Engr (Rev) Ette I.I. Etteh: Celebrating an icon

The second edition of the Annual Engineer (Reverend) Etteh Distinguished Lecture Series comes up on Thursday, September 22, 2016, at the Function Suite, Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos.The theme of this year’s lecture is: “Managing the Challenges of Infrastructure Deficits in Nigeria: A Cross-Country Analysis of the roles of Engineers in Economic Development.”

This is the second edition of the Annual Lecture series instituted by the Board of Trustees, National Council of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers, NICE, a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, in 2015 in honour of one of Nigeria’s outstanding Engineers, Engineer (Reverend) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, OFR, co-founding Principal, Etteh Aro and Partners, based in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State.

From his richly-endowed profile, Etteh emerges as a profoundly–celebrated professional who has, through foresight and networking, interfaced with like-minds to build goodwill, linkages and connections and deploy same for the benefit of the people, including those who have never met him. Etteh offered himself to provide a fresh platform for the pursuance, realisation and consumption of those pristine indices of leadership at both personal and corporate levels, as a personal lodestar.

Engineer (Reverend) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh, was born on December 16, 1935, at Akassa, now in Bayelsa State. He had his elementary education at St. Patrick’s School, Ifiayong, from 1945 to 1947 and Holy Trinity School, Mbiakong in 1948, all in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. For his secondary education, he attended Hope Waddell Training Institute, Calabar, in Cross River State, from 1952 to 1958. Before he was employed as an Assistant Statistical Officer in the Federal Department of Statistics from 1959 to 1961, Reverend Etteh had a short stint as a Mathematics teacher with the Lutheran High School, Obot Idim, from January to November 1959. Thereafter, he got admission into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1961 to study Civil Engineering on scholarship.

A momentous happening occurred in the 1963/ 1964 academic session in ABU, Zaria.  Two sophomore students, Lawrence Oluwemimo Arokodare, a Yoruba from Ijero Ekiti, in Ekiti State, who was reading Mechanical Engineering had changed course to Civil Engineering and his friend, Ette Ikpong  Ikpong Etteh, from Upenekang in Akwa Ibom State, decided to come together and forge a common business front and compete and ultimately shove aside the dominance of the then foreign-owned Ove Arup and Partners.

The duo was ready to put into practice a cardinal principle propounded by Professor Naylor, a Professor of Civil Engineering, that emphasised that the five years of professional practice should be paramount, if they hoped to succeed in their civil engineering endeavours.  The take-off of the new company did not commence until 1970 with an inaugural project of the rehabilitation work on the 80-mile Benin/Asaba Road. Prior to this time, the two young friends had worked at Ove Arup in Ibadan and garnered cognate experience with a company they were plotting to compete with and even surpass in the coming years.

Reverend Etteh and Lawrence Arokodare had graduated from ABU Zaira with BSC London degree in Civil Engineering and the UK trip was to enhance their professional armoury and face the challenges of floating and operating Etteh Aro & Partners. In addition, Reverend Etteh obtained an MSc (Highways) Surrey degree, in 1969; a second MSc (Bridges) Surrey degree, in 1973.  MICE, C.Eng. (1969); MNSE (1971); FNSE (1981) and Foundation Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (1995).  In recognition of his outstanding performance in theology studies at the Immanuel College of Theology, he was awarded the institution’s Diploma in Theology in 1997.  Additionally, he was ordained a minister of Word and Sacrament of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria on June 7, 1998.

On the state and national stages, Engineer (Reverend) Etteh had been saddled with the responsibility of being the Chairman of the Board of Calabar Cement Company (1975 to 1980), Chairman, Federal Mortgage Finance Company (1993 to 1994).  At various times, he was a member of the different committees of Road Vision 2000, which gave birth to the Independent Road Fund and the Board for Road Maintenance in 1998; Architect (Dr) Godwin Odumah’s Committee on the Appraisal of the National Housing Programme in 1995; Engineer S. O. Fadahunsi’s Panel on the Review of Federal Government Contracts that resulted in heavy savings on costs in 1978; the Ibom International Airport Implementation Committee and also as Chairman of the Technical Sub-Committee for the same Airport. Reverend Etteh is currently a member of the Committee on Road Transportation Framework.

Professionally, Reverend Etteh has been honoured with several awards which included the Presidential Merit Award (in recognition of his unique support for the cause of engineers in Nigeria in November 2005) among the first set of five engineers to be inducted into the Nigerian Hall of Fame in 2013; Nigerian Institute of Civil Engineers Merit Award in 2002; Excellence Award in Engineering by the Nigerian Society of Engineering, Uyo in 1993.  Furthermore, Reverend Etteh was the Chairman of the Association of Bridge and Structural Engineers, Nigeria Chapter (1989 to 1998).

He was conferred with the national honour of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in 2001. Revrend (Engineer) Etteh has been married to Elizabeth, a former University of Ibadan administrator and an elder in the Presbyterian Church for over 40 years.

Among the major projects executed by Etteh Aro & Partners are the Niger Delta Development Commission building; the Ibom Hall; Stallion House; C and C Towers; the East/West Coastal Road; Access Road and whole network of arterial roads at the Calabar International Convention Centre; Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Lagos.

One of the staying power of Etteh Arokodare & Partners over the past four decades, is the corporate promotion of and strict adherence to good work ethics as a tool for success. Engineer (Reverend) Etteh puts emphasis on the prime issues of due diligence, accountability; abhorrence and non-use of sub-standard, fake or inappropriate tools and materials; punctuality; dedication to assigned duties and set goals; hunger for the acquisition of experience and knowledge of new processes, tools and equipment and the maintenance of an open-door policy at any stage of doing a project or performing an official chore.

The corporate decision to embark on human capacity development was predicated on a policy of training Nigerian budding engineers without any strings attached as the company’s main competitor, Ove Arup, were wont to do at the time.  Ette Aro & Partners has the vision to metamorphose into an international firm and be the first on the Nigerian stage, albeit professionally. Among others, the founding promoters of Etteh Aro & Partners (Etteh and Arokodare) were interested in the professional and business growth and advancement of the budding engineers who will bear the mantle in the future. These young engineers were encouraged to seek experience and training and made to drink from the spring of knowledge, practices and innovated ideas provided by Etteh Aro & Partners, free of charge.

In the estimation of the leadership of Etteh Aro and Partners, the dearth of the above mentioned professional indices is one of the reasons why the incidents of building collapse; road surface malfunction etc occur. Engineer (Reverend) Ette Ikpong Ikpong Etteh rightly belongs to that enviable class of renown African men whose personal achievements and contributions towards nation building and human capacity empowerment, are worth celebrating. He is a citizen of the world!