With the spate of building collapse in the country, President of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Mr. Kashim Ali, has said it was time owners of collapsed buildings in which people died were given death sentences if found guilty. The federal government is also set to prosecute culprits in all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), found guilty of awarding the construction of such buildings to unqualified companies and individuals.
Speaking in Abuja while answering questions from journalists at the end of a press briefing to announce the 22nd engineering assembly scheduled to hold in Abuja tomorrow and Wednesday, Ali said COREN was about signing a memorandum of understanding with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), on ways to get public servants that award contracts to unqualified engineering companies.
“Under our laws, no individual or firm that is not registered can do engineering jobs,” he said. “Up till this time, government agencies still give contracts to firms that are not registered. We are trying to do an MoU with the EFCC and ICPC; we have not done that. We are surely going to do it by the grace of God.
“We have already communicated with the ministries to give us a list of their consultants. All ministries that have given contracts to unqualified people, we will send their names to EFCC. That is economic sabotage because can you give your wife to a carpenter to operate upon? So why should you give contracts to unqualified engineers?”
On the necessity of passing death sentences on owners of collapsed buildings that kill people, the COREN boss said: “A collapse is worse than people driving recklessly and killing other people. If you drive recklessly and kill somebody, they will charge you for manslaughter but people responsible for collapsed buildings are not charged for anything. I don’t know if there are no laws stipulating penalties, but people that put up houses that kill people should be punished.
“As far as I am concerned, they don’t deserve anything less than death sentence.”
Ali lamented that apart from jobs given to foreign firms, most contracts handled by Nigerian companies were done by non-engineers.
Asked if that was not an indictment of COREN in not properly regulating that, he admitted they could not be totally absolved of the blame.
Ali regretted the failure of the government to honour policies, stating: “All engineering jobs of N500 million and below should be given to only wholly indigenous Nigerian companies. It was approved by the Federal Executive Council and a White Paper issued but now, jobs of N100 million are given to Lebanese. Even though the policy is there, implementation is poor or non-existent.”
Describing building collapse buildings as a national disgrace, he said everybody who is a patriot should be concerned, adding: “We should seek to force government departments and agencies to bring out the truth about these collapses so those responsible should be punished appropriately.”
He said when buildings collapsed, in no single case in this country had an engineer or a technologist been implicated.
According to Ali, other countries that were serious, allowed engineers to do their infrastructure as a result of which they had lasting infrastructure.
“Before independence and shortly after, engineering was practised properly,” he said.
“This is because at that time, there was respect for professionalism; engineers were allowed to do their jobs.
“Some people who are not engineers claim to be engineers and collect the jobs. Look at the profiles of all jobs done in Nigeria. Those that were not done by foreigners were done by non-engineers.”
He explained that the problem arose because the nation had refused to do what other nations do to grow.
“Let us look at ourselves collectively and have a paradigm shift,” Ali adjured. “Let doctors alone treat those who are sick; we must learn to allow only lawyers to defend people in the courts; we must also let engineers do our infrastructure for sustained growth.”
He dismissed insinuations that there were lapses in the engineering profession, saying: “Every nation in the world spends the largest chunk of its resources on infrastructure. Every infrastructure is constructed with engineering knowledge. Therefore, the largest chunk of the resources are in engineering.”
On the effect of the two years maximum sanction given to erring professional engineers, he said the greatest effect was the disgrace it gives to the culprits, adding: “The greatest problem any engineer can get is for his professional integrity to be questioned. So nobody wants to be convicted.”