Why building collapse in Nigeria persists

Engr. Kashim Ali is the President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

COREN as a statutory body of the Federal Government empowered to regulate the Practice of Engineering in all aspects and ramifications in Nigeria.

The regulatory body is set-up by the Decrees 55/70 and 27/92 (now Acts 110). The Decrees empowered the Council to regulate and control the training and practice of engineering in Nigeria and to ensure and enforce the registration of all engineering personnel (i.e. Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Technicians, and Engineering Craftsmen) and consulting firms wishing to practice or engage in the practice of engineering. The Federal Government needs to patronize its professional engineers to put an end to collapsed building in the country.

Building collapse in Nigeria will not stop until the country changes the ways of doing things. Building construction is like a sick person and if you refer a sick person to a carpenter for treatment, it is either the person will die or continue to be sick. So building will also continue to collapse if the nation continues giving its construction contracts to those who are not professionals on the job. Until building construction is given to engineering professionals, Nigeria will continue to grapple with building collapse and its attendant effects.

According to Nigeria’s white paper, job of US$2.52m and below should be given to local professional engineers. Apparently, there is no preference for Nigerian professionals exposed to the same treatment as the foreigners and there is no form of special protection for them. The paper has never been respected right from the onset because jobs have been given to foreigners instead of indigenous professionals.

The truth about engineering practice in Nigeria is that like in all other countries substantial investment of national resources is in infrastructure and infrastructure are mainly engineering projects and because of the quantum of fund available in that sector, everybody want to have a piece of the pie and they go to any length to get it. Unfortunately the trained engineers are not able to compete in terms of lobby like the non-engineers because they are bound by ethics. For instance, an engineer cannot advertise himself but a non-engineer can do anything or promise anything to whoever that will give out the job. Even if the engineers are not qualified, it not a better option to give non-engineers the job in place of engineers who are trained. Besides, Nigerian engineers are doing good things abroad and are well respected.

Giving jobs to non-engineers is responsible for failed projects in Nigeria and that is why the government has not been able to prosecute those people who handled failed projects. If an engineer handled any failed project, he will be reported to COREN and a tribunal will be set up to carry out investigation and if found guilty will be punished. On the other hand, the non-engineers cannot get punished because they are not bound by the industry ethics. So when you see that nothing has happened to those who have committed heinous crime in terms of failed project it is because they are not members of ethical organization.

There has been cases of corruption in engineering projects and the real reason is pecuniary, and people just want money. For instance, if you are talking about federal highway contract, it is billions of naira and where else will you get such contract except in engineering projects. Talk about power, road and rail projects, they are in billions, every engineering project is in billions. So the non-engineers will not allow engineers to handle such money alone and because they are in power, they use the power to take the job through pretention and forgery and when they do the job and it fails nothing is done to them because they are beyond reproach and above the law.

For this reasons, non-engineers should not be appointed to head any engineering institutions in the country. Engineering institutions like Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) should not be handled by non-engineers because it is not regulated as in law but technical regulation. It is taught in Engineering Faculty and not Law School. That is why lots of anomalies are going on in that institution. Therefore, the regulation should be given to those who are qualified technically. Since the president is a beneficiary of the work of Nigerian engineers as Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) chairman, he used Nigerian engineers and they did not disappoint him. He should as well use the Nigerian engineers to deliver key projects like NIPP, rails among others because the power projects are too complex to be left in the hands of non-engineers.

The government should recognize their responsibility to every citizen of the country and Nigerian engineers are citizens of this country. They have a right to be patronized, they are not asking to be spoon fed but to be given the opportunity that they rightly deserve. Every nation of the world that has developed invested in its engineers and Nigeria cannot develop without taking that part. Any attempt at deviating from the path of using own internal and human resources to develop the country is meaningless because there will be no sustainability in such developmental effort. Therefore the government must recognize engineers. Nigerian engineers have been tested and they have passed exceedingly well.


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