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ADVOCACY & ACTIVISM IN OUR ENGINEERING DNA: ENGINEERING OF NIGERIA’S DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS BY NIGERIANS (part 4)

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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
4.6 ENGINEERING OF NIGERIA’S DEVELOPMENT PROGRESS BY NIGERIANS
In April 1988, one accompanied President Akintunde on a tour to Port Harcourt Branch of the NSE. ‘
One was later to find out that the President wanted this writer to accompany him on this tour because of his worries on NAFCON and other process industry projects. On the Saturday the tour was to end, President Akintunde and this writer were taken through the plant units of the NAFCON Fertilizer Complex.

This time the cars came behind the tourists who moved on foot, unlike the general tour of the day before that was done in a moving bus. At the Ammonia Plant, Akintunde took a look at the process forest, shook his head and affirmed that all these are pipes, pumps, valves and compressors with other accessories. We all agreed with him. He then said he did not see how Nigerians could not design and construct the plant.

P.O.U. Bare, Chuka Ifejika, Dr. Lawson our guides, and this writer had a problem with that. We tried to explain EPC contracting model, experience and all that as barriers of entry to Nigerians in that game. He cut us short, and took us back to when the first ammonia plant was designed and built, querying the experience that informed the choice of the designers and constructors.

He said that our arguments only provided excuses for unfair competition between renowned foreign firms who in the first place were nurtured by their home governments into exportable entities, and Nigerian firms who are neglected by their own governments. Advising that we should see the matter through a philosophical lens, he argued that there was no where in the developed or seriously developing world where governments had not used or would not use a qualitative preference system to protect and nurture local consulting and construction firms.

He then directed this writer to draft a memorandum to the Federal Government for a directive that henceforth the engineering of Nigeria’s projects be done by Nigerians in Nigeria. To underscore his seriousness President Akintunde asked that it be stated clearly that he is ready to guarantee the success of any such challenge on Nigerian He then directed this writer to draft a memorandum to the Federal Government for a directive that henceforth the engineering of Nigeria’s projects be done by Nigerians in Nigeria. engineering firms and that he is prepared to pay the supreme penalty in event of failure. We all were petrified by this undertaking. After giving the instruction the President called off the tour, and we saw him off to the airport. From there this writer returned to Warri pondering about this new level of professional activism and what it portends for all concerned.
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This was the genesis of the memorandum titled “Engineering of Nigeria’s Development Projects by Nigerian Engineers in Nigeria” which President Akintunde and Secretary General Awoyinfa submitted to President I.B. Babangida in May 1988. The memo promptly bore fruit by President IBB directing that the engineering for the completion of the Gboko-Yandev water scheme be handled by Nigerian Society of Engineers; and also that the Society participate in the renegotiation of the NAFCON Phase II project then under criticism by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
5.0 PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE ON SELF-RELIANCE IN ENGINEERING OF NIGERIA’S DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
In July 1989, we addressed the above-named Memorandum to President Ibrahim B. Babangida GCFR. We recalled the Memorandum titled “Economic Reconstruction through Self-Reliance”, which the Society submitted to IBB’s government in November 1985, through which the thinking of the Society on many national issues were presented to the then new government.
The President & C-in-C was then reminded that conscious of the need to encourage and support a purposeful and responsive government, the Society had thereafter been regularly communicating with various arms of government, and in particular did address another memorandum to Mr. P & C-in-C on the subject of “ENGINEERING OF NIGERIAN DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS BY NIGERIAN ENGINEERS IN NIGERIA” in May 1988.
of appropriate infrastructure e.g. Interstate Toll Expressways It was then acknowledged that a number of the recommendations in the 1985 and 1988 memos had been incorporated into policies and programmes of the federal administration. Examples were:
• The establishment of the Raw Materials Development Council which addresses an aspect of our call for a Presidential Task Force on Production
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• Identification and commercialization of appropriate infrastructure e.g. Interstate Toll Expressways.
• The professionalization of the civil service which is a step in the direction we advocated of government of technocrats that gave India a necessary push for industrial take-off.
• The current efforts to develop perspective plans on macro-economic and sectorial basis which is in accordance with our position that the “5-year development plans should be segments of a coherent longer term plan covering twenty or twenty-five year horizons or longer”.
• Invitation as extended to NSE to serve on the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Negotiations for the National Fertilizer Company of Nigeria Limited Expansion Projects.
Etc.
After expressing appreciation and gratitude for this growth of healthy and productive interaction between the NSE and government agencies, it was acknowledged that a great deal of bold and far reaching initiatives had to be started but that a lot remained to be done before the objective of economic self-reliance is achieved, and the progress made irreversible.
We then restated the problems requiring solutions by the government as follows.
“the current stage of Nigeria’s economic development requires effective participation in the existing global environment, heavy expenditure optimally shared between the public and private sectors in the following dynamic activities: petroleum, petrochemicals, gas, energy, fertilizers, pulp and paper, iron and steel, chemicals, cement, machine tools and capital goods, transport, shipbuilding, agriculture, etc.
Due to the increased diversification, and rapid rate of obsolescence of technologies in all these activities, and the need for effective and appropriate use of capital and resources, independent professional engineering and technical consulting and engineering services are required for projects implementation. The kind of consulting and engineering (C&E) services we had in mind included pre-feasibility and feasibility services, basic and detailed engineering, product design, procurement, project monitoring and management, advisory services in operation and maintenance.
The complaint was made that Nigerian official attitude towards the procurement of consulting and engineering services on investment projects in the aforementioned branches had been consistently to seek “immediate effects” to decisions of incumbents, implying the retention of foreign consultants with quite often exaggerated capabilities, and procurement of projects by turnkey modes of contracting.
Examples were cited of projects which had been ruined by over-reliance on foreign consultants and engineers to the deliberate exclusion of Nigerian professional firms viz Pulp and Paper Mill Iwopin, Machine Tools Factory Osogbo, the International Glass Factory Aba, Lagos State Brewery Project, Lagos State Metallurgical Project, to mention a few.
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Those other projects that were completed using totally foreign expertise to engineer them like the Refineries, Steel Plants, Fertilizer Plants etc, are merely operating as partial successes, the planners and designers having made sure that raw materials, spares, basic inputs, and technical assistance are necessarily foreign-sourced.
We then proposed solutions by way of project packaging, government patronage of local consultancy, appropriate legislative framework, protection of local engineering capability, with guarantee of work load, compulsory local inputs, registration of foreign firms in Nigeria.
The recommendation the Society made in 1985 that verified internal debts should be converted into negotiable 25-years industrial development bonds to generate internal funding for production activity was repeated.
Among other benefits that will come to the country through the domestication of virile consulting services, it was emphasized that novel habits, attitudes, skills and capabilities would be introduced through the nation’s industrial spectrum following widespread and rapid learning that is going to take place. And since engineering consultancies are in the avante garde, they would link up domestic research and development institutions with the productive sector, while being responsible for the engineering aspects of new technical solutions, and offering technical assistance in operations and maintenance areas once industrial, infrastructural, or agricultural production has commenced.
The summary of our recommendations called for immediate promulgation of the Engineering of Projects Decree, declaration of a state of Technological Emergency, involvement of local engineering organisation in ongoing repetitive/expansion/or retrofitting projects e.g. NAFCON, NNPC 2nd Polypropylene project, etc.
It was pointed out that there were ongoing or proposed projects in the energy, petroleum, chemicals, cement, metallurgical, pulp and paper etc sectors in which participation of independent Nigerian Engineering firms would lead to more efficient use of resources. Mr. P & C-in-C was requested to issue a Presidential Directive on the encouragement and patronage of Nigerian Engineering Service Companies similar to the Presidential Instruction issued in South Korea in 1969.
The following projects with high multiplier effect were recommended for vigorous pursuit.
– Olefin based Petrochemical Project
– Machine Tools Project
– Foundries – rehabilitation and establishment of new ones
– Flat sheet Steel
– Aluminium Smelter
– Pulp and Cultural Paper Mill
– Nitrogenous and Phosphate Fertilizer Projects etc
To be continued..
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