interviewBy Mustapha Suleiman
Abuja — Engineer Felix Atume is the current Registrar of the Council for the Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). In this interview he spoke on COREN's recent partnership with Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), under utilisation of indigenous engineers in the country and the measures being taken by COREN to ensure that indigenous engineers measure up to international standard.
Going through your mandate one will see that they are laudable, especially in making Nigerian engineers more proactive, could you tell us what have been your major challenges in executing your mandates?
Basically COREN has major mandates in engineering registration, monitoring, training, regulation and education. In trying to carry out these mandates the engineering regulation and monitoring is really a big challenge in the sense that first we see that it is not anybody that is allowed to practise engineering in Nigeria. To practise, he / she must be registered by COREN; this is to ensure that there is value for anything you do in engineering. Secondly, any foreigner that has been given a work permit in this country must first be registered by COREN before he can be allowed to practise, but there are challenges, there are cases where foreigners are allowed to practice engineering by the populace without being registered by COREN, but luckily we have Comptroller General of Immigration that is collaborating with COREN ,and very soon we will get there and ensure that only those registered by COREN are allowed to practise in Nigeria.
Of recent is to ensure that if you say you are an engineer you will receive the value for whatever you are doing in engineering and the government must have value for money spent on engineering projects it is very difficult because 80 percent of all the projects of government are centred on engineering and so all manner of people get into engineering programmes producing quacks that am happy to say with the introduction of the Engineering Regulation , COREN is doing a lot to ensure that only the right people are allowed to practise the profession but it is quite a big challenge.
Could you tell us how the Tribunal set up by your Council is progressing with its task of trying erring registered engineers in the industry?
There are many cases before the Tribunal now. First, the cases were investigated. Engineers or engineering personnel that were involved in shoddy jobs or unethical professional attitude have been referred to the Tribunal. The Tribunal is going to sit very soon to look at the cases. But by and large in most cases when we hear of engineering failures we investigated and discovered that no engineer is involved, in most cases are quacks. When you hear of building collapse here and there it is the quacks, people who are not qualified in the first place that handled these projects.
We have been telling the public that they should only engage the services of registered engineers. It is very sad that in a country like Nigeria with many qualified engineers we still hear of buildings collapsing. It is a big shame but the solution is very simple when there is a building collapse anywhere the Police should condone off the place get all the people that were involved , the developer, people from the Development Control that approved it and if there is any technical engineer involved all of them should face sanctions . For example if the developer did not involve an engineer in the development of that project he should be jailed immediately. By doing this it will serve as deterrent to others. But if an engineer is involved we will take it up and arraign such before our Tribunal for punitive measures to be taken against him.
How has COREN sensitise the public on how they should identify an engineer from the quacks?
The law establishing COREN is a law of the land and we have made it clear that the law have to be strictly followed in all cases but it requires the political will of everybody. The right thing has to be done nobody should take the law into his hand , we have established engineering regulation monitoring but it requires those in government and all the stakeholders to say look if I have an engineering project I must involve the engineers . It is getting the right thing done and this should be a duty of all of us in this country. We should look for the right people and to get the right people they must belong to COREN who must have seen that they are well qualified before they are certified. We have done a lot of publicity to sensitise the people on why they need to engage us in their engineering projects. If somebody comes to you and says he is an engineer the first thing you should ask is his registration number. You can then go to our web site and cross check because you are spending your money so why must you spend your money on somebody that is not qualified to handle your project? And as I mentioned earlier because over 80 percent of our government budget is on engineering, so everybody comes into it everybody has one or two things to do with contracts and they feel they can cut corners.