Engineer Adedamola Falade-Fatila, is the Chairman, Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Ibadan branch, In this interview by NURUDEEN ALIMI, he highlights factors militating against engineering practice in Nigeria and the possible way out.
WHAT is your comparison of engineering practice in Nigeria, other developing and developed countries of the world?
As far as engineering practice in Nigeria is concerned, We are not there yet but we are making progress little by little judging from the recent awareness being created by the Nigeria Society of Engineers across the country and of course the positive response we are getting from the Federal Government of Nigeria. This is evident in the recently amended Act of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN), as can also be seen in the recently signed presidential Executive Order Five that deals with the improvement of local content in engineering technology and innovation in Nigeria and all of that.
If all these laws and orders as well as policies are enforced and implemented engineering practice in Nigeria would definitely get to another level. Where we are presently is not particularly where we should be. As a country, the so called giant of Africa, as a country that is about clocking 60 years of independence with the wealth of intelligent engineers , intellectuals thoroughbred professionals we ought to have move far beyond this point, we should not be at a level where we still experience building collapse every other day we should not be at such a pedestrial level. We are still talking of 4000, 5000 or 7000 megawatts of electricity being generated. These care very disheartening statistics to consideer.
So for me, we are not there yet, but we are taking some slow and gradual processes towards getting there but all we need is enforcement. Like the lawyers would say, the spirit and the letters of the law. The letters of the law is what you read on the pages of papers but the spirit is the attitude behind its enactment and practice as well as application. So for me, in engineering, there are so many letters, laws, policies, orders and all of that. But the spirit behind it as a nation this goes beyond the Nigeria Society of Engineers. It should be a national attitude whether you are a lawyer, archtiect, banker, accountant or pharmacist whatever you are you must know that you can not do well in all these other professions if engineering and technology practice in Nigeria does not assume its pride of place and we are all responsible for that. If you have ever been to a court room you would see engineering practice on display, if you have ever been to an hospital or a doctor’s office you see engineering.
Engineering should be an attitude that is a way of life. That is what makes nations great. Your level of engineering and technological advancement are what nmake a nation great, not its size. Israel is a country of about 20,000 square kilometre less than the land mass of Oyo State, one out of 36 states in Nigeria yet it has arguably the highest number of nobel prize winners in science and engineering and this can just be attributed to their attitude, the national attitude towards the development of engineering, science and technology.
Would you say the Nigeria Society of Engineers has been able to checkmate the activities quacks in the profession, knowing fully well that they are the ones actually responsiblev for the spate of collapsed buildings being recorded in the country over times and in recent times?
What we have been doing and we are still doing is to discourage clients, trhe general populace from using quacks for engineering designs and construction. Just like yoiu said, the rising spate of collapsed buildings is becoming a national embarrassment. And beyond that, it is getting more tragic by the day, if is is just the building that are collapsing, it is another thing but we must also think of the deaths that usually occur alongside these unfortunate incidents. It is something of urgent national concern and demands urgent ontervention. What we have been able to do is to increase our sensitisation campaigns to members of the public and so on. We are also making effort to get across to those concerned such as lawmakers to ensure the enforcement of some of these laws that are existing in town planning laws and all of that. You do not get to just approve building or a structure for construction if the necessary documents are not presented duly signed and stamped by a registered engineer.
Among ourselves, we have also advised our members to ensure that they take responsibilities for the project they design. If they observe that the client want to go ahead with the construction without or behind them, they should raise an alarm so that it would be noted before it becomes a public issue. So far so good, nearly all of these building collapse we have all around the country there has not been more than one case of a registered engineer been indicted in these issues but challants gets us all into all these troubles and is is so unfortunate. So that is much we have been able to do and we are not relenting.
Has there been a case where one of these so called quacks been arrested and prosecuted for being responsible for one of these collapsed buliding incidents?
I do not have official record but I know that there had been situation where one or two people have been arrested as are a result of these buliding collapses and charged to court. And you know that once an issue gets to that point, the rest is left to the court to decide. For instance this popular sensational building collapse that happened the other day at the Synagogue Church in Lagos. We all know that it has been in the court ever since but you can not interfere until the court decides and that is one unfortunate thing about the judicial system in this country. If there is a means with which government can expedite such action and in good time, culprits are brought to book this would serve as deterrent to others. When a case is dragging for too long due to the technicalities of the law and such a near homicide case is being given some kind of media trial and is been on for over a year, two or three years what lessons do you want to pass to the other people who might want to perpetrate such act? We have a long way to go in this country.
There is no doubt about the fact that engineers play crucial roles in government project, be it local, state and federal level. As a body of professional engineers domiciled in Oyo State, what are your expectations from the new administration in the state and also considering the fact that the two major drivers of the administration, the governor and his deputy are prominent members of your constituency who have deep understanding of the workings of engineers in societal development?
Well, it is a good thing and it is an interesting development that in Oyo State today we have a successful engineer as the governor and of course a distinguished also as the deputy. It is another good thing that both of them are aware of the responsibilty that bestowed on them and they are conscious of it. And for us as the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Ibadan branch and for me as the chairman we are very expectant and optimistic about their performance. I am convinced that they would do well in terms of physical infrastructure, development, in terms of positioning the economy of the state, in terms of agricultural emancipation of the state, in terms of education and the general well-being of the citizenry in Oyo state.
The important thing for us and we have advised them accordingly is to first ensure they put the round peg in the round hole. We want a situation in Oyo State where professionals would take their pride of place in running the affairs of the state that is ministries, departments and agencies of government not just politicians but technocrats who would drive this departments of goverment. And when you have that in place, your problem is more than half solved, you can reasonably predict more than good outcome. We are also looking at a situation where some of these dead policies of goverment that affect professionalism in the state would now get revival such that there would be more ease to running government business around the state. These and many more are our expectations.