When engineers don’t respect ethics, by Sam Akpe
A few years ago, Effiong Bob walked into the Sacred Senate Chamber with about half a dozen bills. It was unprecedented in the history of the Nigerian legislature. All bills were placed on the Order Paper for first reading and were taken; same day. When it was enacted, one of them granted full operational autonomy to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.
As a senator, Bob’s voice on the Senate floor was not that loud. But at the level of the Committee – which is the engine room of legislative affairs – he was a master of the game. Those who should know, know that the Senate in plenary session is a Senate on display, the Senate in the committee room is a Senate in his workshop. It is at the Committee level that the worth of individual Senators is measured and noted.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and then Chairman of the Senate Services Committee, Bob carried out his duties quietly with astonishing speed and precision. He pursued each task with a messianic commitment. So when he was invited by the Nigerian Institution of Mechanical Engineers a few weeks ago to deliver a keynote address at their annual event, he took the ball straight into their court.
Speaking on: Impact of legislation on the practice of engineering: the experience of mechanical engineers, Bob said the theme of the presentation was completely aligned with the prevailing issues of the season; especially in a country where impunity seems to reign almost everywhere and in everything.
Without a doubt, he said that the relevance of engineering and engineers in our daily existence cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Despite their failures and their apologies, we cannot forget to applaud their small successes.
He was right. A closer look at the environment will always reveal that the major creations of the infrastructure around us – things that help make life worth living – are the product of engineering ingenuity. Some engineers create, others maintain. I can only imagine how boring and dull life would be without engineers.
Bob said the formal regulation of engineering is crucial because it is the law that separates the practice of engineering from other natural sciences. The law provides guidelines, specifies controls and gives impetus to practice. Legal frameworks ensure public safety.
It defined engineering legislation as the process of passing and enforcing laws to ensure the qualification, safety and compliance of the quality, application and use of engineering results. It also means protocols on how ethics and legal frameworks are used to ensure quality delivery and public safety in the profession.
The former senator told the attentive audience that legislation in the practice of engineering is aimed at preventing certain problems and behaviors observed in the application of science in the public interest, with the aim of protecting life and the well-being of people; because it would be against the course of the game for a practicing engineer to endanger public safety.
By implication, the law places a high responsibility on the engineer to uphold sound ethical standards in his operation, as a failure of the system would most likely result in legal action, especially if such a failure creates liability by causing harm to the public. or incurring other unforeseen costs, such as resulting from a breach of ethics or ethics.
Bob said, âThis is one of the reasons a practitioner needs to be registered for proper identification, regulation, oversight, training and discipline. He is expected to practice professionally and within the regulations governing the practice. The legislation confers moral and legal authority on practitioners of the profession. It also comes with expectations and punitive measures.
“Let it be clear that anyone who considers themselves to be a professional in any aspect of human activity, whether what they practice is not governed or regulated by law or is not known to no law in force, that person must engage in an act that is contrary to the interests and safety of society. The reason is that it cannot be rightly held responsible if something goes wrong, because where there is no law you cannot speak of breaking the law.
What he meant here was that an unregulated space is susceptible to being ruled by impunity. Regulations generate penalties. Any human endeavor requires knowledge of the laws governing the exercise of this responsibility and the rights of others in the practice environment.
Really, since an engineer deals with a wide range of activities that involve lives and the environment, he must be guided, and indeed, stopped by law, if he is ill-advised. The law is there to control and give impetus to the practice. Bob went ahead to cite specific existing laws that aim to guide the practice of engineering in Nigeria.
He noted that without legislation, the practice of engineering would be subject to infiltration and serious abuse by unqualified people. Of course, even with the legislation, the practice is richly infiltrated by people of different categories who have not received the required training that qualifies them to practice.
Referring to Articles 6 and 7 of the Engineers (Registration, etc.) Act 1992, he said that it clearly specifies who should be registered as an engineer as well as the titles to be used. Article 7 states that a registered engineer must use the abbreviation âEngr; “An engineering technologist should use” Engr Tech; “And a technician should use” Tech; While a registered artisan mechanic must use his full title with his trade in parenthesis under his name.
Bob said: âBut there are many people who use the Engr prefix, but have not received professional training from the relevant institutions and certainly not certified by the appropriate body to practice as prescribed in Article 6 of the law. “
He said these people take care of the execution of projects and in most cases create image problems for the profession through ethical and criminal failures. But again, even some certified practitioners also flout the codes and bring the profession into disrepute.
This is where the relevance of the legislation comes in, to preserve the profession of charlatans. But although the relevant laws exist, it is the duty of the Nigeria Engineering Regulatory Council (COREN) to ensure that they are enforced in the interest of the profession and the safety of society.
It has been revealed that different aspects of engineering legislation deal with different areas of activity. Without tort, for example, impunity would be successful, especially in our climate where the propensity for substandard deliveries is high. The law assigns blame and penalties.
In addition, contract law defines the rules of engagement between engineers, business partners and customers. The Product Liability Act speaks of quality. There is also the law on the protection of intellectual property; and the codes and regulations of safety legislation.
If the law provides checks and balances, Bob questioned, âWe have had several cases of collapsed structures in our society, including buildings, roads and bridges; and these are structures that a number of professional engineers must have or are believed to have been involved in building.
âLet’s look inside. Can the PC honestly absolve itself of blame or complicity in the collapse of these structures since its members were involved or are believed to have been involved in the construction of such structures?
âHow is it that despite the uproar that accompanies every incident with accompanying victims, it happens over and over again? Does this mean that regulators do little to force members to line up or deal with charlatans to have a deterrent effect?
âThis is an area to focus on. The organization has a responsibility to save the profession from this embarrassing situation which in some cases has cost lives. There is therefore an urgent need for strict enforcement of laws governing the practice of engineering if professional integrity is to be maintained.
COREN, don’t pretend you haven’t heard, please.
Sam Akpe is a journalist and editor.
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