Background of KOA Consultants Limited.
KOA Consultants Limited started in 1985 as Kunle Ogunbayo and Associates, it was a partnership. 7 years ago we changed to KOA Consultants Limited which is a Limited Liability Company, so that the firm could become an entity on its own. Many people have asked me why we changed the name, and my candid response has been that to run a company as partnership there are limits to the kind of jobs and responsibility it can bear, because before the change I and my partners were personally liable to the asset and liabilities of the firm which does not make good business sense in these day and time especially when it gets to some certain size. It does not work.
Secondly, the company carried my name and it was too closely linked with. I wanted a situation where the firm itself becomes an entity.
Choosing the name was fairly easy. Our Logo as Kunle Ogunbayo & Associates was KOA and indeed everybody in the industry already know us as “KOA”. So we decided to retain the logo, then changed the name to KOA Consultants Limited. Although the company has been in business for 29 years but as KOA Consultants Limited we are 6 years now.
What are your company’s major landmarks in terms of projects executed?
We are basically a company that specializes in what is called building services, which means that we provide mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection services to the built environment.
In terms of landmarks projects, we have completed projects scattered across the country. We have done factories, offices buildings, hotels schools, etc. We have done business environments projects like Ikeja shopping malls, Tinapa in Cross River State for instance. Some of the hotels we did include, Golden Tulip Hotel in Festac Extension, Southern Sun in Ikoyi, Intercontinental Hotel in Victoria Island amongst others. In education we did some schools, universities and for the industry we did some factories which include, GSK and Liver Brothers Factories. So we have contributed a great deal to the industry in terms of landmark projects and we are still doing more to ensure the industry’s growth is sustained.
Sir, looking at the activities of the Consulting Engineers in Nigeria, in what way do you think they have contributed towards the economic growth and development of our nation?
In concrete terms, there is nothing that is being built today in the built environment or construction industry that doesn’t have the input of Consulting Engineers, and when you think that development is about building infrastructure and the built environment, Consulting Engineers have been involved at different stages. It is not possible for any to be infrastructure development like aviation infrastructures, road, bridges, housing construction etc sustained without the involvement of Consulting Engineer. So in terms of roles of the Engineers in the industry it has been massive. The indigenous Engineers have made tremendous contributions. With the enactment of the Nigerian content law, Nigerian Engineers are also beginning to make an impact in the Oil Industry, an area that was previously dominated by foreign Consultants.
However, in areas such as housing road and bridge construction the consultancy aspects still lies largely in the hands of the indigenous Consulting Engineers.
In terms of participation of foreign Engineers in the construction sector, it is mostly in the construction of high rise buildings for Multi-National Companies, because the designs of these buildings are done outside the country. Reasons are simple; they say who pays the piper dictates the tune. Thus if a foreign company decides to invest in Nigeria with foreign money, in housing project, the firm will prefer to give the contract to a firm from its own country and in executing the job most of the senior workers also will come from his country. While this also happens in other countries, they also have laws that make participation by national engineers mandatory. Sadly, not only does our government not have these provisions, it sometimes behaves as if it prefers to give contracts to foreign companies, even where the job can be handled by indigenous firms. Furthermore, we are not proactive when it comes to foreign assistance. For instance, given all the time and effort that the Nigerian government spent in bringing peace to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’voire etc., Nigerian businesses should have had first call on the redevelopment projects in those countries.
So for we in the Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria (ACEN), as a professional organization, we cannot force people to join ACEN, however we have been able to get the federal government to say unless you are a member of ACEN, you will not get jobs from the government. This is because government recognizes that the discipline and the peer-review mechanism that exists within ACEN will protect their interest. Our membership is still not that large, the law unfortunately doesn’t help, because there is nothing that says a foreign Consulting Engineering firm cannot setup office here in Nigeria. It only requires two things; registration with CAC, and a COREN Certificate that says you are a competent and qualified Engineering firm and once you are able to go through those hurdles you can set up shop and practice in the country without questioning.
But many people even circumvent that by doing the work abroad and then find a qualified Engineer here in Nigeria, who will stamp and sign the drawings. Those are some of the challenges facing the industry, but ACEN is working very hard on these and we are hoping that as time progresses, there will be changes. As we speak there is a bill now at the national assembly to replicate in the construction industry what is happening in the oil and gas industry. And, if that can happen, then there will be a lot less infiltration and influx of foreign expatriate Engineers and firms into the country.
Incidentally, protecting your local industry is not new, as many other countries of the world do it. For example you cannot just go to a country like South Africa that you want to set up shop as a Consulting Engineer, because their systems are well protected and the rigorous procedures one will go through will deter one from such ventures. But we at ACEN believe we will get there soon.
In terms of the nation’s infrastructural development, do you think the Consulting Engineers have contributed in fixing the nation’s infrastructure problems?
In terms of fixing the problems with infrastructure, it is one thing to design a road, water or sewage system, have it built but the biggest problem has always been maintaining these infrastructures. So, while the Consulting Engineers would have done a good job, it is up to the owners to ensure that they maintain what has been built; that is where the problems lie. Most infrastructures are largely in the hands of the government and government does not have a good reputation on maintenance, so in this scenario who is to blame? Is it the Consulting Engineers?, perhaps not. Perhaps, in addition to being Consulting Engineer, we should also go into facility management and begin to offer our services to those that need maintenance. So that we can begin to put a bit more pressure on the developers of infrastructure to embrace maintenance.
Again, the budgeting process of many government institutions mainly recognizes new projects. It does not give due consideration to maintenance, while in the private sector it is different. They ensure that their facilities are well maintained. For example one of the projects I worked on when I newly became a Consulting Engineer was First Bank Plc head of office at Marina. That building was officially commissioned in 1982, and the building is still looking as beautiful as it was built, Niger House owned by UAC is another building that is still standing beautifully since 60’s. These buildings, as old as they are, are still standing, because they are owned by private companies and they know what it takes to maintain infrastructures. Government owned infrastructure on the other hand lacks maintenance. For instance a visit to the federal secretariat in Abuja, will give you a clue to the different between governments owned facility and private own ones. At Abuja, the secretariat environment is dirty, the central air conditioning system has parked up many years ago, and reason is because of lack of maintenance. The central air condition system of First Bank Plc head office is still working after 30 years; this is because of proper maintenance culture which can be seen with the private sector. Another problem facing infrastructure development is lack of forward or future planning. You do not wait until an infrastructure starts decaying or becomes inadequate before you expand it or add new ones.
In other part of the world things are done differently, you see a wide road being built, you will be wondering where the roads is leading to. 5 – 7 years later on, you will find out that buildings have sprung up all around the area – that is future thinking which we lack in this part of the world. Look at our power systems; it’s just only in the last few years that we have started fixing the out dated generating plants and increase generating capacity by building new ones. This entire thing ought to have been fixed many years ago. Egbin power station for example was built in the 80’s and Kainji Dam in the 60s, how do you expect the two generating plants to generate enough power for the whole nation that is growing on a daily basis? It is not possible, you do not allow infrastructure to be over stretched before you start fixing it and we have to be proactive in planning.
Consulting Engineers as drivers of infrastructural development, how has this affected the level of employment generation?
The Consulting Engineers are not drivers, but participants in employment generation through infrastructural development. Everywhere in the world, a marker for development in a country is the housing project started in a year. So when one wants to measure the growth of a nation’s economy it is the number of houses built in a particular year, and the Consulting Engineers are involved from the beginning to the finishing.
In housing construction, it is easy for people to say the number of people working in a particular building will not be more than 10 – 15 persons. But it is absolutely wrong, because the multiplier effect of employment at every single projects site cut across the whole economy. The food vendors selling food to the workers on site, sells more every day, the producers of the yam, beans, tomatoes etc produces more. The same also goes with paint manufacturing company which produces more paint by employing more staff, the cement companies, the iron-rod producers, roofing sheet, tiles, electrical appliances, cooling systems etc. All these are the multiplier effect in terms of employment generation by the construction industry. The industry will generate more if more houses and infrastructures are built in the country.
Let me also say that it is on record that construction is the biggest creator of employment all over the world and that is why we must find ways of encouraging the construction industry. It enhances employment; increases turn over and growth in the Gross Domestic Products(GDP).
Looking at the oil and gas industry, yes, it may have high gain and rewards, but it doesn’t employ more people, notably because of the high technicality involved in its production. Imagine investing $800 billion in oil field exploitation; you will employ about 200 people on such huge investment. But if you invest the same amount in housing construction, the number of employment opportunities will be more than 1 million jobs which will cut across different sectors of the economy. So, Consulting Engineers are key practitioners in the built environment and are also key practitioners in creating employment opportunities. Even in our little offices we employ the best and the brightest in different fields of the built environment.
Peer Review mechanism, what is your take on this and do you think it is a healthy development to the industry?
Peer Review Mechanism for now is a proposal. The idea is to ensure that the quality of work done in Nigeria is up to the standard anywhere in the world. It is also a method to help ACEN members to deliver first class job at all time. For instance, if we as a firm do a job, we could have it reviewed by another firm voluntarily. For me, it is a good start for the Consulting Engineers. The peer-review mechanism will checkmate a lot of anomalies in the industry, such as fraud, quackery and building failures. We have also approached the planning authorities in different states in the country to assist them check some of the drawings to ensure they meet all standards. It will be at little cost, because we are businessmen. The cost will be imbedded in the charges which the developers will pay for the approval. Why we brought this idea is because the planning authorities do not have experienced personnel and are also under-staffed to handle the jobs.
What is your impression about building collapse and what do you think the Engineers should do to avert such occurrences?
Barring one or two unfortunate instances, I made bold to say that over 95 percent of collapse buildings in Nigeria were not either designed or supervised by a properly qualified Engineers. Some developers think that they can save some money by not engaging properly qualified Engineering Personnel and go to unqualified person. This is akin to committing suicide! It will interest you to know that during my tenure as president of COREN I have had to sit in a Tribunal that sentenced a few Engineers who stamped drawings that they did not produce.
Secondly, having gotten his poorly designed buildings, they then go to a poorly qualified contractor that does not have properly trained Engineering personnel to execute the project. Do you see Julius Berger having failures?? It is the smaller contractors because they lack the expertise to do the job. They do not do cube test for their mix, which is a standard thing to do for every project. The cube test enables you to know the strength of the mixes you are using as the project progresses. It is lack of these measures that is why building collapse in Nigeria.
Professional ethics and standard, what is your advice to fellow Engineers?
No Engineer can be successful without being ethical in practice. People come to you because of your technical skills and for your reputation as an ethical person, the two go together. If you are technically competent but you are not known as an upright member of the society nobody will come to you.
Secondly, as members of Nigeria Society of Engineers(NSE), we all subscribe to a code of ethics written in black and white in the association’s document.
Thirdly, you must be registered by COREN for you to use the prefix “ENGR” before your name, this is because many people call themselves Engineers without being registered. Today COREN has about 27,000 registered Engineers in Nigeria and anybody who calls himself an Engineer outside these numbers is a quark. So once you are registered you get the code of ethics. As a member of ACEN our memo and articles of associations contains a big section that talks about ethics. So the rules are there, it’s for people to follow them. We will continue to advise the younger Engineers and keep reminding the older ones to uphold the ethics and play by the rule. An Engineer can be successful without being unethical. So my advice is that we as Engineers should follow the ethics of the profession at all time.
In the area of quality control as a Consulting Engineer, what is your take on this?
Engineering is system based and one aspects of quality control is the peer review mechanism. But more importantly each practice must have a system. Engineering is system driven, for instance in designing three-storey building you must follow a number of steps. If you say the three storey building requires 30 kilowatts of cooling systems, you must prove how you arrive at it.
Quality control is essential in every aspect of life. There must be systems in place for everybody to follow; because it gives you room to look back at what was done in case of errors correct them on time to avoid further failures.
Recently, more Engineering firms have been applying for International Standard Organization ISO Certifications. It is good because what it does is that it forces you to put into writing all those things you need to do. It does not tell you what to do; it asks you what are you doing and if you are doing it well, show me how and you have to continue doing it, because it helps your processes as an Engineer.