Being a text of Presentation titled ADVOCACY & ACTIVISM IN OUR ENGINEERING DNA Being a Presentation by HR Engr. Otis Anyaeji KtSGG FAEng, Obi Onowu II n’Okija (Traditional Head of Ubahu-Okija), 30th President, The Nigerian Society of Engineers at 2022 October Lecture. Made as Part of the Collection Themed “WISDOM OF THE NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF ENGINEERS On the Occasion of NSE OCTOBER LECTURE On October 7th, 2022
4.0 SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY GROUP ON STRATEGIES
As a young process industry Engineer in the early 1980’s, one had agonized with peers over the marginalization of the Nigerian Engineer in the economic scheme of things in Nigeria. Our root cause analysis of the dislocation of indigenous engineering cadre from mainstream economic development process, placed responsibility of this contradiction partly at the doorstep of the Nigerian Society of Engineers leadership.
One became a member of the Council of NSE in March 1985, and having listened to Council deliberations all through that year, one thought he could put wind in the sail of the Society. Thus in November 1986, I filed my nomination to contest for the post of Secretary General at the AGM of the Society scheduled for Warri, December 1986. The election held on 5th December, 1986, and I lost spectacularly to the incumbent Secretary General, Engr. Olu Emmauel Awoyinfa FAEng FNSE.
But immediately after the election results were announced, Engr. Ife Akintunde FAEng FNSE, the in-coming President called me to his seat, and sought to know why I vied to be the Secretary General. I then explained to him the anxieties and agonies some of us younger Engineers, particularly those from the manufacturing and process industries were going through, and the perceived lethargy of NSE leadership in it all.
Going further, I recounted to him some of the measures especially legislations that I planned to get the Society put in place to redress the shortcomings. President-Elect Akintunde then requested that I document our discussions and get the records over to him ASAP. I did exactly as he asked.
4.1 EXISTING LEGISLATIONS IMPACTING ON ENGINEERING
In my discussion with Engr. Akintunde referred to above, I mentioned that those of us in the process industries observe that the Nigerian Society of Engineers has been negligent on the matter of the impact of legislations on the practice of the engineering professions. This was easily proved by the impression of most senior Engineers, that the COREN law has taken care of all that is required for engineering practice.
At any rate, on 14th February, 1987, I received a letter dated 12th February 87 signed by President Akintunde appointing me Chairman of a Special Presidential Advisory Group on Strategies (SPAGS). Other members of the Group were Engrs. Sule Jatau, Dr. A Salihi, G.B. Oji, M.I. Ironkwe, Dr. M.K. Aiyewa, Dr. J. Osalor, D. Sarkis, K. Talabi, E. Inegbedion.
ToR No 1 required SPAGS to identify existing laws of the country, which have been passed at Federal, State or Local Government level, which are little known, or which are not enforced, or which are ill-enforced, and whose resuscitation and adequate enforcement will affect the practice of engineering in Nigeria.
SPAGS swiftly carried out a survey of Federal laws impacting on engineering. With 1958 as baseline for the survey, it was realized that in that year at least twenty five ordinances of relevance to engineering were enacted. These included the Companies (Cap 37), Electricity (Cap 57), Factories (Cap 66), Industrial Development (Caps 86/87), Labour Code (Cap 91), Lagos Town Planning (Cap 95), Minerals (Cap 121), Nigerian Coal Corporation (Cap 134), Oil Pipeline (Ca 193), Petroleum (Cap 150), Ports (Cap 155), Patents & Designs (Cap 182/209), Shipping & Navigation (Cap 190), Weights & Measures (Cap 214) Acts.
The all-important interpretation act (Cap 88) also belonged to this vintage. It was from overview of Cap 99 the fact emerged that as at 1987, ‘Engineering Practice’, and ‘Registered Engineer’ were not yet defined in the Laws of the Federation unlike legal practice, medical practice, and the military. This omission was the reason Registered Engineer could not be accepted as referee on government forms and documents. This study which had a cut-off date of 1983, the year of the latest available volume of Laws of the Federation, all in all identified 90 Ordinances, Acts and Decrees together with 51 subsidiary legislations impacting on engineering practice.
Further analysis revealed that the ‘Legal Practitioners’ 1958 instrument had been replaced, or amended, or subsidiarily legislated on, 25 different occasions in the Federal Law books during the period under survey. The 1958 instrument for Medical and Dental Practitioners followed with eight entries, while those for Engineers and architects trailed behind at 3, and 4 entries respectively. It was this situation that prompted President Akintunde to alert Council, and to initiate moves to get the terms ‘Practice of Engineering’ and ‘Registered Engineer’ defined in the law books. This was eventually realized in 1992.
4.2 LAW REFORM & ENGINEERING OF PROJECTS DECREE
Another area Engr. Akintunde desired to make a mark was in the reform of existing laws in the light of new experiences or changing circumstances. It was in pursuit of this second ToR that SPAGS prepared a draft legal instrument for a scheme subjecting all engineering designs and drawings imported into Nigeria, to verification and certification by Nigerian Engineers as to conformance with local regulations/conditions, and with good engineering practice.
SPAGS moved swiftly on this and by 16th May 1987 submitted to the President a draft decree titled “Local Verification and Certification of Imported Engineering Designs Decree 1987”. The explanatory note to the draft throws light on the effect of the proposed Decree as follows: “Statutory approvals for installation, commissioning, operation, and payment for such works, goods, machinery and equipment would only be given by the relevant Government bodies upon issuance of approval for Commissioning Certificates by Local Engineering Authorities, and any such works, goods, machinery and equipment whose engineering designs and drawings are imported without certificates in that behalf shall be liable to forfeiture. In addition, stiff penalties are prescribed for contravention of the Decree”.
Immediately President Akintunde received this draft, he caused it to be circulated to senior Engineers around the country for their comments. As the comments trickled in, President Akintunde channeled them to SPAGS for synthesis with the basic draft. On 13th October 1987, he confided in the group that he was not expecting many more comments from our members on the draft legal instrument. He then requested that the comments received thus far be considered, and a final draft brought up, incorporating such views or modifications of views as he was deemed fit. Reasons were to be given for any suggestions rejected.
Simultaneously, the President instructed the Secretariat to seek appointment with the Permanent Secretary FMW&H, Honourable Minister FMW&H, and the Attorney General & Minister of Justice during the last two weeks in November 1987, so that he can formally present the draft Decree to them for necessary and urgent action.
On 1st March 1988, President Akintunde made a presentation to the HM W&H, Brigadier Mamman Kontagora on the subject of Local Verification and Certification of Engineering Designs & Studies.
Akintunde’s preamble was that the attempt at “transfer” of technology from the developed nations to us in Nigeria had consistently failed for one major reason viz, “The engineering of projects for and operations of basic industries, infrastructures and agricultural works etc, are always as a rule, imported into Nigeria without any meaningful input of Nigerians to such designs or studies.”
He then introduced the subject by explaining the usual grouping of works of engineering nature into sequential phases of (i) feasibility studies/master planning; (ii) engineering; (iii) procurement of equipment; (iv) construction.
Charging that Nigerian engineering firms have rarely been involved in project activities (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv) above on the fallacious argument that Nigerian engineers do not have the experience to handle such works, Akintunde then observed:
“We as a nation are thus left with a situation where after 4 No. petroleum refinery projects, two petrochemicals projects, countless gas processing and transmission projects, 2 No. fertilizer projects, 4 No. pulp & paper projects, innumerable mines and power projects, 5 No. iron & steel projects etc., all sponsored by the Federal Government, there is still room to maintain the fallacious argument that Nigerian engineering firms do not have the experience”.
“The engineering of projects for and operations of basic industries, infrastructures and agricultural works etc, are always imported into Nigeria without any meaningful input of Nigerians to such designs or studies.”- Pa Ifedayo Akintunde
He then urged the Honourable Minister to understand that these indigenous Engineering firms cannot get the reference experience unless they are given the opportunity in their own land. According to the President, the main benefit of this legal instrument when enacted is that Nigerian Engineers whether experienced or not would be exposed to high level engineering information, and would be in a position to check and verify quality of engineering works before, during and after installation or construction. The additional benefits he explained thus:
“The definition of a “Registered Engineer” is missing in the Interpretation Acts of the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as in the “Engineers” (Registration etc) Decree No. 55 of 1970. The omission can now be redressed by taking this opportunity to define the person and position of the Registered Engineer, and also the term “Practice of Engineering” for entrenchment in the Laws of the Federation. When these definitions are accomplished, the Honourable Minister responsible for engineering can legally take steps to get “Registered Engineers” included in the class of citizens that can be referees on official government documents.”
While inviting HM W&H to adopt the draft decree and propose same to the Federal Executive Council/Armed Forces Ruling Council for promulgation, he insisted that the true process of national development will commence only with the enforcement of provisions of the draft legal instrument under reference.
To the greatest surprise of most members of the engineering community, President Akintunde’s memo and proposals on local verification and certification of designs and studies was seen as a clarion call by the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing. The general attitude of the Ministry was that the proposals from the Society did not go far enough to enhance transfer of technology. FM W&H then asked NSE to consider inter alia the following measure on consultancy:
“All consultancy jobs on studies, planning and designs as well as equipment purchasing be reserved for Nigerian firms especially where funding is local. Where the magnitude or complexity of the assignment calls for overseas participation or where external funds are involved, a joint venture with at least 50% Nigerian participation should be considered for now …”
At this juncture, Engr. Akintunde introduced us to Engr. B.N.C. Uzochukwu (Director), Dr. G.B. Oso (Deputy Director, Engineering Services (Elect), Mrs. Y.O. Fasade (Legal Adviser), Mrs. A.A. Owolabi from our own past President Engr. O. Olugbekan, who all helped in one way or the other to get the draft amended to become “Engineering of Projects Decree” (EPD). The latter now incorporated the very progressive views of the Federal Ministry of Works. All was now set for a command presentation of the draft EPD. At about this time, Engr. Akintunde had also worked out the structure of the workshop for his pet project, the National Construction Policy. Naturally, when the occasion finally came in August 1988, the President presented the draft EPD and the plan of the proposed Construction Policy Workshop.
With only one question from the PS, and the appropriate answer from the President, HM W&H agreed to sponsor the Construction Policy Workshop, and to forward the Draft Engineering of Projects Decree to the FEC and AFRC for promulgation. Brig. Kontagora did exactly that. He was opposed by his cabinet colleague from Science & Technology Ministry, who then thought EPD was in conflict with, or a duplication of the Sheda Science Village Project. FEC thus directed FM H&W and FM S&T to reconcile and harmonise their positions on the draft decree. This was not realized while the two Honourable Ministers were on seat. About a year later, Prof. Gordian Ezekwe became HM S&T and affirmed that EPD was totally different but not in conflict with the Science Village Project. Akintunde esteemed the EPD struggle so highly that in his Presidential Valedictory speech in Abeokuta 1988 he had these to say:
“The most significant achievement of the NSE in 1988 may yet be a Decree designed to project engineering practice in Nigeria currently named ‘Engineering of Projects’. Obviously, nothing much can be said about this yet since it is already under consideration by the government …”
Meanwhile, President Akintunde’s tenure was over and he kept on with his activism on this and other public policy projects dear to his heart. Thus, in concert with Presidents I.K. Inuwa, F.A. Shonubi & V.I. Maduka after him, the best efforts were to get EPD back to the Cabinet Office (SGF’s Office) for re-listing in aid of FEC’s consideration. Somehow, that is yet to happen.
To be continued…