Nigeria Engineers Registration (Amendment) Act 2018 Attracts International Interest
Foreign construction firms dominate the construction market in many developing countries, and they often source equipment, materials and even labor from their own home country. Consequently, locally owned contractors, consultants, material and equipment suppliers and workers, often do not benefit from the investment in the construction sector.
The Nigerian construction industry has registered quite significant growth over the past few years and, output is expected to continue to grow so long as oil prices and government investment remain high.
However, the contribution of construction to GDP and employment appear to be very low by international standards. This is largely due to the domination of foreign construction firms in the construction market with equipment, materials and, in some cases, labor source abroad.
In 2018, the Nigerian government passed into law the Engineers (Registration etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2018 (the “Engineers Act”). The provisions of the Engineers Act amend the Engineers (Registration, etc.) Act Cap E11 LFN 2004 (the “Principal Act”) in order to broaden the powers of the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (“COREN”) in ensuring compliance and upholding international standards within the engineering profession.
The amendments to the Act seek to ensure enhance regulation of engineering practice (including foreign engineering practitioners) in Nigeria due to growing incidence of collapsed buildings and other cases of engineering failures in the country.
In the past four years, it was reported that Nigeria has recorded over fifty-four collapsed buildings, this decay is caused by employment of unqualified engineers for building and engineering projects, and the use of substandard materials in building and engineering projects.
The amendments also seek to ensure capacity building and the development of local content in the Nigerian engineering industry to increase Nigerian participation in the construction industry.
Overview of the Construction and Projects Sector in Nigeria
The Nigerian construction industry struggled in 2020, with output declining by 7.7% in real terms, owing to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown measures.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Nigerian construction industry contracted by 31.8% year-on-year (YoY) in the second quarter of 2020, although the industry recovered in Q3 2020, with a year-on-year (Y-o-Y) growth of 2.8%. In 2021, the industry is expected to recover in line with the slowdown in COVID-19 cases and the recovery in the global economy.
Nigerian Society of Engineers
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) is an umbrella organization for engineers in Nigeria. It was founded on 16 February 1958 by a group of young Nigerian Graduate Engineers and students in the United Kingdom and inaugurated at the Nigerian House in London.
NSE is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission as a company limited by guarantee.
According to NSE website, There are six grades of membership in NSE. They include:
- Student Member
- Graduate Member
- Corporate Member
- Honorary Fellow
Membership Requirements for the Nigerian Society of Engineers
As mentioned above, there are six types of membership in NSE, which each one have its own requirement:
A person must be undergoing a regular course of study in Engineering Science of duration not less than three years in a University or Technical Institution whose curriculum is approved by the Council in respect of Engineering Education.
A person must have undergone a regular course of study in Engineering Science of a duration not less than three years in a University or Technical Institution whose curriculum is approved by the Council, and completed such a course successfully, or satisfied the requirements of other Engineering Societies approved by the Council in respect of Engineering Education.
Person is as at the time of admission engaged in the profession of engineering.
A Corporate member is eligible to all privileges of a member as prescribed by Council, is eligible to vote at the AGM and can aspire to any positions in the Society in line with the conditions as prescribed by Council.
A Member can be moved to Fellowship Cadre upon application and fulfilling the conditions for the category.
Person must possess an academic qualification at the level of a University degree in the Sciences allied to engineering science, or other qualifications approved by the Council of the Society.
Person must have been engaged on work related to the practice of engineering for a minimum period of five years.
A Fellow of the Society is a distinguished category of member with all privileges of a member and other ones conferred by the Fellowship category as prescribed by Council. A Fellow is eligible to vote at the AGM and can aspire to any positions in the Society in line with the conditions as prescribed by Council.
A Fellow of the Society is recognized for valuable and selfless service to the Society and widely acknowledged authority in his field.
Honorary Membership or affiliation is conferred on distinguished persons, who have rendered assistance in the prospection of public works, or eminent in science and experienced in pursuits connected with the profession of Engineering.
Key Provisions of the Act
Perhaps, the most significant amendment to the Act is the requirement on COREN to ensure capacity building and monitoring of local content development in the Nigerian engineering industry. Therefore, COREN is required to ensure mandatory attachment of Nigerians to expatriate engineers on major projects to understudy from the inception of the project. COREN must attest to all expatriate quota applications for foreign engineering practitioners, including turnkey project, that no qualified or competent Nigerian is available to undertake the work. The grant of expatriate quota will be contingent on training of such number of Nigerians as may be required to execute the work.
Also, foreign engineering firms, engaged in Nigerian projects, are now required to establish their design office in Nigeria, and if work permit is required by a foreign engineer, then the foreign engineer must register with COREN and obtain appropriate licenses, including practicing licenses, as may be required.
The Act makes it an offense for an unregistered/unlicensed engineering practitioner or organization to offer engineering consultancy on Nigerian projects, with the imposition of sanction upon conviction. If the offense relates to an unregistered organization, the organization will forfeit all proceeds of the transaction to the Federal Government of Nigeria. In the case of an unlicensed engineering practitioner, he will be liable to a fine five times the annual fees of the license.
The newly introduced amendment is laudable as it broadens the power of COREN to properly regulate engineering practice in Nigeria. The requirement for registration is designed to protect the public and raise the standard of services provided by engineers. It ensures that inexperienced or non-qualified engineers are not permitted to perform engineering work in Nigeria. If properly enforced, engineering services will be provided by registered professional engineers having the requisite skills and competence, thereby reducing incidence of engineering failure in projects executed in Nigeria.
Also, foreign engineering firms engaged in the engineering and design of a Nigerian project must now maintain a local office in Nigeria, even though the nature of the work may not require actual presence in Nigeria. The objective is to ensure that COREN provides oversight function over the activities of foreign engineering firms involved in Nigerian project. However, it is difficult to see how this provision will be implemented in practice since COREN is not involved during the contract bidding phase to ensure foreign engineering and consultancy firms follow the requirement of the Act.
The amendment seeks to achieve local content development in the Nigerian engineering industry through capacity building and training. However, it does not prescribe clear obligations and conditions for training and skill development to ensure a fully developed capacity of the Nigerian workforce. The ownership of the responsibility should be established, and effective strategies enacted to grow capacity and monitor compliance.
Also, there are no express requirements that comprehensively prescribes the increased participation of Nigerians in the construction industry, including the provision of quantifiable targets for Nigerian content. There is, therefore, a need for the enactment of an Act to provide for local content development that reflects the characteristics of the construction industry to ensure increased Nigerian participation in the construction industry and in the overall growth of the economy.