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Wanted: New Breed of Engineers

The question that engineers ask themselves as Nigeria continues to take stock of its 50 years of political independence is; what future is there for the engineering profession? This was also the recurrent theme at the October Lecture series of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, held recently in Abuja. Emeka Ezeh, director-general of the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, and the 25th president of NSE who was the guest speaker, explored the issues of capacity development, the limitations and contributions of indigenous engineers to national development.

Engr. Olumuyiwa Ajibola, president of NSE, explained in his introductory address that the annual October Lecture of the society provides a platform to draw from the experiences of its past presidents in shaping the future of engineering practice and stating the position of engineers on topical national issues. He called on the government to ensure full implementation of the Nigerian Content Initiative in all aspects of the economy.

In the lecture, titled Nigeria at 50: Where are the Engineers? Ezeh who was president between 2006 and 2007, lamented the poor quality of engineering graduates from the nation's ivory towers. This he blamed on the current education system which emphasises what he called the "science of engineering" rather than "the practice of engineering". He decried the proliferation of engineering faculties in the over 70 universities in Nigeria many of which do not have the requisite facilities and human capital to produce well-trained engineers.

The BPP chief observed that engineering practice is being politicised in Nigeria, thus jeopardising the ethics and norms of the profession. He regretted that "the process of designing and constructing bridges and roads are not led by us (Nigerian engineers), yet government has set up institutions and agencies that ought to drive these". He maintained sadly that, "though engineers can claim to be in charge of designs but the actual construction where the real money is, is in the hands of other professionals and non-professionals". Preferring the words "moral bankruptcy," rather than corruption, Ezeh condemned a catalogue of contemporary malaise afflicting the profession. According to him, certificates are raised for substandard jobs, quantities are inflated right from the designs stage, payments are delayed and withheld for uncompromising consultants. He also said that Nigerian companies and consultants are evaluated out of competition, and indigenous companies and consultants adopt unwholesome practices in order to survive.

The lecture was not all about lamentations though. Ezeh commended the achievements of Nigerian engineers especially in the building and power generation sectors. He equally explained the role of engineers in public procurement and noted that procurement is about the engagement of a third party to provide goods, works and services which constitute over 95 per cent of the procurement done by various government agencies. Engineers clearly have an edge over others, he observed, since an engineer is in a better position to deal with issues of roads, airports, railway, communication and others, which procurement facilitates.

As a way forward, Ezeh advocated proper funding of some universities known for excellence in engineering to improve on the quality of engineering graduates. To him, entry requirement to such institutions should be advanced level, rather than ordinary level as obtains at the moment. He tasked engineers to be proactive on national debate by marketing themselves while maintaining high ethical standards. These, he believes, are critical to laying the foundation for a new generation of engineers that will drive the economy beyond 2020.
In his remarks, Sanusi Daggash, minister of works and the special guest of honour represented by Amina el'Zubair, senior special assistant on Millennium Development Goals, called on the NSE to show concern for the future as the October Lecture series present a bridge to the future .

Compiled by: Anayochukwu Agbo

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