The Association for Consulting Engineering in Nigeria. ACEN, was founded in 1972 and registered in 1979. Its objective is the development of Consulting Engineering practice in Nigeria by the mobilization of private sector Engineering Consultants for the advancement of the Consulting Engineering sub-sector of the built environment. The focus of this effort is to ensure that the highest level of technical competence and business ethics are brought to bear on the practice of the profession in Nigeria.
Prior to December 2007, ACEN membership was open to individual and firm members, who possessed the required experience and professional integrity. At the 2007 AGM, a motion was passed limiting ACEN membership to firms. This was to further emphasize the business nature and focus of the association. Membership is therefore now open to Consulting Engineering firms with the adequate experience and commitment to continuous improvement in technical and business integrity.
As at December 2007, ACEN had about 157 firm members and 129 individual members. Upon rationalization of the individual category which has now been largely eliminated, ACEN firm membership is now about 200, made up of firm members.
The aim of ACEN is to have members in every state of the federation and the federal capital, as every state is entitled to the highest level of Consulting Engineering practice. Today, ACEN has members in only 21 of the 37 states and FCT. Of the states in which we are present, only four states have the critical number for effective association.
ACEN, NSE & COREN
Sometimes the public is confused or not very clear about the roles of different Engineering organizations. The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, CPREN, is the statutory body with responsibility for the regulation of all Engineering activities in Nigeria. It is empowered to keep a register of all Engineering craftsmen, technologists, Engineers and Engineering Firms who wish to practice in the country. No individual or organization is allowed to practice Engineering in Nigeria without the approval of COREN. Thus all member firms of ACEN must be registered with COREN and the senior members of such firms must also be individually registered by COREN.
The Nigerian Society of Engineers is the umbrella association of all graduate Engineers in Nigeria. It registers only individual Engineers and has student, member and fellow categories. Although a voluntary organization, all Engineers are proud to be members, and most Engineers employed in ACEN members Firms are members of NSE. Conversely, most members of NSE with interest in Consulting Engineering practice are members of ACEN.
NSE works through branches and divisions and addresses technical, statutory, professional and other concerns of the engineer. Unlike COREN and NSE which have universal coverage of Engineering coverage, ACEN focuses only on the business interest of Consulting Engineers. Its interest is therefore specific and complementary to the scope of COREN and NSE.
ACEN, FIDIC & GAMA
Right from the beginning, ACEN founding fathers had international relationship as part of their primary focus. The International Federation of Consulting Engineers, FIDIC, provides the strongest platform for our international activities. Even before formal registration as an association in Nigeria, ACEN members attended FIDIC conferences in observer status. Today, ACEN plays an active role in the 82 member organization. Two of ACEN members, Engrs. J.I. Folayan and Bayo Adeola have served on the Executive Committee, the highest level of the organization. Others have served on committees and task forces of the organization, and members attend the annual conferences in large numbers.
FIDIC aims to be the voice of the Consulting engineer in the world, and it does this through seven major focus areas of Representation, Business Practice, Ethics/Integrity, Image, Sustainability, Globalization & Quality.
FIDIC is perhaps best known for its contracts documents, which are used all over the world, especially international projects in the third world. The documents are used extensively by the Federal Ministry of Works. In addition, FIDIC has a Guide to Practice that teaches best practice in Consulting Engineering, Business Integrity Management Manual, Quality Management Manual and several others. African members of FIDIC in 1992 formed the Group of African Member Association, GAMA, as a subset of FIDIC to address specifically African concerns. GAMA currently has 13 members, holds regular annual conferences and AGM, and promotes networking among its members. Nigeria played a very active role in the formation of GAMA and has continued to be very active in the association.
CHALLENGES OF ACEN
Despite the fact that ACEN has been in existence for over thirty years, some of the challenges leading to its formation have remained while new ones have appeared. The most notable current challenges are as follow:
- Government Procurement Policies:- Perhaps the greatest challenge that ACEN faces is in trying to persuade both state and federal governments to have policies and laws that ensure the development of Engineering competences in the country. Nigerian parents and governments spend billions of hard earned money to educate young Nigerians, only to lose them to the international market by not providing opportunity for their engagement. At the same time, these governments patronize foreign companies with passion on the grounds that Nigerians are not competent. Competent comes from two basic sources training and practice. Without the opportunity to practice, Nigeria will forever have to source engineering services from abroad. In the recent past, the last administration embarked on local content policy in the oil and gas sector. ACEN is pushing that this policy is extended to all other sectors of the economy. All Nigerian work must be done in Nigeria, and maximum opportunity be given for the participation of Nigerians in the development of our country.
- Private Sector Perception:- The private sector in Nigeria is rapidly developing. The banking, telecommunication and insurance sectors have gone through reforms that have empowered them to improved performance. The consequence of this, however, is that these industries have continued to source expertise from outside our shores on the ground of global competition. While they are willing to pay international rates to expatriate companies, they negotiate fees in the local practice to the point that such businesses are difficult to sustain, not to talk of provide quality service. ACEN advocates that the local content policy be extended to the private sector so that local capacity for improved performance can be developed locally.
- Loss of Engineers to Other Sectors:- Increasingly, Engineering schools are attracting less and less of first class quality students because income in the sector is low, the course rigorous, and employment uncertain. Those who eventually graduate sooner or later succumb to the attraction of other sectors of the economy banking, telecommunication and multinational companies. The result is a death of competent professionals in the industry. There is a self fulfilling prophesy here. Poor pay leads to loss of competent Engineers. This in turn leads to poor quality work. Poor quality work leads to loss of confidence. Loss of confidence leads to patronage of foreigners, and the circle goes on. ACEN pleads for procurement policy and laws that promote local development of the Consulting Engineering industry.
- Number, Size & Scope of Member Firms:- Although ACEN now has about 200 members, and is projected to about 250 by the end of 2010, this number is grossly inadequate for a population of 140 million. South Africa, with a population of about 47 million has about 400 Consulting firms. Thus, one of ACEN objectives is to increase the number of engineering firms in its fold. More than the number of firms, however, the sizes of the firms is of utmost importance. While there are firms with over 500 staff in South Africa, there is currently no firm in ACEN that has over two hundred staff. Indeed, over 80% of the firms in Nigeria have less than ten staff. The firms are thus small and difficult to sustain. While small specialized firms have their usefulness in the industry, they are optimized when there are a few large firms that can provide platforms for general training, leadership and engagement of the leadership of the society. ACEN is committed to ensuring standards for the small firms to ensure that the stakeholders in the built environment get maximum value for their investments. At the same time, ACEN seeks to promote the growth of large firms as a necessity for the growth of the industry. The challenges of this include procurement policies and laws of the nation, perception of the private sector, loss of competent Engineers to other sectors and standards and ethical behaviour for its members.