In this exclusive interview with The AUTHORITY News Editor, Emma Okereh, the national president of Nigerian Institution of Power Engineers, Engr Israel Abraham among other things, says the institution is poised to fight quackery and pressurize government to only appoint power engineers to head the sector. Excerpts:
Who we are:
The Nigerian Institution of Power Engineering is the specialist technical institution or professional body in the power industry. It comprises of all the power engineering practitioners that are in the power and allied industry; all industries that are related to electric power or allied to them like construction of cables, transformers, breakers, if they are allied or part of the construction of its industry.
All those engineers or engineering professionals are all members of the Nigerian Institution of Power Engineers. Of course, not everybody is fully registered with the body yet, because we are still growing. We need to sensitize them, expand our awareness drive mechanism so that they can all come into the fold.
Difference between power engineer and electric engineer:
There is no much difference between the two. What you have in the past, because the industry has spent about 120 years in existence, since 1897 when the power industry started in this country are Nigerian Engineering workers. The demarcation or the need to segment clearly was not being considered or when even considered at all, only happens in your particular segment.
We realized that since the segmentation was not there, quackery persisted. Just anybody per se in the power industry is regarded as an expert. The reason is that there is no clear cut demarcation that shows who is the worker.
In the sector, there are various kinds of workers. You have Power Engineering professionals, you also have those who are not power professionals but work in the same platform with you. You have others like accountants, lawyers, administrators, they are all there. The point to note here is that it is not the number of years you work in the power sector that makes you a power professional. It is the duty, work schedule, specifications that make you a professional. But unfortunately we live in a country where virtually everything goes and government believes it has the prerogative to appoint whosoever it likes. The issue should be that government should appoint the right people with the requisite training, competence and professionalism to offices suitable to their sector so that we can make progress and development.
You bring somebody that is not a core professional and ask him to run a place he doesn’t have comparative advantage to and competence, you have virtually run the place aground even before you start.
When you want to appoint somebody to the industry, you must get a thorough bred. That is the reason we came up with the idea. You may work in the industry for many years but that doesn’t make you a power engineer because you are only limited to department where you work.
Our strategy is to shout it out. Let the government and the public know we are here. We have to be consulted in the things that need our expertise. May be, people don’t know there are power engineers because, when you say, get me an engineer, they just get you anybody that is associated with engineering profession. We need to build capacity to strengthen the sector. We also need to build competence. We need to change the narrative. We need to rely on those who know the industry and not just anybody who is associated with the industry. Engineering has over 100 disciplines and practice. Your area of practice is what defines your engineering. Engineering is practice not science. When you are in school studying engineering, it is the science of it. Once you leave school, you are now coming to practice engineering. Engineering is not in the school, it is its science we have in the school. The mistake people make is that they keep saying they studied engineering; but no; what you studied is the science of that engineering. Its only when you come out and practices it, that’s when you begin to do the engineering. Unfortunately, nobody is saying this because some people somewhere would think you are after them or their jobs. But, no. It is for the good of our country and its development.
For instance, if somebody is appointed as MD of a coy in the power sector and he is not a core power professional, if you emphasize it, he will think it is targeted at him. He sees it from the parochial and selfish interest rather than national interest. Nigeria has come down to that level. So, we need to sensitize everybody. Every industry has its core professionals. If it is in the judiciary, they have their professionals, the same with accounting, medicals, lawyers etc.
The lawyers have been able to protect their turf but it appears they are not satisfied. You still find them heading some professional outfits to the detriment of the core professionals and the country at large. Once you don’t have the technical capacity to run specialized sector like the power industry, then you are creating more problems than solving. It means you are put in office to serve certain interest while the country bleeds. If you appoint the right person with requisite training, there won’t be need for lobbying, mediocrity and unnecessary ordering. The person so appointed knows that he is coming there with well-equipped and with good knowledge and grasp of the sector.
Professionals take technical specialist decisions. That is why we insist that the power sector must be manned by power engineers. In the coming months, we intend to move into the National Assembly to have our institution chartered. When we become chattered, we will be emboldened to come out with clear-cut information to the public and the government. We will push for an act that will make us stand out. Then, we will move from an advocacy group to enforcement group and then be able to bring certain things to bear.
Our parent body is the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and all of us are under the umbrella-Power engineers, Water engineers, transport, marine, leather, ICT name it. We are affiliated to it and its like the ombudsman.
I implore my colleagues to be steadfast and get on board so that we can strengthen the industry for the development and growth of our nation. They should research on how we can contribute meaningfully to the new power act that will soon start in the national assembly.