Nigerian engineers not responsible for building collapse – NSE president

March 03, 2020 -

Engineer Babagana Mohammed is the 32nd President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE). In this interview with journalists in Abuja, he speaks on the first World Engineering Day to be marked this Wednesday, solutions to recurring cases of building collapse in the country and on other burning issues.

The celebration is going to kick off that day in Paris, headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The essence of declaring the day as World Engineering Day is just to celebrate engineers and engineering; because it is life, it is development. Whatever part of human life is tied to engineering; no aspect of human life or activity can go on without an aspect of engineering. So, UNESCO found it fit to celebrate those men and women behind these accomplishments. That is why they declared the 4th of March every year beginning from 2020 as World Engineering Day.

When we mention UNESCO, it means it is worldwide as various countries make up UNESCO. And for our engineering group, we have the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), and it’s been decided that we celebrate this day in our various countries.

In Nigeria, we have lined up activities to mark the day. First, we are to identify engineers in the engineering family. In the family, we have engineers, artisans, technicians and craftsmen. I am the head of the engineering family in Nigeria. We will celebrate those that have done well in the field of engineering. And we are starting with 60 renowned engineers who have excelled. It means I may not be part of it, although I am the President of NSE. Some of those to be honoured are Prof. Awojobi, University of Lagos (the man that went to the Supreme Court to explain two-third [2/3], the first engineer in eastern Nigeria, the first engineer in Northern Nigeria, the first woman engineer, engineers with innovative inventions, technocrats; these are the kind of people we want to celebrate. Some of them may no longer be in service or even alive, but we need to tell the world that they have done their bits. Loading.. Copy video url Play / Pause Mute / Unmute Report a problem Language Mox Player There is a saying that, "You don’t allow your man to die before you celebrate him.” If he has done excellently well, then celebrate him while he is alive. For instance, the man, who formed the Nigerian Society of Engineers in 1958 in London needs to be celebrated. What are the challenges the profession faces in Nigeria? Challenges are many. You don’t remain without challenges; it is not possible. Some challenges are germane. Others, I don’t even want to take a look at them. For instance, most people, because of their mentality, will prefer a white engineer to a black one; this pains me. You know why? The same Nigerians will go to America, Europe, Asia, etc. and excel and come out with excellent results. So, why the preference for colour of the skin? This makes me angry. But maybe one day we will overcome it. When Nigerians start believing in themselves, then things will change. It is just that many people don’t believe in themselves. So, they find it difficult to believe in somebody else. Let me put it in a proper perspective, people graduate here with second class lower, third class and what have you and go to America and obtain first class and what have you. Something must have happened to warrant those results. They just didn’t go there and sleep, but the point remains that they started from here; a very tough environment. I may agree that they have more facilities than we have and are exposed to so many things that we don’t have, including the latest machines. But I won’t agree that we lack knowledge. What is the implication of patronising expatriate engineers? Let us be very clear, nobody will love your country more than you do; take it or leave it. Nobody can come from neigbouring Chad and say he loves Nigeria more than me; I disagree. The next point I want to make is that nobody will develop Nigeria more than Nigerians. If I am given a job to do, I will do it passionately. Assuming you are bringing somebody from Cotonou, are you not going to pay him? But he will not be as passionate as I will be because it is not his country. I have a stake; that is the difference. How can we overcome the menace of building collapse, and how many of your members have been sanctioned concerning it? When you mention building collapse, should I laugh or keep quiet? Okay, let me laugh, but I will also talk. I am a Nigerian and I want to put things in the right perspective and be honest with everybody. Once there is building collapse or structural collapse somewhere, the first name you will hear them call is the engineer. Nobody wants to know what happened, who and who were involved; nobody cares about that. All you hear is: where is the engineer? The engineer is the first point of call; which is okay. We are happy that we are recognised. At the point of collapse, everybody looks for the engineer. But at the point of building, nobody remembers to involve the engineer. It is still okay and we are happy with it also. But as I am talking to you, only two cases of building collapse involved Nigerian engineers. Those are the ones before us. That will now take us to the point where we define who an engineer is. You must define who an engineer is. But you start saying what A, B and C are doing. If you don’t know what A, B and C are doing, then you will lump everybody together and say they are engineers. People lose their lives, we are not happy. But Nigerians are not doing the right thing. Some people are building and are not using engineers because they want to cut cost, but how much is our cost compared to loss of resources and lives? How much is an engineering cost that you will dodge from even when you know the implications. Can you pay for one life? So, what are you doing to change this narrative? We will keep advocating that whatever you want to do, please engage engineers; engage professionals who are certified. In the building industry, we are so many, use everybody. When you have something to do with quantity surveying, use a quantity surveyor, when it has to do with building, use builders, and when it has to do with engineering, use engineers. It saves you time, energy and you will get value for your money. Do you not you think you have to go further than that; I mean checking quackery? Checking quackery is a very difficult task. What we are now doing is that there is an association of builders, craftsmen and artisans that came up of recent. We are now partnering with them. They are people who are semi-skilled; we are reaching out to them. We are assembling all of them to train them. There was a time in this country that they would tell you that to get the best person to do POP for you, you have to go to Cotonou; how is that possible? We are 200 million Nigerians. What is the population of those in Cotonou? What is their level of intelligence and exposure? What do they know that we don’t know? I am a Lagos man, tell me what we don’t know in Lagos that someone somewhere else knows more than us? Sometimes maybe we are not very serious people. But we are now trying to challenge the narratives. That is why we have to start by training the local people; the artisans, for them to understand the standard they need to follow.