THE NIGERIAN ENGINEER AND NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT By ENGR. ALI A. RABIU, FNSE (CIGARIN LAFIA)
1.0 ENGINEERING, ITS DIVERSIFICATION AND DYNAMISM
Engineering has been defined as the art or science of making practical application of knowledge of pure sciences as physics or chemistry, as in construction of engines, bridges, buildings, mines, ships and chemical plants. It is also the application of knowledge in all spheres of human endeavour.
An Engineer therefore, is a person trained and skilled in the design, construction and use of engines or machines or in the various branches of engineering. Some of which are Aeronautical, Agriculture, Automotive, Chemical, Civil, Electrical/Electronics, Environmental, Geotechnical, Industrial, Marine, Mechanical, Metallurgical, Petroleum, Structural, Engineering Valuation and Cost Engineering, Water, Genetics, and the list goes on.
Through research and developments, new engineering inventions and processes, are discovered on almost daily basis. New trends and developments in the telecommunication, electronic and systems engineering sub-sectors today are as a result of research. They are all engineering and technology applications. Every year, cars with new designs and features, almost monthly, new phones with various capabilities are launched. New and more advance air planes of various uses are rolled out. Engineering is thus very dynamic. Engineering is creativity and affects every facet of development in unlimited number of fields.
2.0 THE NIGERIAN ENGINEERING PIONEERS IN THEIR KEY SECTORS
Our Pioneers in engineering include Herbert Heelas Macaulay (1893) who is regarded as the doyen of Nigerian Engineers. He was a civil engineer who practiced Land Surveying which is only part of his training. He finally made his mark as a nationalist in politics where he is regarded as the father of modern Nigerian Politics.
Other university graduate engineers that followed were George ‘Debayo Agbebi (1911) Ishola Philips (1930), Robert O Staverley (1934) Adekunle Coker (1934), Oladotun Coker (1935) Ekundayo Ajayi (1936) and Adeniyi Williams (1936)
Engr. Chief Adeniyi Williams (President, NSE 1959-62) had a successful civil service career where he retired as Chief Engineer from the University of Ibadan in the 1970s. Another Past President, Engr. Igiehon, FNSE succeeded him and retired from the same Institution. (Oyeleye October lecture, 14 October 1988)
The next group of engineers did not qualify until the late 40s partly because of the 2nd World war (1939-1945) and partly because of lack of effective utilization of Nigerian Engineers, which discouraged enrolment in engineering in the first place.
These engineers were substantially graduates of Yaba Higher College, which was established in 1934, and later went abroad to qualify. They were mainly civil Engineers, the most senior of them was Mr. Iweka (1946). At independence in 1960, we had directors of works, Engr. S. O. Williams (Lagos) Engr. (Dr) T. M. Aluko (Ibadan) Mr. Uzodike (Enugu) and an expatriate, Mr. Jones (Kaduna).(Oyeleye October lecture, 14 October 1988)
The three Nigerians, (Williams, Aluko & Uzodike) according to records, enjoyed some measure of understanding. They enjoyed the respect of their politician contemporaries. They were professionals with wide experience. The then strong civil service tradition of respect for sound professional advice and the fact that the previous expatriate Directors of works were members of the Government at cabinet level was of great assistance to them. Their areas of contribution were on road construction, water supply and government housing development. The later generation of civil engineers (Fadahunsi, Akande, Usman, Osili, Uzodike, and later Otobo) built the tradition of excellence in the civil service.
The Nigerian Railways was the citadel of Mechanical Engineering before independence. Where another former NSE President, J.C. Egbuna and FAO Philips set records.
Engr. Dr. Demola Banjo and Engr. M.N.A. Manafa (Manafa Power) another Past President of NSE, were Pioneers in the Electricity Industry. They were of high quality and caliber.
In education, the likes of Prof. Oladapo, Prof Adekola, Prof Orangun, Prof. V. A. Williams, Prof Owolabi, Prof Enahoro, Prof Kuale, Prof Makanjuola, Prof Ogunye and a host of others made their indelible marks.
In design and consultancy, Obi Obembe & Associates, Enplan Group, Yolas Consultants, Ette Aro & Partners, Yaroson & Partners, Teckno Consults and a host of others have their footprints printed on the sand of times.
In the telecommunications sectors, Engr. V.A. Haffner, Engr. A.A. Bodede, Engr. Teju Oyeleye (Past President) Engr. V. I. Maduka (Past President) and others, were the success stories.
In effect, the Nigerian Engineer made impact in all facets of our national development.
3.0 NATIONAL PLANNING & NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
A nation that wishes to develop must necessarily be guided by a National Plan. National Planning is thus a step by step method and process of defining, developing and outlining various possible courses of action to meet existing or future needs, goals and objectives for a country or a large body of people associated with a particular territory, often sharing similar ethnic backgrounds, customs and language (Source: RHW/BLD)
A national Plan must of necessity cover all aspects of a country’s development programme. Nigeria’s past development planning would be classified under four phases. The first can be described as the:
i. Colonial Era
ii. Era of fixed-term planning (1962-85).
iii. Era of Rolling Plan (1990 -1998) and the
iv. New Democratic Dispensation (1999 till date)
There exists between these periods some years dominated by sporadic government actions and ad-hoc planning in which the country did not actually produce a plan document that could be categorized into the four periods mentioned. These periods represent times of major socio-political upheaval and economic crises that necessitated transitory and sporadic actions from the incumbent administrations.
National Development is a process integrated to National Planning. A country must know where it wants to be at a particular time, plan strategy to get there, execute the plans with all resources so earmarked for the achievements of the goals. The National Planning process begins with research into a country’s development indices.
3.1 Systems Principles of how we plan include
– Integration and Coordination- Combining and rationalizing structures, functions, policies and processes under a clear set of rules to produce a coherent, integrated outcome. Integration can be vertical combining and rationalizing higher order and subsidiary systems e.g. hierarchy of plans or horizontal integrating different aspects of single system e.g. a State government.
Certainty – Consistency regarding the conditions under which development will proceed, the rate and scale at which it will take place and the way planning principles and mechanisms will be applied.
– Responsiveness – The flexibility needed to respond to changing or unforeseen circumstances.
– Equity – Fairness, such as protection of personal rights, equity access to appeal mechanisms and procedures that do not discriminate against individuals or groups.
– Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Economy – No unnecessary processes and governance arrangement etc.
– Community Engagement – Promotion of community engagement including consultation, participation and increased community understanding and support for planning processes.
3.2 What issues should be addressed through planning?
Basic issues in National Planning must include but not limited to Urban form, Infrastructure Coordination, Social Equity, Environmental Protection and restoration, Resource Management and security, Housing choice and affordability and Sustainable transport. All these have their foundation in engineering, No wonder engineering has been described as all encompassing that there is no single structure on this earth that is man- made which is not tied directly to it. By his training therefore, engineer ought to be at the fore of National Planning, with economists, statistician etc.
In development, critical infrastructure is key. In this regard, we mean roads, rails, aerodromes, water supply, education, power supply, environment, agriculture, transportation, tourism development, hospital development, housing, etc are all engineering based with other services supportive. So if those who have the know-how are not piloting the development plans, who should?
4.0 INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE PRINCIPLE OF THE RULE OF LAW
4.1 Institutional Development;
Some of the negations of the Past Development Plans in Nigeria have been due to the fact that individuals, rather than institutions matter. A well thought-out plan (indeed all of Nigeria’s Plan, have been well thought- out) would just be shoved aside by a new ruler or a new set of rulers due to political, ethnic, religious or some other self-serving considerations. Every consideration in this country is looked at through the lenses of politics, ethnicity, religion, regionalism, just name it. When a crime is committed, for instance, rather than the law to take its course, considerations would be on other mundane things. Uncommon greed is fuelling corruption to frightening heights.
Unfortunately, we have also reduced corruption to only when money changes hands. A person who rigs elections, someone who promotes nepotism, tribalism, religious bigotry, the man who promotes violence etc. are all guilty of corruption. These vices violate the basic principles of human nature and are therefore the worst forms of corruption.
4.2 The Rule of Law;
The Rule of Law pre-supposes that no one is above the law. That the law in all cases guides our actions as members of a state. There are penalties for violations to be interpreted by the courts. No individual has the power to put aside the provisions of the law except the law in that regard says so. Not even the President of a country. This is the case in developed countries that explains why if a National Development Plan is passed into law, no successive government alters its contents without due reference to the law. That has not been the case in our dear country. Those who emerge as leaders, do their thing their own way and since no one holds them accountable for their actions, even their consciences, they get away leaving the country, worse than they met it. Worse still, out of office, they are still glorified for “helping themselves”. Bottom-line, we have over the years been saddled with inert leadership.
The Nigerian Engineer in National Development should show interest in how the Institutions are developed over and above individuals’ interest by making it a point of duty to make her opinion known on such issues at all times.
5.0 THE NIGERIAN ENGINEER IN GOVERNMENT
In Nigeria, the control of government at the centre, often referred to as the Federal Government, is the ultimate to Nigerian Politicians. In a country of nearly 150 million people with a near zero manufacturing base, in proportion to population of course, everyone looks to the Federal Government and the Federal Government budget. It explains why Nigeria is literally “closed down” between January and whenever the budget is “released”. Sometimes it’s even up to June.
Major appointments are made by government in Federal and State establishments. While the Minister of Justice must be a lawyer, Minister of Health, a Medical Doctor (Not even a Dentist or Veterinary Doctor), the Minister of Finance, a business-based discipline, the Minister of Works could be any body. In today’s Federal Executive Council, we have the Minister of Communication and only recently the Minister of Power an engineer, joined the Council. You want to ask how a country that is developing can plan and execute the plans without the professional input of its engineers when all development is 90% engineering? How can a country that wants to develop and literally in competition with others, go to the same competitors to draft its development programmes? ABUJA was conceptualized and designed outside the shores of Nigeria with little or no input of Nigerian Engineers. So with several other projects; past and present. Most engineers whose appointments are heard are first politicians. The supply of technocrats can only be effectively handled through relevant professional bodies, because then, they are accountable to the professional bodies for performance. Appointed on self recognition, the opposite is true.
5.1 Where is the Nigerian Engineer Today? Who is to blame?
To answer these questions, one needs to do a passionate analysis.
The Nigerian Engineer today is truly in bad shape. Both the Nigerian Engineer and Government are to blame. But more the government. The Government is in charge of policy. Even in developed countries, the government creates the environment where its citizens function. A favourably operating environment is created through policy framework. For example and to be specific here, if Ajaokuta Steel Co. Ltd was completed as planned, along with Delta Steel Co. Ltd and if other inland Steel Rolling Mills were functional, the Steel Sector would thrive. There would be reduced importation, jobs would be created and the relevant down-stream industries would come into existence. Steel Development is a critical infrastructure for any country, talk less of developing countries like Nigeria with enormous market potentials.
Another example is the Petrochemical Industry. These are sectors with huge potentials for industrial growth due to their multiplier effects.
Nigeria currently spends trillions in doubtful “fuel subsidies”. Construction of refineries, even if joint ventures, would provide jobs in millions directly and indirectly. The fuel refined will have a market at home and some for export. Even our poorer neighbors successfully build and operate refineries. In the 21st century, we are inviting foreigners to run our utilities in the name of investors and in the process, throw out our Citizens into the already overloaded labour market. Why can’t we find out what is wrong and employ the necessary political will to solve it?
We have been wobbling politically from pillar to post since 1960. Have we asked the British or Americans or even Japanese to come and run our government? Just because we have been fumbling?
On the other hand, the Nigerian Engineer does not make his presence felt by accident or by design. He knows that all decisions are taken at the highest office. Those who venture unfortunately go there as politicians not as professionals. They are contented with personal gains as opposed to working for common good. They patronize themselves and their relations. They will even keep their President (NSE) waiting when on a visit. When he invites them, they will not honour the invitation. They will never identify with their professional body. When they are out they become like fish out of water. At the lower level, everyone wants to be a consultant. No venture in manufacturing even at cottage level meanwhile opportunities abound in a country flowing with milk and honey.
5.2 The problems of the Nigerian Engineer;
The Nigerian Engineer has obvious limitations. A good number, self created. An average Nigerian Engineer is not a good mixer. He fails to know that the whole of creation is inter-dependent and that synergy has tremendous potentials. Self – centredness and greed are a serious limitation.
The average Nigerian Engineer does not believe in knowledge enhancement. They don’t want to have anything to do with management, accountancy, public relations, human resource development etc. forgetting one who fails to be diverse, is highly restricted.
On the other hand, because of his operating environment that limits him, he tends to limit himself. Because there is no government work, the world must come to an end; when as a matter of fact, education is about exposure and engineering in particular, is the cornerstone of creation. Look around and create opportunities for yourself.
5.3 Influx of Chinese , other Asians and Arabs
Nigeria drives many other economies. In other words, many countries on the surface of the globe, survive because of Nigeria. As if that was not enough, the Chinese, Other Asians, Arabs, South Africans etc are taking over almost everything in Nigeria from construction, telecoms to retail trading and even driving.
\Billions are repatriated weekly out of this country from activities that Nigerians can and should, handle with the right policies in place. It is a very normal policy for a country to protect its citizens in all ramifications. When it would be too late, we will then wake from our deep slumber.
5.4 The Nigerian Content Initiative
The Nigerian Content Initiative which has its origins from the Oil Sector, and which should be extended to all other sectors, is an initiative meant to stem the ugly tide. But all these without the political will to implement same to the letter, would be another waste of time-and opportunities.
5.5 The Role of Corruption;
Engineering Regulation Monitoring is part of the law of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). The law is very clear on how engineering should be carried out in the country, who should do what, who should be where in Engineering etc. The Government White Paper on the Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control in Nigeria published in October 2005 is a beautiful document by all intents and purposes.
The same government that enacted the law in the first place, is not keen in its implementation because of interests of the officials. It is like that in every facet of our national life. There is selective and discriminate implementation of laws, rules and regulations depending on what interest is to be protected, when all must be subject to the rule of law. This is Nigeria‘s problem which is at the root of every other problem. Corruption seems to be reduced to only money exchanging hands. But it must not be so. If a government fails to enforce its own laws, it is the worst form of corruption because it gives room for abuses. A politician who manipulates the system in any form is corrupt etc. Laws therefore must not only be enforced but must be seen to be enforced.
5.6 Capacity Building;
Formal education prepares a candidate for the future challenges inherent in daily living. Continuous development of the individual so prepared depends on his or her disposition to life and living. It is important to realize that continuous education is investment in self. Engineering is very dynamic where daily changes are recorded around the globe, in critical areas of life. Capacity building is therefore the continuous updating of engineering knowledge through attendance of courses, conferences, workshops, symposia and also on the internet. It also entails upgrading learning equipment, libraries and laboratories for the latest discoveries. This is necessary otherwise an engineer risks becoming archaic. Capacity building could be a deliberate policy decision by government or organizations or both. Capacity building is very pertinent in engineering and it is a very positive policy thrust.
In view of the foregoing, it is recommended that adequate training and retraining of skilled manpower necessary for a vibrant engineering sector should be pursed with vigour at all times. There should be concerted efforts in the following areas:
i) Engineering Curriculum:
(a) The accreditation bodies and educational institutions, in consultation with professional bodies and industry should ensure regular review of engineering curricula, preferably every 5 years: to take cognizance of technological changes- the needs of Industry and changing national priorities.
(b) Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) should ensure implementation of the one year mandatory SITSIE programme for fresh engineering University graduates and HND holders before they are presented for the NYSC scheme.
(c) In line with current trends, engineering curricula should include standardized mandatory information technology (IT) modules.
(a) That educational institution, COREN, NUC and NBTE should ensure that faculties of engineering in tertiary institutions are equipped with minimum acceptable facilities including staffing, classroom, laboratories and workshops.
(b) NDE in collaboration with IDCs, TICs, NCAM should ensure that the facilities available at these and other similar publicly funded projects are put to use for the re-training/additional preparation of the teeming number of the unemployed engineering graduates and technologists to facilitate their self-employment.
(c) Need to equip training institutions for laboratory work and workshops at all levels of training.
(d) Need to establish centers of excellent where people go to receive training for apprenticeship and specific trades
(e) Need for industries to provide facilities at tertiary institutions for students to have practical knowledge of the real life situations
iii) Post -Institutional Training
(a) The NYSC enrollment for graduate engineers and technologists should be tied to the completion of the mandatory one year SITSIE programme.
(b) COREN should ensure that admission of students, graduate engineers and technologists from particular institutions to the SITSIE programme is tied to the capacity of available training facilities in those institutions.
(c) The Engineering Endowment Fund (EEF) as canvassed in the Presidential Committee’s report on strategic plan on Engineering development and control should be established as an intervention scheme.
(d) The ITF programme should be refocused primarily to funding the work experience in science and engineering students in the industry
(a) NUC and NBTE should put in place appropriate machinery to ensure that engineering staff recruited in tertiary institutions is a good mix of people possessing relevant academic and industrial experience.
(b) To stem the tide of brain drain in the Universities and Polytechnics an enabling environment appropriate incentives should be provided for engineering academic and technical staff in tertiary institutions
(c) That as a matter of priority, Government should increase the budget for R & D as a percentage of GDP in line with UNESCO’s recommendation.
(d) That Government should ensure that local contents, R&D and training are included in the criteria for the award of Public Sector contracts of N1.0 billion and above.
(e) Government should make the conditions of Service of technologists, technicians, craftsmen, artisans, attractive to retain their services in their cadre
(f) Relevant Ministries, Departments, Parastatals and agencies of Government, particularly, Ministries of Science & Technology, Education, Agriculture, Communication and Industry should support the periodic exhibitions by tertiary institutions, research institutes and industries to create avenue for dissemination of successful R & D . (Source: Government White Paper on the Report of the Presidential Committee on Strategic Plans for Engineering Development & Control in Nigeria, October 2005)
5.7 What does the future hold for the Nigerian Engineer?
The answer to this question lies with us, “the engineers”. Engineers must not wait to see what the future has for them. Engineers should decide what the future should have for them. Engineering is about creativity. Here pro-activity is very imperative. Nigerian engineers should put on their thinking caps and retreat into strategic thinking with a view to deciding what the future should be. Pertinent areas to consider are small scale/cottage industries, the power sector, agriculture, pulp and paper, housing development, education to name only a few.
The Nigerian Engineer will be judged harshly by posterity if he fails to provide leadership for a Nation in dire need of leadership. Engineers often blame politicians for appointing non-engineers to engineering positions. But the few that have found themselves in positions of authority rarely identify with the engineering profession, talkless of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.
We all need a rethink. We need to change the way we view life. We need to realize that a life of service to others gives us more satisfaction than if we focused on ourselves and on our families alone. We need to realize that synergy is valuing differences. We need to realize that by coming together we will produce more for everyone.
Our problem they say, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
1. Oyeleye, Teju, The Wisdom of Nigerian Engineers (1980-1988) October Lecture 14th October, 1988
2. Meshida, S. O. The Wisdom of Nigerian Engineers (1980-1988) October Lecture 10th October 1986
3. Government White Paper on Report of the Presidential Committee on Strategic Plans for Engineering Development and Control October 2005
Travis Brodberry & Jean Greaves, Leadership 2.0. 2012
5. Covey, R. Stephen The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
6. The Abuja Master Plan
first published at : https://www.isqilnajim.com.ng/2016/11/the-nigerian-engineer-and-national.html