Abuja – October 03, 2023- Viewpoint Housing News.
By Adebola Onyeakachi
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), the umbrella organization for the engineering profession in Nigeria, established in 16th February 1958 was founded with a primary objective to “To promote and advance science, engineering and technology as major drivers of National development and International competitiveness”.
Over the years, it has played a significant role in advancing the nation’s economy through its scientific and technological expertise. However, recent developments have raised concerns about the organization’s leadership and its commitment to professionalism and growth. On December 9, 2021, the NSE conducted its 2022 National Executive Committee Members’ election through an online platform. Unfortunately, this election encountered issues related to data manipulation through hacking. Some people were said to have hacked the database of the organization to manipulate the outcome of the election.
At the time, the sitting President, Engr. Babagana Mohammed, delegated the task of informing the Annual General Meeting (AGM) about the situation to the then Deputy President, now the current President, Engr. Tasiu Sa’ad Gidari-Wudil, that is after encouraging Wudil ‘to continue the process to its logical conclusion because it is a matter of integrity not only for NSE but the Nigerian nation’. After heated debates among members and former Presidents such as Engrs. F.A.Shonubi, Olumuyiwa Alade Ajibola, Adekunle Mokuolu, and Mustapha Balarabe Shehu, who all expressed disapproval of the irregularities, the majority consensus was that the election should be cancelled.
Therefore, the NSE’s election held on December 9, 2021 was cancelled by its immediate past President, Babagana Mohammed, over an alleged “criminal cyber breach”. Since its inception in 1958, the annulment of the elections was the first time the NSE was enmeshed in controversy of such. While some members protested, the election results were eventually announced, albeit without the signatures of many candidates’ agents. Affected members were directed to appeal to the NSE Election Appeal Committee.
In response, aggrieved contestants and disenfranchised members filed appeals. However, the Appeal Panel, led by the late Engr. Charles Mbanefo, chose to uphold the election results without adequately addressing the appeals, citing adherence to the Society’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (MEMART). This decision had received strong support from Engr. H.A.Gumel, but a minority report challenging this decision was submitted to the Council of the Society by Engr. Adekunle Mokuolu, a member of the Appeal Panel.
To the surprise of many members, some past Presidents, who initially condemned the election irregularities, began supporting the results because this favored their preferred candidate for the Deputy President position. In the aftermath of the 2021 AGM, President Engr. Babagana Mohammed invited the Department of State Services (DSS) to investigate and prosecute the hackers via letter dated December 13,2021 Ref: NSE/HQ/ES/174/VOL.7 signed by the late NSE Executive Secretary, Engr. Dr.Okopi Alex Momoh. However, the DSS, after conducting an investigation, have allegedly failed to submit a report or take action against the hackers.
NSE’s leadership’s support of the controversial 2021 election results, despite pending legal matters in the Abuja High Court, has raised questions about its commitment to transparency. In the same year, the Council appointed one of the past Presidents, Engr. Kashim Abdul Ali, as the Chairman of the Election Committee. This move has sparked concerns as Engr. Kashim Ali, as past President of COREN (Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria), his appointment is seen by many members as an attempt to influence the election in favor of another past COREN President, Engr. A.A. Rabiu.
Despite these controversies, Engr. Mustapha Balarabe Shehu, another past NSE President, and an official of international engineering organizations, has also been unable to rectify the situation. Officials like Engr. F.A.Shonubi, Engr. Ottis Anyaeji, Engr. Dr.Joseph Uujamah, Engr. Adeola Isaac Olorunfemi, Engr. Chief Olumuyiwa Alade Ajibola, Engr. Emeka Eze, as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), are all facing criticism for not taking decisive action on the matter, despite numerous member appeals and a committee’s findings. The Society remains divided on the issue of an alleged hacker, who continues to work within the NSE despite revelations about his activities. The DSS’s refusal to act and the lack of response from the NSE leadership have further fueled concerns.
Therefore, these concerns are that the crisis has put the integrity of the society under scrutiny, just as Nigerian engineers are still waiting to see remedies to the crisis. The Nigerian Society of Engineers, as well as its regulatory counterpart COREN, is facing significant challenges that could impact the nation’s security and economy.
To avoid bringing NSE, one of the oldest professional bodies in the country, into disrepute, it is crucial for the federal government to live up to expectation and seek the DSS’s investigation report and take appropriate action to address these concerns.