Guest Columnist Nigerian Law

NIGERIA ENGINEERS REGISTRATION (AMENDMENT) ACT 2018 ATTRACTS INTERNATIONAL INTEREST – Ngo-Martins Okonmah MCIArb

Introduction

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 local and 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[4], 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 Nigerian construction industry.

Foreign construction firms dominate the construction market in many developing countries and they often source equipment, materials and even labour 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.[1] 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.[2] However, the contribution of construction to GDP and employment appear to be very low by international standards.[3] This is largely due to the domination of foreign construction firms in the construction market with equipment, materials and, in some cases, labour source abroad.

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.[5] Therefore, COREN is required to ensure mandatory attachment of Nigerians to expatriate engineers on major projects to understudy from the inception of the project.6 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.[7]

Also, foreign engineering firms, engaged in Nigerian projects, are now required to establish their design office in Nigeria,[8] 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.[9]

The Act makes it an offence for an unregistered/unlicensed engineering practitioner or organisation to offer engineering consultancy on Nigerian projects with the imposition of sanction upon conviction. If the offence relates to an unregistered organisation, the organisation will forfeit all proceeds of the transaction to the Federal Government. In the case of an unlicensed engineering practitioner, he will be liable to a fine five times the annual fees of the license.

Conclusion
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 Nigerian 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 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 contentdevelopment 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, andeffective 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.

ENDNOTES

[1].1 B. Fernz, J. Hawkins, P. Mathews and J. Wells
“Policy Review: Local Content Bill for the Nigerian
Construction Industry: Final Report.

[2]. Ibid

[3]. Ibid

[4]. https://punchng.com/nigeria-records-54-
building-collapse-cases-in-four-years/

[5]. Section 1(1)(g)

[6]. Section 1(1)(g)(i)

[7]. Section 1(1)(g)(iii)

[8]. Section 1(1)(g)(ii)

[9]. Section 1(1)(g)(iv)

Ngo-Martins Okonmah MCIArb

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ngo-Martins is a senior associate in the top-ranking Dispute Resolution practice at Nigeria’s largest and leading full-service firm Aluko & Oyebode and coordinates the firm’s construction law practice. He holds an MSc. Construction Law and Dispute Resolution from the prestigious King’s College London and has built specific expertise in construction law and arbitration. In 2015, he worked in the London office of Pinsent Masons LLP, the world’s leading construction law firm, as a foreign qualified lawyer working on construction adjudication and handling project claims. He has expertise in major standard forms of construction and engineering contract including the JCT, FIDIC, IChemE international standard version, bespoke forms involving funder led EPC and EPCM. He advises clients on a range of issues on project development and the resolution of disputes arising in the course of projects, including dispute boards, adjudication, expert determination and arbitration. He has acted as arbitration counsel in both domestic and international arbitration seated in the UK.
Ngo-Martins regularly presents in conferences and seminars. He is a founding member of the Society of Construction Law Nigeria; member of the construction law technical sub-committee of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce International Arbitration Centre; member of the Dispute Resolution Board Federation UK; member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators UK (Nigerian branch) and an Executive Director of the African Arbitration Academy.

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