Faced with the dearth of innovations, engineers have urged the Federal government to provide the enabling environment, especially funding and infrastructure towards technological growth in the country.
According to the experts who spoke to The Guardian on the sidelines of the engineering week of the Nigerian society of engineers, Ikeja branch, in the past years, there has been a lot of innovative engineering projects, which Nigerian engineers can also design, if the enabling environments are provided.
A former national chairman of Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineering, Saliu Lawal said it is difficult for engineers in the country to come up with innovations because the training, which most practitioners had in the past 15 years is such that tends toward over specialisation in the profession.
He observed that the professionals in the field are highly innovative but the environment is such that there is general lack of support/encouragement, research and funds to convert designs and ideas into finished products.
For him, engineers should go out of their sphere, invest in agriculture, hitech and artificial intelligence which is the direction the global community is focusing adding that practitioners should also collaborate with friends in government to solicit for support in funding engineering innovations/ideas.
“The experts are needed to work with the developer of the design to perfect it and ensure that there is an improvement. Nigeria should take full advantage of what it has and apply engineering and technology to add value to our agricultural produce. Established engineers should encourage young practitioners to diversify.”
He said one of the things the federal government could do to boost innovations in the country, was to empower the engineering regulatory body, COREN by implementing the signed latest version of its document which permits practitioners to minimize the impacts of quacks in the profession into law.
The Chairman of Nigerian Society of Engineers Ikeja branch, Funmilade Akingbagbohun said one of the challenges is basically the fact that a lot of engineers want to work in the oil and gas sector and earn salaries whereas there are a lot of opportunities that are opened to engineers to enter into and produce innovations for the country.
She pointed out that the federal government and engineers should consistently organize innovation and creativity fair wherein people would come in with designs that could solve problems within the environment.
She stated that innovations such as, fabrication of the feathering machine for removing feathers of chickens, working with a lot of people that would give ideas which are able to solve challenges within the environment especially in the agricultural industry which is the key area where people consume their food at all the time are needed to move the country forward.
“Take for instance, a chartered accountant who fabricated a cassava peeling and processing machine for people to use in the agricultural industry. That’s a challenge for Nigerian engineers and a wake-up call, to think without the box, work on designs that would help to move the nation forward. The federal government withdrawal of foreign exchange for importation of food items would help engineers to come up with innovations that will assist in the agricultural value chain”, she said.
According to an inventor, Mr. Babajide Oladapo, with huge opportunities in Nigeria especially in agricultural sector, Nigeria needs to invest in processing and fabrication of machines for crops like, cassava, cocoa and other since it has comparative advantage over countries of the world.
He appealed to the federal government to address the dearth of facilities needed to fabricate machines, which he said include, constant power, good road network, and improve security systems.
If we have those three essentials in place, engineers could fabricate machines even in the corners of our room and export to other countries. Look at how economies grow in China and other advance countries, it is through the cottage industry and so Nigeria needs strategic development through engineering innovations.”
Corroborating, Oladapo, a past chairman of Ikeja branch of NSE, Akintola Akintayo stressed that the federal government should play its role by providing the necessary infrastructures.
“An economy that is run on generator is never an economy. Nigeria is on the top in terms of engineering education but what is needed is the enabling environment. Nigerian engineers can compete favourably with anybody from all over the world.”