In this CED Magazine’s exclusive interview with Engr. Ali A. Rabiu, FNSE, FAEng, FASCE, President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), he speaks on the progresses, contributions and achievements recorded in the past years as COREN hosts its 30th Engineering Assembly.

CED Magazine: Congratulations on your recent election as Fellowship of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering (NAE); how do you feel?

Engr. Rabiu:  Well, I feel humbled and fulfilled as the Council of the Nigerian Academy of Engineering and fellows has found me worthy to be admitted as a fellow. It’s a height any engineering practitioner or engineer would want to attain. So, I use this medium to appreciate the council and all the fellows of the academy for choosing to be part of this class of exalted engineering experts in the country. 

CED Magazine: Your take on the activities of the academy as an engineering research based body in Nigeria? 

Engr. Rabiu: The academy of engineering in Nigeria was formed by some elite group of engineers with the objective to focus on advancing and pursuit of excellence in engineering and technology. The group is a think tank which pulls its resources and experiences together to solve national engineering problems. 

   The academy has assisted the nation over the past few years by giving articulate solutions to some important engineering problems in the country through their fellowship and other notable public events. For instance, I have delivered a lecture in one of their organized events in the past before now. So the activity of the academy has gone a long way in advancing the engineering practice in Nigeria.

CED Magazine: Briefly talk about yourself as an engineer and your activities before you assumed office as COREN President?

Engr. Rabiu: I am a qualified civil engineer with a robust career and practicing experience that is spanning over 30 years in various administrative and managerial capacities in the public and private sectors. I have carried out projects for the federal, state and local government in various states in the country and even for the multilateral agencies.

   In terms of my services and contributions to engineering in Nigeria; I was a three term vice-president of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), from 2010 to 2012 consecutively, and before then I also served as the chairman of NSE Kano branch. During those periods I attempted twice to be the president of NSE and never succeeded, but as fate would have it got into the council of COREN in 2016 to represent the North-Central Geo-Political Zone.

   And when the vacancy for the post of the president and chairman of the council occurred in 2019, I applied and I was elected President of COREN on 18th of April, in the year 2019, a few days to my birthday. So, basically that has been my exploit in the engineering profession and I’m still counting.

CED Magazine: Talk about COREN as an agency of government: its vision and mission, functions to the engineering profession in Nigeria?

Engr. Rabiu: COREN is a federal government agency established by decree 55 in the year 1970 to regulate and control the practice of engineering in all its aspects and ramifications. COREN determines the quality of engineering practice in Nigeria, its vision and mission is to promote and ensure the highest standards of professionalism in engineering practice in Nigeria. 

   It also determines and certifies who is an Engineer, Technologist, Technician and Craftsman in the country and we also determine the curriculum of study in all faculty of engineering in universities across the country. The courses required to train up an engineer, technologist and technicians in polytechnics etc are determined by COREN. 

COREN investigates engineering failures, and apart from that we also monitor engineering projects that are going on across the length and breadth of the country.

   COREN investigates engineering failures, and apart from that we also monitor engineering projects that are going on across the length and breadth of the country. So, basically those are the mandates of the agency and we have done well to ensure we maintain the status quo since I assumed office as president in the past three years. 

CED Magazine: Your tenure as President of COREN; speak on the activities, contributions and milestones achievement recorded?

Engr. Rabiu: According to the mandates of the agency, under my leadership we have carried out accreditation in a number of faculties of engineering in institutions with about 147 programmes in the country. And as part of the mandate as well, we have registered about ten thousand engineers that is we have engineers that can practice not only in Nigeria, but also in Asia, and the Pacific countries. 

   This is because COREN as an agency is a member of the Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asian and the Pacific (FEIAP) is an international non-profit professional organization. As a member of FEIAP, Nigerian engineers certified by COREN can practice in any of the member countries of FEIAP without necessarily having to undergo registrations and licensing in those countries. 

   We also have been able to approve a number of institutions of higher learning and have brought some level of sanity in the practice of engineering among professionals in the country, because today if you are not licensed to practice you cannot practice engineering in Nigeria. And the law is there for us to use against anyone who cuts corners or practices engineering as a quack in the country.

CED Magazine: The 30th COREN Engineering Assembly, having been chairman of the planning committee on 2 different occasions in the past; what are the core objectives of the event and its impacts on engineers and engineering profession in Nigeria? 

Engr. Rabiu: Well, the COREN Engineering Assembly actually started in 1992, during the tenure of the late past president of NSE and COREN in the person of Engr. I.K. Inuwa, who led the agency between 1991 to 1994, the idea, is to bring all engineering professionals under one roof to discuss some burning issues in the engineering profession and proffer solutions, members of the engineering family in all works of life to be able to interact among members and share their various experiences over the past one year. 

   It’s a mandatory annual event for all practicing engineers in the country, because the attendance earns the engineers some Continuing Professional Development (CDP) points, that is Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points are a way of measuring the time and quality of learning and development (L&D) activities. The attendance is one such area the professional engineers could leverage on to fast track the renewal of their professional practice license for another year through the CPD point earned.  

   The theme for this year’s assembly is “Domestication and Development of Codes, Standards and Regulations as a Panacea for Engineering Infrastructure Failures in Nigeria”. We have also developed a lot of sub-themes to effectively discuss and address the main theme subject at the assembly. 

   It’s our conviction that the adoption of Nigerian codes and standards for engineering practice in the country will ensure a robust engineering practice in Nigeria. So we are going to discuss all that it will take to develop these codes.

CED Magazine: How prepared are your office in as the 30th edition draws near?

Engr. Rabiu: The council set up the main organizing committee last year September, chaired by Engr. Tanko Gyang, FNSE, and as we speak they have been working assiduously to deliver as mandated by the council. For us we are fully prepared for the event and I am fully convinced it will be a huge success. Because having chaired the main planning committee for two occasions in the past, the engineering assembly has hosted a lot of dignitaries in the past editions and my experience in those occasions will be utilized as the president because this is an area I’m very familiar with. The past edition has hosted a lot of dignitaries coming from both within and outside the country and we don’t intend to do anything less. 

The theme for this year’s assembly is “Domestication and Development of Codes, Standards and Regulations as a Panacea for Engineering Infrastructure Failures in Nigeria”

   So far, as we speak about 5000 engineering practitioners have registered online for the event and we expect to have more people register for the event. The idea for the online registration is to discourage the onsite registration, but we are ready for those that would want to do so too. 

   In terms of logistics, the committee is ready, the venue has been secured, and all the needed security personnel have been notified to ensure the international conference center is well secured for the successful hosting of the event. 

CED Magazine: What are the challenges facing the engineering profession in Nigeria?

Engr. Rabiu: The challenges facing the engineering practice in the country is enormous, and one of such challenges is quacks infiltrating the profession. Those who have not been trained as engineers’ parading themselves around as engineers and fortunately the amended act of 2018 has empowered COREN to prosecute such people whenever we find them. In the past we had no such powers to prosecute quacks, but now the agency is empowered to do so once we identify anyone culpable.

   Another major challenge is the collapse of engineering infrastructure like building, bridges, roads etc and our findings has shown that it’s as a result of fake materials being used in construction. Some of those materials are the re-enforcement rod that is not of good quality. Other materials that are not of good quality are cement is not what envisaged and used to have in the past and for us as controlling agency it’s a huge challenge.

So, I want to appeal to Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) to ensure that it polices the manufacturers of these construction materials, so they can adhere to production of building materials.

CED Magazine: Sir, recently the President of Nigeria signed Executive Orders with focus on the built environment in which engineers are to leverage upon, especially Executive Order 5 which is expected to give indigenous players some priority and good patronage to build capacity for Nigeria, it appears we are yet to see the effect. What is your take sir?

Engr. Rabiu:  Firstly, I commend the government for their effort and deeming it fit to promulgate and sign the executive order 5. Yes, engineers are yet to leverage on its advantages as expected and I want to believe it’s not deliberate, because of the downturn in the nation’s economy. 

   We all know that the government is the biggest spender in the economy as far as Nigeria is concerned. And the inflow of cash into our economy is very low and the concomitant effect will be the number of projects spread across the three tiers of government which is the Federal, State and Local government. 

COREN has been given the power to regulate and control engineering practices in all its ramifications in the country means even the tech companies provided what they are doing is engineering, we have the power to walk into the site and check whatever that is being done.

   Because of the downturn in the economy the projects are not there as such for the indigenous engineers practitioners to participate. However we are monitoring the situation, and reaching out to the MDAs to ensure that engineering practitioners are patronized when need arises.

CED Magazine: Further to that sir, now there is Executive Order 11 which relates to maintenance of public buildings and infrastructures; how can this be implemented?

Engr. Rabiu: The executive order 11 which is all about maintenance of public building and infrastructure across the country requires an effective implementation strategy which is the funds. The MDAs need to make the funds available and once that is done and Nigerian engineers are patronized. Because it’s an opportunity for the indigenous practitioners to have money in their pocket while doing the job unlike now that there is no job and no money.

    This is an area in the practice that I believe Nigerian engineers have core competence in the profession. So my expectation is that the government should adhere strictly to the contents and provisions of the executive order 11 by ensuring that they engage Nigeria professionals for the maintenance of public buildings. We would try to monitor it and ensure the expatriates are not unnecessarily brought in to take over the activities under the executive order 11. 

CED Magazine: Engineering as it were includes the Tech companies and the operators; what is your office during to ensure all their activities are properly checked to avoid lapses?

Engr. Rabiu: COREN has been given the power to regulate and control engineering practices in all its ramifications in the country means even the tech companies provided what they are doing is engineering, we have the power to walk into the site and check whatever that is being done. And if we find out that their activities contravene the codes and standards of professional practice according to the COREN Acts as amended we shot the site down.  So if we are able to take advantage of the power, it includes the technical companies.

   The Engineering Regulation Monitoring (ERM) so far has been inaugurated in about 15 states across the country. It has always been in existence, but was not properly backed by law to prosecute offenders but now with the amended act we have the power enter into any site to check what is being done and ensure they follow the codes and standards of engineering practice as amended in the Act. 

   So we are using this to monitor the companies both private and public. We also monitor the expatriate quota to ensure that indigenous engineering personnel are not unnecessarily short changed.

CED Magazine: Sir, speak on the state of Nigerian engineers in terms of innovativeness and capacity building in practice?

Engr. Rabiu: Well, it’s important that the practitioners build excessive capacity in the engineering practice. And because of the need to build capacity in the practice of engineering COREN has introduced the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for the practitioners to be able to renew their practicing license. 

   The idea is to ensure that the practitioners are abreast with the current trend in the engineering practice across the globe so expect the practitioners to attend workshops, conferences and seminars, and that is what we tend to achieve by introducing the CPD programmes. So we don’t joke about the engineering awareness and exposure among the practitioners. 

CED Magazine: Sir, a Nigerian engineer in the person of Engr. Mustafa Balarabe Shehu, FNSE, FAEng, recently has been elected as the President-elect of World Federation Engineering Organization (WFEO); what impact and effect will the position have on Nigeria engineering practice in particular and Africa countries in general?

Engr. Rabiu: Well, Engr. Mustafa Balarabe Shehu, FNSE, FAEng, is indeed a man of destiny; he is an erudite and a very good engineer of repute. We both have served as chairman of NSE Kano branch at one time or the order. We have come a long way in the leadership of the engineering profession in various capacities. For instance when he was the Deputy-President of NSE, I was the Vice-President and he eventually became president. I served under him as Vice-president before I left NSE Excos. 

 So, he is a fine and well trained engineering administrator and manager having served as Chairman of NSE Kano branch, deputy and later as President of NSE, President of Federation of African Engineering Organisations (FAEO) and now President-Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO). 

 He is someone who has a lot of courage and perseverance spirit that is legendary. He sought for the position about two times and now he has got it. I believe his position as the president of the WFEO when he eventually took over by next year will enhance the perspective of the world engineering stakeholders generally in regards to Nigeria engineers particularly and Africa engineers as well. 

He is not the first African to be president of WFEO, but he is the first black African to attain the position as president-elect and we hope to leverage on his achievement to advance the capacity and mobility of Nigerian engineers globally.

CED Magazine: Sir speaks on the infrastructure sector’s performance in the past seven years, roads, rail, airport and waterways infrastructure. We know you are quite vast, especially as a professional engineer and stakeholder in the infrastructure value chain with hands-on experience and knowledge in the performance of the industry?

Engr. Rabiu: There is a national integrated infrastructure master plan that has been produced by the previous government meant to last for the next 30 years that is still being perfected by the present administration. As engineers, every year we have what we call an infrastructure score card which the NSE uses to assess the level of infrastructural development across the federation, whether by the federal, state or local government.

The challenges being faced by this government is enormous and the leadership in their wisdom are doing all they could to ensure the infrastructure development across the country improves. For instance, recently there was a nation grid failure which makes it about ten times it has occurred this year alone. So a lot still needs to be done as far as provision of infrastructure is concerned in the country.

The government is trying as much as they could to avoid total breakdown of the system, and Nigerian engineering practitioners are directly involved in the value chain because infrastructural development requires engineers and all other built environment professionals. We hope the economy will improve in terms of funds being made available for the development of infrastructure across the length and breadth of the nation.

As a nation the rail, roads, airports and the waterways infrastructure needs to be functional and it can only be if the engineering practitioners are engaged at every step of the process.

CED Magazine: Engineering Consultancy is the bedrock of infrastructure development in any nation; what are your takes on the practice, and their patronage?

Engr. Rabiu: As a civil engineering consultant I can categorically say that engineering consultancy practice particularly in our nation has been sustained by the private sector, and the patronage from the public sector is very low. We are in a situation where even our professional colleagues in the system want to handle most of the projects. It amuses me to hear such complaints, because it’s not ethical. How can you be working for the government as a civil servant and at the same time want to secure contracts from the same government you are serving? All these are the reasons why corruption seems not to be leaving the system. 

We hope the system is properly sanitised and pray that things will work out for good, as the consultants’ needs to be challenged by being patronised. The government should patronise Nigerian engineering practitioners because they have the capacity and competence to deliver in any projects. 

As a nation the rail, roads, airports and the waterways infrastructure needs to be functional and it can only be if the engineering practitioners are engaged at every step of the process.

   Capacity can only be built when one is constantly engaged so I encourage the three tiers of government to always look in the direction of our indigenous engineering practitioners at all times when the funds are available to deliver projects.

CED Magazine: Final word, on the industry and some key suggestions on how the engineering profession growth trajectory could improve for the betterment of the nation and industry development?

Engr. Rabiu: Finally, my advice to the government; they should believe in our indigenous engineering practitioners by engaging them with challenging projects when the funds are available. Above all they should ensure the indigenous engineering practitioners get their payment as at when due. 

And for the indigenous engineering practitioners, be you Engineering Consultant, Technologist, Technician and Craftsman, we should adhere strictly to professionalism in practice in accordance with the relevant codes, ethics and standards of the profession.

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