Subjecting Training, Certification to International Scrutiny, Will Guarantee Standardisation of Curriculum- Kashim Ali

In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, of ThisDay, the former president of the Council of Registered Engineers in Nigeria, Kashim Ali explained why any nation desiring a rating and recognition should subject its training and certification processes to open international scrutiny to ensure the standardisation of its curriculum, among other issues.

You once championed the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) for engineering undergraduates when you were the president of COREN. Is that still in force?

It is very much so. The Benchmark Minimum Academic Standard (BMAS) production was part of what needed to be done to standardise our curriculum towards internationalising Nigerian engineering qualifications. Engineering standards being universal, every nation desiring a rating and recognition must subject its training and certification processes to open international scrutiny. The International Engineering Alliance (IEA) cross-matches qualifications from around the world through three basic platforms: Washington Accord for Engineers, Dublin Accord for Technologists, and Sydney Accord for Technicians. The world now knows what Nigeria is doing, and COREN is inching towards the final stages of getting Nigeria admitted into the Washington Accord in the first instance, and the others will follow. COVID-19 delayed things, but work has begun again.

What is your assessment of the engineering profession regarding capacity and capability?

Engineering is an enabler, and man’s level of comfort and safety on earth is to the extent that engineering infrastructure can provide; hence a nation is only as developed as the content of its engineering. Basic engineering knowledge and applications are universal. This makes it possible for knowledge and skills acquired in one geographical entity to be applicable in another but subject to modifications to accommodate environmental peculiarities. To that extent, a lot has been accomplished in building capacities and capabilities and the proofs abound in the physical infrastructure that dots our landscapes, utilities, maritime and aero vessels, advanced medical equipment, etc.

The solutions to all our infrastructure problems are within reach, but government policies are not supportive—so much mouthing intentions without applicable action.- Kashim Ali

What does it take for an engineer to become an entrepreneur innovator?

It takes basically self-motivation and environmental influences. The truth is that every trained engineer has the ability to apply the tools of mathematics and science to solve complex problems. For some, they will wait for the problems to arise or be directed at them, but entrepreneurs go the extra mile to nose out the problems and deal with them.For female mechanical engineers, what are the support processes available to them?There are quite a few female engineers that own mechanical workshops, the most prominent being Oduwa Agboneni. They have carved a niche for themselves, and the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), largely through the Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN), supports them with advocacy and advisory. There are other support systems within the NSE system for female engineers, which they also enjoy.

How effective can engineers contribute to nation-building?

As effective as the nation will allow. The physical infrastructures that serve as foundations and backbones for national growth are in the foray of engineering. Therefore, a nation in need of development, and indeed all nations are, must engage its engineering manpower for sustainable growth very effectively. Nigerians complain severally of the quality of delivery of engineering infrastructure, especially roads and other works.

In your view, what are Nigerian engineers’ challenges to delivering quality and global standard infrastructure in Nigeria?

The challenges of Nigerian engineering personnel in road and other infrastructure project delivery emanate largely from an ineffective operating structure in the sector. Do you know that the Federal Ministry of Works is acting both as a policy and implementation agency? The ministry has consistently resisted every effort at reform to bring in tandem with modern practices. Many years ago, the Nigerian Society of Engineers proposed a reform that would see the ministry ceding its implementation functions to a professional agency – the Federal Road Authority (FRA), with a board that would be responsible for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and maintenance of all federal roads; and a funding agency – Federal Roads Fund to manage the accruals from the road tax and other sources. The ministry pretended it accepted the proposal, by creating the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), at a time over 70 per cent of federal roads were unserviceable and outside the maintenance threshold.

Do you know that the Federal Ministry of Works is acting both as a policy and implementation agency? The ministry has consistently resisted every effort at reform to bring in tandem with modern practices.

What advice will you give to the incoming government on the improvement of the power supply in the country?

It is the business of engineers to provide solutions to complex problems. Nigerian engineers are no exception. The incoming administration should challenge Nigerian engineers, whether in-country or/and in the diaspora, to provide solutions to all infrastructure problems. Many Nigerian engineers are providing fantastic infrastructure solutions to other nations—enough of the government putting square pegs in round holes. The solutions to all our infrastructure problems are within reach, but government policies are not supportive—so much mouthing intentions without applicable action.

This interview was first published in ThisDay

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