunate policy failures.
iv. PH Refinery Rehabilitation: We are witnesses to the recent government policy initiative for the rehabilitation of the NNPC PH Refinery at a whopping cost of $1.5 bn. To complicate the situation there is no clarity in respect of the ultimate operational model envisaged for the refinery after the rehabilitation. In one breadth privatization is espoused in another breadth an Operation & Maintenance (OM) arrangement with a contractor is proposed. This is clearly considered a deplorable initiative which is unlikely to succeed, for the following reasons:
- • Government, through NNPC, had over 15 years to repair the refineries since they got into a state of terrible repairs and have spent billions of naira over the period without success. There is therefore doubt that they will succeed at this stage
- • There is lack of clarify in respect of the ultimate operating model planned or envisaged.
- • An OM arrangement is fraught with all sorts of interface problems and is unlikely to be successful in this situation. If privatization however is preferred, it is perplexing to want to spend $1.5bn on rehabilitation before privatization. Unquestionably, the more meaningful approach should be to privatize as is and let the new owners do the rehabilitation as they deem fit.
- • Even though a full scope of work for the rehabilitation works has not been provided, but prima facia $1.5bn seems a rather high cost for the project.
- • There is no mention yet of vitally required upgrade of the refinery to enable it produce fuels that meet current local and international specifications, given that it was designed over 30 years ago for specifications which are now obsolete.
- • The issue of upgrade further reinforces the absolute necessity of privatizing immediately and allowing the new owners to rehabilitate and upgrade, as appropriate.
- • How can a country desperately struggling to borrow over N5.0 trillion8 to balance its budget willfully decide to borrow additional N0.50 trillion or more for a questionable refinery rehabilitation project? It just does not sit right.
With reserves of over 200 trillion cubic feet (TCF) Nigeria is ranked 9th amongst the nations of the world in respect of natural gas resources.9 This should ordinarily be a strong base from which to launch a robust Petrochemicals Industry, with natural gas as feedstock. Again, we have dithered. We may recall, for instance, the Ogidigben Delta State Petrochemicals Project launched a few years ago with fanfare. Today it is moribund.
The importance of Petrochemicals is underscored by the fact that it is expected to remain the sustainable consumption driver for natural gas in particular, and crude oil to some extent, as the use of hydrocarbons as primary fuels for power generation, transport and heating trend downwards, in response to climate change pressure and increasing commitment to net zero carbon dioxide economy.
Given the abundance of natural gas, the blessing of several rivers and the huge solar energy potential, Nigeria has all it takes to deliver adequate electric power supplies, from gas thermal, solar thermal and hydro stations, to sustain the economy. We are all frustrated witnesses to the colossal failures yet again in this regard.
6.4. Steel Development
i. Ajaokuta Steel Project: This remains a very sore point for our nation and a colossal policy failure. After an investment of about $8bn, with over 95% completion of the plant, the project was abandoned since about 35 years ago.10
ii. Delta Steel: Designed to use natural gas and located in the coastal Niger Delta area, in the Oil & Gas belt of the country, this plant has all it takes to be a sustainable success. Unfortunately, it lies prostrate at its location on the outskirts of Warri.
The foray into Aluminum Smelting using Nigeria’s comparative advantage in natural gas abundance has ended up as another catastrophe, as the plant lies idle at Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State.
6.6. Railways Rehabilitation & Upgrade
Key policy challenges can be readily identified in the on-going Railways Rehabilitation & Upgrade Program.
• Resort to massive importation of steel, in the absence of a local steel industry.
• Exclusion of Nigerian Engineering Firms in the design and construction of the rail infrastructure, thereby denying Nigerian Engineers opportunity of acquiring vital know how and experience in this area.
• Rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line as a narrow gauge line rather than upgrade to the more modern, faster and safer standard gauge.
6.7. Covid-19 Response
The national response to the Covide-19 challenge has been reasonably successful, it must be admitted. Nevertheless, it may have been still more effective and would have laid the foundation for enduring industrial and technological advancement in certain respects, if there was a deliberate incorporation of Engineering & Technology in its policy thrust. For example:
• Opportunity was presented and lost for creating a linkage for utilization of locally produced petrochemical polymers in production of face masks and PPEs, vitally needed for the fight against Covid-19.
• No clear framework for harnessing the ingenious designs initiated by various Nigerian Engineering groups in such areas as hand hygiene facilities, respiratory support devices for patients, testing & diagnostic devices, etc.
• Exclusion of Engineers from assessment and optimizing of infrastructure for medial oxygen production and distribution, leading to gross shortages at the peak of the Covid-19 onslaught in January this year and consequent avoidable loss of lives.
• Exclusion of Engineers also in assessment of cold chain requirements for vaccine storage, vis-à-vis availability and adequacy of infrastructure, which perhaps may have enabled Nigeria have a wider access to vaccines.
• Seeming lack of awareness of the strategic need for Engineering input in domesticating the value chain for procurement and distribution of essential health and medical supplies.
All is not lost however. The current experience can still be helpful and local Engineering expertise can be better harnessed, in containing similar epidemic or pandemic in the future.
6.8. Research & Development
i. Budgetary Allocations: As it is said, no nation develops without due attention to R & D, Technology and Innovation. No country can indeed build a competitive economy without deliberate investment in R & D by the government and private sector, right from primary science where basic discoveries are made, through to pilot plant studies for proof of concept, commercial demonstration scale plants, to eventual rollout of competitive products. With budget allocation of less than 1.0% to Science & Technology,8 we are evidently not seriously committed to the cause of R & D, Technology and Innovation.
ii. Research Commercialization: Even with the paltry 1.0% budget allocation to Science & Technology, the limited R & D outcomes are not commercialized, as the nexus between Government, Industry, Academia (Universities, Colleges & Research Institutes) and Professional Associations, the Triple Helix + Concept, vitally required for success, continues to be elusive.8, 11
6.9. Energy Transition
The world is in the threshold of an Energy Transition entailing a major shift from hydrocarbons as the predominant source of energy to renewable and clean energy sources. This will clearly have huge impact on Nigeria’s economy as it unfolds, given our utter reliance on hydrocarbon exports for revenue and foreign exchange. Even the domestic economy will not be spared, especially as electric vehicles replace internal combustion engine automotives. Unfortunately, there is no articulated strategic response yet to these looming monumental changes, by Nigeria, at least in the public domain, to guide us in wading through the disruptions and dislocations that will come and reposition the national economy for success.
7. WHY SUCH UNDERPERFORMANCE ?
This catalogue of underperformance is very disturbing. The question therefore naturally arises as to what factors are responsible for such an undesirable situation.
Essentially, two broad causative factors may be identified, thus:
• Exclusion of Engineers and Engineering Advice in policy formulation and execution by government and its agencies.
• Inability and failure of Nigerian Engineers to properly influence government policy direction, even when the opportunity arises.
7.1. Exclusion of Engineers
For so long Engineers have been kept away from having an input or say in government policies in relevant areas and issues, either by deliberate design or out of ignorance. It is rather ironic that political leaders at all levels constantly preach the imperative of building capacity and prioritization of STEM to youths, for a competitive economy, but do next to nothing to demonstrate or actualize these values in their actions at the highest levels of governance.
Exclusion of Engineers manifests in several forms:
• Unwillingness of political leaders to obtain sound Engineering input and advice, or rejection of same, in the process of policy formulation and execution.
• Appointment of non-Engineers to positions of authority with high Engineering content, in place of Engineers.
• Exclusion of professional Engineers from decision making political positions.
This is a very deplorable situation which must be remedied in order to reverse the failures of the past and chart a new course.
7.2. Inability & Failure of Engineers
The above narrative is not to say that we the Engineers are free from culpability in the untidy mix. Both as groups in our professional associations and as individuals we have not always covered ourselves in glory.
• The Engineering bodies, especially COREN, our NAE and NSE, including its affiliated sub-groups (such as my special constituency, NSChE), have not always done enough to seize the high ground on policy issues and make our impact felt, even if uninvited. We have not done enough to position ourselves as indispensable in the policy value chain.
• Besides, several individual Engineers have been appointed to positions of authority but have not represented the profession well and have failed the nation by not offering sound technical advice and failing to make strong contribution towards shaping policy in areas relevant to them. This is considered to arise sometimes from appointment of unqualified or inexperienced Engineers to such top positions. It is also attributable in some cases to undue willingness to sacrifice professional ethics and standards on the altar of job security. Whichever, it again does not cover our distinguished profession in glory and paints us in very bad light.
• On the other hand, the professional bodies that certify and support Engineers for practice have not done enough to protect Engineers whose jobs are threatened on account of insistence on professional standards and codes of practice.
• Furthermore, there is no framework in place for the professional bodies to hold Engineers appointed into statutory positions to account for their professional and ethical performance while in office.
8. LESSONS FROM OTHER LANDS
It may be instructive to briefly examine experiences of some other countries in managing the integration of Engineering and Technology in policy formulation and implementation, to deliver desired national goals.
We are witnesses to the spectacular transformation of the Chinese economy and society in the last 30-40 years. China achieved an amazing average GDP growth rate of about 8-10% consistently for over 20 years, driven by Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology.12 The pace and scale of the economic transformation of China in fact have no historical precedent. In 1980,
China was amongst the poorest nations of the world, with a GDP per capita of $195, about 1.5% of USA GDP per capita same year, rising to $959 in 2000, about 2.6% of USA level. Amazingly by 2020 China’s GDP per capita had surged to $11,062, rising to about 17% of USA level. China today, with an aggregate GDP of $15.4 trillion is the second largest economy of the world ranking only behind USA with a $21.4 trillion economy.3,13
In this period, it is no surprise that over 50% of the top leadership of the government of China, and even the ruling Communist Party, were Engineers.12 You may recall that in my valedictory speech to this distinguished body as President in 2014 I did point out that it is on record that all the 9 members elected to the Standing Committee (Executive Committee) of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China for the period 2000 to 2013 were Engineers and Scientists, including the President at the time, Hu Lintao.13 This is indeed most instructive. Evidently, China accorded Engineering and Technology the deserved pride of place. The doors to importation were shut and the Chinese Engineers, Technologists and Scientists were seriously challenged to produce the goods and services required to grow their economy and for export, with great success.
Credible scientific bodies were regularly consulted and served as think tanks for state development. In particular four out of the five prestigious academies of learning in China are scientific and play a central role in the development process. These are:
• China Academy of Sciences
• China Academy of Agricultural Science
• China Academy of Medical Sciences
• China Academy of Engineering
Today, the history of China and its economic success cannot be written without due reference to the role of Engineering, Technology and Science.
The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) in UK has established a renowned Enterprise Hub, which collaborates with the government to support commercialization of research findings from the Universities, through Spinouts. The Academy has also instituted the hugely successful Enterprise Awards Program in support of the activities of the Enterprise Hub.
A Spinout in this context is essentially the transfer of research-derived insight and knowledge between an institution (university) and a company, often in exchange for equity, although not exclusively. These Spinouts are playing an
increasingly important role in creation of wealth and growth of the UK
economy. For instance, the Oxford University vaccination
Spinout, Vaccitech, was central to the recent breakthrough in development of
the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Another Pharmaceutical Spinout of the University, Adaptimmune, was listed on the NASDAQ stock platform in 2015 with a market capitalization as high as $1.2m. Besides, in 2020 the UK Spinouts
raised over £1.11bn in total from the private equity investment market, via 269 deals.14
My alma mater, Imperial College London, is certainly not left out, with over 70 listed spectacular Spinout success stories. These include:
• ARGENTA Discovery: Achieved over 60 patents in Medical and Veterinary Sciences. Company was acquired by the GALAPAGUS Group in 2010 for an undisclosed amount.
• GUIDED Ultrasonics Ltd (GUL) : Founded in 1999 and now the global leader in guided wave pipe testing technology, which is popularly deployed in the Nigerian Oil & Gas Industry for pipeline inspection.
• SONOBOTICS: A new Spinout at the cutting edge of integration of NDT inspection and robotics.
• ADDITIVE Instruments: Founded in 2020 and won UK Government grant for development and mass production of FFP3 top of the range face masks, by injection moulding, for Covid-19 containment.
Research work leading to these commercialization successes is indeed strongly supported by UK government through the Innovate UK grant scheme. Grants in 2019 amounted to £63 million.14
The roles of Innovate UK in funding research and RAEng in catalyzing the Spinouts are very instructive. It may be pertinent to also explain that Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency, a non-departmental public body operating at arm’s length from the Government, as part of UK’s research and innovation network.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Royal Academy of Engineering led all Engineering professional organizations to establish The National Engineering Policy Centre which anchors the Engineering Policy Fellowship for senior civil servants in UK and trains them on key aspects of engineering input into government policies.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced an award of $2m to four US Universities for R & D projects focused on advancing clean-hydrogen production technologies, which may be key in reducing carbon emission and meeting government climate change goals.15
This illustrates the US Government policy in promoting R & D and harnessing engineering and technological capabilities, for the advancement and well being of their country.
USA has unarguably remained the leading economic and military power of the world for several decades. This enviable status did not come as a fluke but rather from deliberate sound policy decisions, many of which were in the Engineering and Technology space. For illustration, the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) was set up soon after the Second World War essentially to drive economic prosperity, national security and environmental well being. ARPA covers all sectors of the economy and has been a resounding success.
The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a sub-set of ARPA, advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private sector investment. ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy.16
ARPA-E projects have the potential to radically improve U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and environmental well being. They focus on
transformational energy projects that can be meaningfully advanced with a small investment over a defined period of time. The streamlined awards process enables quick action and catalyzes cutting-edge areas of energy research.
ARPA-E empowers America’s energy researchers with funding, technical assistance, and market readiness. The rigorous program design, competitive project selection process, and active program management ensure thoughtful expenditures. ARPA-E Program Directors serve for limited terms to ensure a constant infusion of fresh thinking and new perspectives.
These apart, it is also very pertinent to highlight the excellent contribution Engineers are making to the fight against Covid-19 in USA, as lucidly espoused by our own Prof. Tunde Ogunnaike, in his excellent presentation at the Academy’s last Public Forum in April, titled ‘Engineering & the Covid-19 Pandemic Response’.17 The input of Engineers in modelling of the virus spread mechanism, leading to the mask up policy, stands out. Other contributions in the area of logistics and distribution modeling, as well as development of rapid testing & diagnostic kits, infection prevention devices and clinical tools, also deserve mention, considering their very positive impact on the solution matrix and influence on official policy. To cap it, the amazing feat of Process Engineering scale-up for vaccine production in a very short timeline was central to the successful delivery of the vaccine policy of the US government.
Evidently, the developmental trajectory of Nigeria has been severely hampered by the absence of sound Engineering input in public policy formulation and implementation. There must therefore be conscious effort to reset and recalibrate, in order to make progress.
The thrust of the recommendations ensuing from this discourse is therefore the inescapable need for a robust package of policies that will bring Engineering and Technology to the centre stage in public policy formulation and delivery. To this end, the following specific recommendations are proffered:
i. As a deliberate act of governance, Engineering and Science input and reviews must explicitly form part of policy articulation processes and procedures, to ensure that they are implementable in a manner that utilizes best technologies, drives cost effective delivery and minimizes deviations from assumptions.
ii. It is imperative that seasoned Engineers be appointed to positions of authority in government, especially in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) whose responsibility remits have high Engineering content. They must however be held to account by the relevant Engineering professional bodies.
iii. To further ensure that there is adequate Engineering and Technology content in policy making at the highest level at the Presidency, and to elevate Engineering and Technology to an appropriate level of importance, a position of
Technology Adviser to the President should be created, as a matter of priority and urgency. This should rank side by side with similar positions related to other strategic areas of governance, including the Political, Economic and Security spheres.
iv. The Federal Ministry of Science & Technology requires to be reorganized and repositioned for a more strategic and potent role in overseeing and driving the R & D efforts of the country. Budgetary allocations to the ministry should be raised to at least 2.5% of national budget, to equip it for the task. Besides, the ministry’s special intervention agencies, especially RMRDC & NASENI, as well as other similar agencies supporting knowledge & innovation, such as TETFUND, should be strengthened to play their roles more effectively. All statutory revenues due them should be channeled to them without failure. In turn they should be subjected to agreed performance deliverables.
v. An industrial development division, manned by experienced & competent Engineers & Economists, is proposed to be created in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment. This department will be tasked with identifying key industries critical to our economic development, create conducive investment environment and attract investment from competent private entities with requisite technical and financial capabilities.
vi. In tandem with renewed impetus and vigour in Research & Innovation, the universities are encouraged to establish Industrial Parks and embrace the concept of Entrepreneural Universities, as a further step towards commercializing their research findings. Recent strides made by the University of Lagos in this regard are noteworthy and commendable. 18 patents have been successfully filed for projects emanating from various faculties in the last three years. Two of these, the Katenate-Oye Organic Chemistry Board Game and an Intelligent Real-Time Waste Management Monitoring System, are indeed at advanced stages of commercialization.
vii. Besides, students design and research projects in these Universities, as well as research projects of the faculty, must be increasingly targeted at specific issues of relevance and value to the country.
viii. Actualization of the Triple Helix Plus + Concept, bringing together Government, Industry, Academia and the Professions, is considered compelling and urgent now. Government is therefore urged to assign clear responsibility for this to one of its key organs, preferably the Federal Ministry of Science & Technology, with clearly measurable performance terms.
ix. The need for complete overhaul of the Engineering Curriculum in our Universities is considered compelling. This is to cater to the imperative of
producing Engineers who must be competitive in an increasingly global world and who have the competence and confidence to contribute decisively towards shaping and executing public policy in relevant areas. In this regard the following features come to mind:
• Shift from facts and learning to stimulation of critical thinking and creativity in the education process.
• Programs which must encompass a carefully calibrated balance between such critical technical elements as: Basic Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology), Mathematics, Computer Science/IT, Fundamental Engineering, Applied Engineering, Sustainability (Safety, Environmental Protection) and Projects (Design, Research).
• Programs which must also have a carefully determined dose of Social Sciences/Liberal Arts, Business/Economics and Entrepreneurship modules, as well as other soft skills required for success in either the public or private sector, such as Communication Skills, Team Building, Ethics, Leadership, etc.
• Sequencing of the classes and institution of class pre-requisites, especially for the technical modules, to ensure proper build up of understanding. For instance, in Chemical Engineering, which I am most familiar with, it is essential that most of the Fundamental Engineering classes, such as Process Principles, Thermodynamics (Engineering & Process) and Transport Phenomena (Fluid Dynamics, Heat Transfer & Mass Transfer) are taken upfront before the more practice related
classes, such as Unit Operations, Particulate Systems, Separation Processes, Reaction Engineering and Process Control.
x. Furthermore, on education and training of Engineers, it is time now to reset the bar higher and arrest the proliferation of Engineering Schools. Those that are not up to standard must be allowed to disappear. similarly, class numbers must be pruned and optimized, for effective education. In tandem with the rationalized numbers, the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), a key component of the curriculum, which has been in place
for about 40 years without review, must come up for review and revamp now. There must be meaningful placement for each student, with gainful engineering experience and effective supervision and monitoring. Outcomes and deliverables must be well defined. Cooperation and participation of eligible companies and government agencies must be monitored by the relevant government authority responsible for SIWES. The active buy-in and involvement of NUC, COREN, NBTE & ITF is envisaged, for success. In particular, ITF should be seen to gainfully deploy the very considerable resources accruable to it, to the upliftment of SIWES.
xi. A strategic Working Group, consisting mostly of well-respected Engineers and Scientists, with clearly defined mandate, should be instituted, preferably within the orbit of the Energy Commission, to chart Nigeria’s pathway through the Energy Transition, as a matter of urgency. This should be a key step in strengthening & repositioning the Commission to play a robust role in energy policy & strategy formulation within the Presidency, serving as a vital bridge between the Ministries of Petroleum, Power, Mines & Steel and others relevant in the energy space.
xii. Finally, NAE, as the leading light of Engineering in the country, needs to do more. The Academy must address itself towards playing a key role in actualizing the highly desired Triple Helix Plus + Concept, possibly borrowing from the highly laudable RAEng experience. It must also consider the entire gamut of reform of Engineering education and training as a priority concern and fashion out a robust interface mechanism with the responsible regulatory concerns and other stakeholders, for decisive change. Furthermore, the Academy must device an accountability framework for tracking the performance of its members in positions of responsibility in government.
These are my humble thoughts, born out of the decades of sojourn in the academia and industry. I sincerely believe that if adopted and implemented, many of the recommendations will enhance Engineering and impact tremendously on the development of our beloved nation.
I thank you very much for the opportunity and for your time.
- 1. Worldometer; ‘World Population Prospects,’ 2020. (Elaboration of Data by United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs, Population Division).
- 2. MacroTrends Economics Report 2021.
- 3. Wikipedia Report; ‘List of Countries by GDP (IMF 2020 Estimates),’ 2021.
- 4. Bonga Magazine, Aug. 2020.
- 5. Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS); ‘Labour Force Statistics – Unemployment & Underemployment Report, Q4 2020,’ March 2021.
- 6. CIA World Factbook, 2020.
- 7. UNDP Annual Human Development Report, 2020.
- 8. Nairametrics; Key Highlights of the 2021 FGN Budget, Oct. 2020.
- 9. Attah, Tony; ‘Nigeria’s Decade of Gas, the Industry Leadership Outlook,’ presented at the Nigerian Gas Association Conference (Virtual), Feb. 2021.
- 10. Bassey, Etim N; ‘Steel & National Development Issues, Challenges & the Way Forward for Nigeria,’ lead paper at the 46th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, Abuja, Nov. 2016.
- 11. Ajienka, J. A; ‘Re-Engineering Education for Sustainable Development, Education 4.0 for Industry 4.0,’ presented at the 5th International Conference on Gas, Refining & Petrochemicals (Virtual), Nov. 2020.
- 12. Ogbuigwe, Tony; ‘The Engineer as a Leader in National Development,’ Public Lecture delivered to the National Society of Chemical Engineers, FCT/Nassarawa Chapter, June 2019.
- 13. Engineering & Technology; ‘China’s All Engineers Politburo (2000-2013),’ Oct. 11-24, 2008.
14. Royal Academy of Engineering; ‘Spotlight on Spinouts – UK Academic Spinout Trends,’ Jan. 2021.
- 15. Chemengonline – Chemical Engineering Essentials for the CPI Professional; ‘DOE Awards $2million to Develop Clean Hydrogen Technologies,’ March 2021.
- 16. Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) Publication, March 2021.
- 17. Ogunnaike, B. A; ‘Engineering & the Covid-19 Pandemic Response,’ presented at the Nigerian Academy of Engineering Public Forum, April 2021.
MY JOY AS A TEACHER OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING
The greatest satisfaction that I have derived from teaching chemical engineering for over 25 years before my retirement in 1995 is the positions which my former students have attained in both the public and private sectors.
Many of my former students have become Professors, a Vice-Chancellor, Fellows of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, Fellows of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Presidents Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers, Managing Directors in their places of work, Group Executive Directors at NNPC, Executive Directors of Multinationals and Governors. One of them was the most exposed civilian Governor in the country during the third republic, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu of Abia State and currently the Minister of Science and Technology of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Most importantly these have become Fellows of the Academy of Engineering.
S/N YEAR OF GRADUATION NAME POSITION HELD
1 1973 Dr. (Dame) Fabia Amakiri Group General Manager, LNG Division, NNPC
2 1974 Prof. Rahamon Bello Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos
3 Engr Afolabi Oladele Group Executive Director, NNPC
Prof Babatunde Ogunnaike William L. Friend Chaired Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Delaware, Newark & Dean of College of Engineering for 7 years.
5 Dr Ogbonnaya Onu Former Governor of Abia State & Current Minister of Science and Technology
6 Engr. Anthony Ogbuigwe Group Executive Director NNPC
Deputy President Nigeria Society of Chemical Engineers
7 1977 Dr. John N. Erinne Managing Director Of His Enterprise And a Past President of Nigerian Society Of Chemical Engineers
8 1978 Engr. Otunba Gbenga Daniel Former Governor of Ogun State
9 Engr. Azubuike O. Anyaoku Group Executive Director NNPC and a Past President Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers
10 Dr. Daniel Babasehinde Ayo A successful Director at Raw Materials Research and Development Council. (RMRDC)
11 1980 Prof. Adesoji A. Adesina Nigerian National Order of Merit Laureate
And my adopted student from Ahmadu Bello University
12 1973 Prof Samuel S. Adefila Past President Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers