President of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, (APBN), Bldr Engr. Bala Bawa Ka’Oje who was recently awarded with the prestigious fellowship of Association of Chartered Building Engineers of United Kingdom by Engr. Micheal Wadood and Dr. John Hooper, the president and Chief Executive of the Association respectively spoke to Evelyn Okakwu on the need for Nigeria to go green like other nations and why we must pass building code into law. excerpts.
Having been awarded the prestigious fellowship of the Association of Chattered Building Engineers of United Kingdom (UK), could you tell us about yourself with regard to construction industry?
Well, I stated my career in the building industry with the Sokoto State Ministry of Works as pupil building engineer. Of course after a short while, I went to do my Masters, specializing in concrete structure. When I came back to the Ministry, I worked as the head of department of structural engineering. However, when I came back from Srilanka, I was appointed a director at a very young age.
Having served the state for about 25 years I left the ministry as a substantive director and moved to Julius Berger (Nig) PLC as a senior civil engineer. I want to inform you that my main practical experience was gathered while working with Julius Berger for about 15 years and during all those years, I wasn’t aloof. I have been improving upon in my area of specialization being building. I had to join professional bodies.
As an active member of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), I was elected its president in 2005. While I was the president of NIOB, I was also working very hard with the Council for Registration of Builders in Nigeria CORBON as a board member. But when I left the presidency of NIOB, I was then elected into the position of president of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN).
As the president of APBN, I started thinking of how Nigeria can go green like most of other African countries like South Africa, countries of Europe, North America, Asia, among others. About three years ago, we attended UN habitat in Kenya for the same purpose and attended a workshop there for about a week. There, we were told about the importance of going green by nations. However, when we came back, we handed our reports over to the then Minister of Urban Development and as I am talking to you, nothing has happened to that effect. Well we don’t want to relent in our effort. We are still dialoguing with the World Green Building Council (WGBC) in Canada. We are working closely with them. They are equally working very closely with South Africa and Ghana.
We started the same time with Ghana, but today, Ghana is far ahead of us. The government of Ghana supported our colleagues financially and otherwise and they are doing very fine to that effect. Here in Nigeria, we are still working. We have got an office. We have equally registered Nigerian Green Building Council (NGBS). We did that because; we didn’t want to continue to wait for the government since we want the country to move forward. We have the belief that sooner or later, the government would know its benefits and embrace it. So those are some of the activities I carried out for the nation. So I am not only happy for having been working very closely with my professional bodies in Nigeria, but also with those outside the country, especially in the United States (US) and UK. In the UK I work very closely with the Association of Chartered Building Engineers. We got our charter last year. We gather every year to update our knowledge, talk of building development all over the world. We equally discuss on development in UK and USA.
Can you speak on the recent professional certificate awarded to you in UK?
As i told you earlier that I have been relating with my professional groups within and outside the country, because I believe in updating my knowledge. I believe that knowledge is never lost. What you are learning from advanced nations can be useful in your country. That is why I make time to attend seminars within and outside the country.
I am well abreast on my profession. I can defend my profession anywhere, any time. That award I received was in recognition of my contribution to the building industry within and outside Nigeria. The people in the UK have been borrowing from my contributions. I travel to UK and US, not to hover around. We move to sites and share ideas. I am not only expert in Nigeria, but an expert internationally.
Which other ways have you been helping Nigeria with regard to your profession?
I am well known in the construction engineering by those in the profession and those who are not in the profession. I offer counseling in the industry. I also go to universities to give lecture freely to those who are studying building. I have headed some of our professional bodies successfully and have been fighting for the development of building construction in this country.
We are surprise that we are still experiencing building collapses in his country when professionals of international repute are here, could you comment on that?
Well the level at which building collapse in this country is alarming. The blames could go to our colleagues as well as the government. In everything one is doing, there must be a law. As you know I have been talking on the importance of passing Building code into law, which if done would help in the building industry. Without the law in place to guide those in the industry, buildings shall continue to collapse. Every country of the word has a law that regulates building construction industry.