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ADVOCACY & ACTIVISM IN OUR ENGINEERING DNA: NIGERIAN ENGINEER IN COMMERCIAL LEGAL ENVIRONMENT

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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
Continued from Part 1     and  part 2 
 
4.3 NIGERIAN ENGINEER IN COMMERCIAL LEGAL ENVIRONMENT

In this regard, this writer recalls having many brainstorming sessions with President Akintunde on the lot of the Nigerian Engineer, in the commercial law practice setting of the country. It was his opinion that a reform was necessary in order to more properly integrate the Engineer with the commercial legal environment.

Early in June 1988, I was seeing off the President on his way back to Ibadan. By this one means the practice then of any of Joe MacEbong, Afolabi Ajani, Ajulu Anagbogu or this writer accompanying the President in his car to conclude urgently outstanding briefings, and disembarking before the toll gate at Shangisha, Lagos/Ibadan Express Way.

As we approached the Carter Bridge, an announcement came on the radio that the Attorney General of the Federation, Prince Bola Ajibola SAN had constituted a body to work on the reform of the Companies Law. President Akintunde was highly elated by this piece of news, and immediately told me that this was a good opportunity for us to promote the ideas we had espoused on Engineers and commerce in the preceding months. He directed that an appropriate paper be put together for submission to the body when inaugurated.

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As this paper was being put together, the Hon. AGF extended an invitation to the NSE to send two representatives to join in the deliberations of the Consultative Assembly on the Reform of Companies Law. President Akintunde promptly nominated Dr. Chris Onwugbolu, then Technical Secretary, and this writer to represent NSE at the Consultative Assembly.

Discussions with the President brought up some issues which were thought to be most topical to the Engineering community, in respect of companies’ affairs. These included the classification of private and public companies into general and professional companies, and that professional associations should be registered under the Companies Decree or the Incorporated Trustees Decree after consultation with umbrella organization for such regulated profession.

Other issues to be canvassed were the expansion of the membership of the Corporate Affairs Commission to include one representative of the engineering profession appointed after consultation with NSE; that a Design Council should be constituted to promote Nigerian design and also protect registered designs/inventions; and that objects of professional companies should be specific; etc.

A memorandum was then finalized praying reliefs on these issues. Both representatives of NSE participated in the plenary sessions, and committee meetings of the Assembly which held during the week 8-12 August 1988 at the National Assembly Complex Lagos.

There it was observed that the work of the Consultative Assembly was to deliberate on the Report of the workshop held earlier in 1988 on the Reform of Companies Law of 1968. That being the case, the NSE memo could not be taken for debate. The Chairman of the Assembly Chief Chris Ogubanjo OFR however conceded that if the planks of the NSE memo were dismantled, each plank could be aired while contributions are taken on the relevant clause. As the scheme was not realized, the representatives alerted the President on the setback of the Assembly rising without formally considering NSE memorandum.

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Engr. Akintunde immediately decided that a representation would be made on this matter to the Attorney General of the Federation. This could not be done before the Construction Policy Workshop at ASCON Topo-Badagry November 1988, at which the AGF was represented by his Special Adviser, Prof. Oluwole Akanle. President Akintunde broached the matter with the SA (AGF) who assured that a decision had already been taken to reconvene the Assembly for other reasons, urging the NSE to make their submissions then.

Meanwhile, from the revised Report on the Companies Law Reform Workshop, NSE list of proposed amendments was itself amended to include a request to expunge sub- section 56 (d) of the proposed Companies Decree which allows foreign firms to carry on engineering and technical consultancy businesses in Nigeria without being registered locally, but precludes such freedom in all other businesses (including other professional businesses). It was also observed and brought to the attention of the Assembly that the definition of ‘valuer’ in Sec 137 of the draft Companies Law does not construe the engineer as such a functionary, deeming only ‘auditors’, ‘valuers’, ‘surveyors’ or ‘chartered accountants’ as competent to determine the true values of considerations other than cash for the purposes of payment for shares.

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In the case of the request to expunge Sec. 56 (d), the Chairman of the Assembly called for division on the issue during which the proposed amendment was thrown out by a margin of 65 to 2. When this was reported to President Akintunde, together with the invectives the Chairman of the Assembly took liberty to pour on Nigerian engineers, he promptly directed that a minority report be prepared.

All these were coming after Akintunde had sought the assistance of Engr. (Chief) S.O. Fadahunsi CON and Engr. (Chief) Teju Oyeleye OFR in talking to the Chairman of the Assembly, and at the tail end of the President’s tenure. The Minority Report was completed in March 1989 when Engr. I.K. Inuwa had taken over as President. Meanwhile, efforts had continued to reach the Hon. AGF but to no avail.

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4.3.1 ENGINEER AS VALUER
At this point, Engr. (Brig) M.S. Toki, the Executive Secretary got in touch with Engr. (Brig) Jim Ishaya Bakut who was Principal Staff Officer to the Chief of General Staff, intimating him with the problems we were having reaching the Hon. AGF to submit NSE’s Minority Report.

As fate would have it, Engr. Akintunde had come to NSE Secretariat that afternoon in April 1989, for the inauguration of the first ever Codes/Standards/Legislations Committee in NSE. This writer happened to have been in the Secretariat also, and as Ex-Officio member of all Committees of Council had joined the CSL Committee members in their maiden meeting. The meeting had barely started when Brig. Gen. Toki was called out to take an important call. When he returned, Gen. Toki informed us that the Hon. AGF called and explained that he was not aware that the Society had been trying to reach him, and that we could bring our Minority Report right away. The Secretariat got in touch with President Inuwa in Kano and he directed that Engr. Akintunde be requested to kindly lead a team of all engineers available at the secretariat to make the submission.

The meeting of the CSL committee was thus adjourned, and in a fitting poetic justice, Engr. Akintunde who started the struggle for the integration of the Engineer in the commercial law system led a delegation to make the submission to the Hon. AGF, Prince Bola Ajibola SAN. Akintunde made an excellent presentation to the delight of the AGF, who transferred these chummy feelings to this writer who had to meet with the Hon. AGF on the same issue, at five other occasions after the submission of the Minority Report.

When CAM (Amendment) Decree No 46 was promulgated, some NSE prayers in the Minority Report were granted. Thus Sec. 137 of CAMD 1990 was amended to include ‘Engineer’ in that section’s definition of valuer; Sec. 2 of the 1990 Decree was also amended to include “one representative of the engineering profession in the membership of the Corporate Affairs Commission.

4.4 CODES & STANDARDS
I recall that one of the issues that President Akintunde agonized about almost constantly was the lack of locally developed codes and standards. This explains why he charged SPAGS to suggest areas which national standards, codes and specifications are more urgently required for material, workmanship, fittings, machinery and equipment, including provision of drafts of such standards, codes and specifications or suggesting a team of members suitable for providing them. He pushed SPAGS such that by April 1988 the group had gone into preparation of codes for fire protection.

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The first code element in this area was on the “SELECTION OF PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS”. The draft was authored by Engr. Ehi Inegbedion. When this draft was presented to an elated President Akintunde, he directed that representatives of Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), Federal Fire Service, Petroleum Industry Fire/Safety Department be co-opted to the sub-group to debate the draft so that a consensus of most interested parties could be obtained before the ensuing codes would be laid before the NSE Council for ratification. Accordingly, representatives from these organizations joined the sub-group viz Victor Kemmer & Emmanuel Ojo from Federal Fire Service, S.A. Adetunji & E.P.C. Anibueze from Department of Petroleum Resources, O.O.O Okunaiya from Mechanical Engineering Department NEPA, S.I. Jatau from Warri Refinery and Petrochemicals Co. (NNPC), Mrs. R.T. Aliu/S.J. Fawowe/Mrs. Meg Eshiet from Standards Organization of Nigeria, E.O. Omotosho from Omot Fire Protection Engineering Ltd, G. Adoghe from Shell Petroleum Development Company and Dr. E.J.S. Uujamhan from Elens Consult. With Dr. James O. Asalor of UNIBEN on the chair, the sub-group rose after three meetings having produced a “Portable Fire Extinguishers Guideline” and “Standards for Fire Doors and Windows”. As an index of his passion for work on development of local standards, Akintunde was to refer to this in his valedictory address at the NSE 1988 AGM at Abeokuta thus:

“We have now got drafts for the first two NSE engineering standards. namely:
1. Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers
2. Standard forFire Doors and Windows

We have obviously started from the hot end for good reasons. The two standards have reached the stage for publication except that Council has to formally consider and approve them. All known interests in fire industry from government to the people, through organizations that deal in fire materials and equipment have an input into the preparation of the two standards.”

The highly urbane Prof. V. Alaba Akinsete then Chairman of Mechanical Division NSE while commenting on that part of the President’s valedictory speech commended the work that had gone into preparation of the standards, but remarked that procedural due process had not been followed, as the standards were for mechanical items, and his division was not involved – even though, more than 3/4 of the membership of the sub-group were mechanical engineers. Engr. Akinsete’s observation was of course made in good faith, but he was also leaving office as Chairman, Mechanical Division.

Thus, in 1989, neither Akintunde nor Akinsete was in office to push through these standards for adoption. No other person did. Thirty-four years, after these documents are still pending.

In July 1987 President Akintunde had directed the Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Divisions of NSE to prepare codes in their respective disciplines which would eventually be put together as NSE BUILDING CODE AND STANDARDS. In the drafting instructions issued to the Divisions it was explained that the regulations and standards envisaged are to control all matters concerning the design and construction of new buildings, alteration, addition, repair, removal, demolition, use, location, occupancy and maintenance of all buildings and structures. Guidelines for each discipline as follows.
Matters on administration and enforcement, definitions of terms, precautions during building operations, and signs were to be treated on an inter-disciplinary basis.

The Civil Division was to consider matters pertaining to use group classification; types of construction classification; general building limitations; special use and occupancy requirements; means of egress; structural loads and stresses; roofs; foundation systems; materials and tests; steel/masonry/concrete/wood construction; building enclosures, walls and wall thickness; prefabricated construction; pavings; fencing; etc. “Ventilation by horticulture” was included as one of the matters remitted to the Civil Division Codes Group.

He generally charged the Electrical Division with the following matters: lighting; electric wiring and equipment; high voltage distribution systems; secondary power distribution systems; electrical service for vertical transportation, communications systems; lightning protection and energy conservation.

Ventilation; sound control; flues and vent pipes; mechanical equipment and systems; fire protection systems; elevator; dumbwaiter and conveyor
equipment installation and maintenance; plumbing systems; water supply and conditioning were matters the Mechanical Division Codes Group was to be concerned with.

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It was suggested to the Divisions that each item on the respective disciplines be handled as a code. That meant, that under Civil for example, “Use Group Classification” could be drafted and adopted, while work on other items would go on. “The emphasis on these codes would be the exclusiveness of the services of the Registered Engineer in these matters.”

4.5 CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISION FOR ENGINEERING, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Early in June 1988, President Akintunde reached out to engineer members of IBB’s Constituent Assembly through Engr. Yakubu Agada, one of such members. His concern this time was on “Constitutional Provisions for Engineering, Science and Technology in the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

In congratulating Hon. Agada, Akintunde also said that by the former and other people of the engineering profession putting themselves forward and getting elected to the highest representative forum in Nigeria as at then, we as a nation had chosen not just men of practical knowledge and sense, but also the right direction to move as a polity. The President urged that as engineers in constitutional forum in a developing country, it behoved each of them to fight for the strengthening of the profession by securing constitutional foundations for the conducive environment for the practice of the profession.

He did not give the engineer-assemblymen any option but charged that the fight was a task that must be done irrespective of affiliations to whatever professional associations. He then assured that on their constitution drafting assignment, NSE was throwing in all her available resources to make sure that the contributions of the engineer-assemblymen to that body, and ultimately the nation is monumental. For a start, Engr. Akintunde made available to the assemblymen two documents titled:
1. NSE Memo to the Constitution Review Committee September 1987, and
2. Memorandum Submitted to the Constitution Review Committee by the Nigerian Society of Engineers, October 1987

He explained that the two documents were essentially the same in intent, but differed slightly in substance and tonality. Thus, where there is a conflict or doubt, he explained that the September 1987 document would take precedence. Hon. Agada was then urged to liaise with Engr. (Dr.) Salihi also a CA member elected from Kano to arrange for a meeting between the President NSE and all Engineer Constituent Assembly Members (whether NSE members or not) on 29th June 1988 at Abuja. On the 28th June 1988, I received a message through the Delta Steel Company that I was to meet up with the President in Abuja for the meeting with the CA members the next day. And so to Abuja I went. I met the President at the Hilton where most of the CA members were then staying. The meeting held as planned. After the President had explained the rationale behind the constitutional proposals, the members responded enthusiastically, with Dr. Salihi proposing that the memos would have to be exploded and the relative components assigned to engineer members of the relevant committees.

They would also lobby scientist/technologist members for synergy on a mutually reciprocal basis. This strategy was so successful that Akintunde had this to say in his 1988 Presidential Valedictory Speech:

“News emanating from the ongoing Constituent Assembly in Abuja have it that all the views which this Society projected to that Assembly through the engineer members of this Society have passed through the various committees and are therefore (almost) sure to be incorporated in the final draft of the Nigerian Constitution. On your behalf, I thank Engr. (Dr.) A. Salihi who is our man in the Assembly.”

As I had reported elsewhere, these efforts paid off when the Constituent Assembly resolved in 1989 to enshrine a separate section on “Science and Technology Objectives” in the constitution. NSE was basking in the euphoria, and actually rested on the oars of this stage success. As NSE rested and jubilated prematurely, enemies of Science and Technology by far more experienced in statutory games, bidded their time and waited for the coup de grace. The Armed Forces Ruling Council reviewing the draft Constitution only made very few changes on the document, and the deletion of the section on S & T objectives was one of them.

to be continued…

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