HOW TECHNICAL ARE NIGERIAN ENGINEERS?

By: Oladosu Abiodun Babatunde

There are many ways to measure the growth in a country, a state or an industry. Certainly the involvement or concern with applied and industrial sciences can be used and has been used on various occasions, just as seen in an article by Scientific American; it is said that the United States is the World’s best country in terms of science, strongly tied with China, followed by other European countries. However this is not an Article of countries of the world or states; this is an article that aims to address the question “How Technical Are Nigerian Engineers?”

There have been many complaints and applauds to and by all engineers under the banner of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), however in most recent times, words spoken about them has not been encouraging especially in comparison to engineers from other European countries.

On November 2nd 2016, an Article by Premium Timesreported that The Nigerian Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, blames Nigerian engineers for creating the vacuum that made the Federal Government patronize foreign contractors. He said that the failure of Nigerian engineering firms to bid for government projects was responsible for the patronage of foreign contractors.

“Nigerian engineers are known to compete favourably with their counter parts in the world” claims the Chairman, NSE Apapa Branch, DR. Ombugadu Garba in an article that appeared on The Guardian 1st of May 2017. However, foreign firms still employ local engineers as contract workers to execute both National and state projects.

On one hand we have the Minister blaming Nigerian engineers and on the other hand the Chairman of Nigerian Society of Engineers claiming that they are up to par with engineers from European countries, a struggle that has existed for as long as one could remember and it’s still evident till date in Nigerian development. Thus begs the question; why has the government lost faith in its own Engineers for such along time? Is it that Nigerian Engineers are not technical enough? Or rather let’s answer it from this angle, “How Technical areNigerian Engineers?”

The Nigerian Engineering Body Is Yet To Develop Standards That Would Guide The Engineering Profession In The Country.

On April 11th 2017, an Article found in Business Day reveals that Mike Nwere, a founding member, Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers and alsoa former Deputy Project Manager, Julius Berger Nigeria, PLC, said that that most countries have workable standard to guide the engineering sector except Nigeria.

He explained that the purpose of developing and adhering to standards was to ensure minimum performance, meet safety requirements, and ensure tasks were consistent and repeatable.

These engineering standards are documents that specify characteristics and technical details that must be met by the products, systems and processes that the standard covers.

If a prominent country like Nigeria doesn’t have such valuable documents then surely there will be lapses in Technical growth.

Currently There Is Little OrNo Motivation For Research And Development.

In advanced countries, Engineers are given special grants and an enabling environment to research about their profession and bring out lasting solutions to problems of technology in the country. Some Nigerian engineers (both old and young) have spoken out that it is no longer news that Nigeria isn’t interested in such a program.

They claim that even when they come up with exciting ideas that could solve a specific problem technologically; they still wouldn’t receive enough motivation or special grants to carry on the project.

They also claimed to have succeeded in developing special prototypes of machines and only need the required funds to get it out to the public, but funds aren’t coming. With this claim amongst majority of engineers, it is safe to assume that this is a key reason behind the country’s poor technological growth in the engineering sector

The Minister of Water Resources, Engr. Suleiman Adamu stated in a meeting earlier this year that the major difference between our own local companies and the major playersi.e the European engineering companies in Nigeria, is simple access to capital. Their countries gives them loans at two to three per cent interest which allows bring in a lot of equipments – construction is about equipment and technical skill – we have the technical skill; all we need is access to capital so that we can bring in the right equipment. But loans are unavailable and where available the interest rates are too high.

The Government And Major Private Firms In The Country Have Decided That They Are Not Going To Wait For Local Engineers To Catch Up.

On April 20th, 2016 an article on The Vanguard revealed that Project Consultant for Dangote Refinery, Mr. Babajide Shodoye said that “very few of our engineers (Nigerian Engineers) are viable and can handle major projects” thus theywill not compromise competence in favour of local content development.

In that same year, an article release on 2 November 2016 by the Premium Times revealed that The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said “Government will not stop the development of the country, if you(Nigerian Engineers) are not ready.”

In more recent times, on 21stJuly, 2017, an article on This Day reveals that the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, criticised the quality of the engineers the country is currently producing. He said “I have not seen a Nigerian Railway Engineer that will deal with railway technology. In my ministry, anytime we try to recruit Nigerian railway engineers, we don’t have it. But there are those with degrees in Railway Engineering, and we have told them to come and establish the same thing that they have in their country here in Nigeria, because we don’t have a choice.”

There is no shred of doubt that Nigerian Engineers will continue to suffer a drought Technical growth if enough ample opportunities continue to slip from their hands.

The Current Legislation Of Procurement Process Needs Improvement.

In an article release on 2nd November, 2016 by the Premium Times revealed that The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola decried what he called the over legislation of procurement process and called for a review, to enhance speedy development of infrastructure in the country.

“In a developing economy like Nigeria, I think that we have over-legislated our procurement process. Some of the fast track procurement systems that we need, given also our weather circle, are still in the way of project intervention to deliver infrastructure. Let us do a review and see what we have delivered and look back at 20 years ago when all these procurement laws were not there what we achieved and measure them.”

This clearly affects the Technical growth.

Compare To Other Top Europe Countries, The Engineering Education System Has More Problems Than One Can Count.

The Nigeria educational system operates the 6-3-3-4 system but for aspiring engineers, it becomes a 6-3-3-5 system.Imagine spending 17 years in preparation to work in field and having little to no actual practical exercises during learning. That’s how poor the engineering educational system is for most Nigerian Institutions.

A Professor of Chemical Engineering and Dean, College of Engineering, University of Delaware, United States of America, Prof. Babatunde Ogunnaike, has said in a Punch News Article that the current Nigerian educational curriculum is not focused on solving the pressing problems of Nigeria and should be changed.

Adedokun (2011) and Shu’ara (2010) reported that academic staff of tertiary institutions is haunted with lownumber of senior lecturers with PhD qualification. Majority of the academicstaff belong to the junior cadre of Assistant lecturers, lecturers I, lecturers II who happened to be learning theropes, these groups of lecturers usually have master’s degree with no much experience in research and most ofthem belong to the engineering faculties . The minority numbers of Professors are getting close to retirement ageand the gap that was created between the lower lecturers and the higher ranks created a vacuum that is difficult tofill in, and there are also some Professors in engineering that are based abroad for greener postures and refused to come back because of the poor remunerations.

This is just to name a few, but these lapses are seriously affecting engineering education in the country.

Nigeria Has Set-Back In Attaining Technological Advancement

On November 21st, 2016, an article from The Vanguard Newspaper revealed that the President of NSE, Mr. Otis Anyaeji, said that importation of all its iron rods for construction,the country’s weak currency, monopoly of manufacture of cement by a select few, high cost of construction materials and scarcity of loans, the award of contracts to foreign firms without proper scrutiny of the conditions of contract are all the reasons behind where the Nigerian Engineers are today.

In conclusion, The Nigerian Engineers are faced with little or no practical knowledge while at school, little to no financial support for technical development after school, little to no engineering jobs available and little to no consideration when bidding for local project. It is evident that the answers is our question “How Technical are Nigerian Engineers?” shows that if we stay of this current path without changing course, our country’s development will remain in the hands of European Engineers.

A country’s future is tied to its engineering power capacity and a country that continues to build its foundation on European engineers will face consequences sooner or later.

 

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