By Abuchi Obiora

When the government of President Mohammadu Buhari announced the appointment of Professor Idris Mohammad Bugaje as the Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) on April 14th 2021, little did Nigerians know that the clog withholding the wheel of progress in the technological development of the country had been unclogged from its root. By that appointment, that government actually plugged in a square peg in a square hole.

Coming from the background of stakeholders who train and nurture manpower resources and personnel that take charge of the nation’s technology infrastructure (he is a chemical engineer and was the Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, Kaduna before his appointment), Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje understood the challenges that may be encountered on his way serving as the head of the agency of government one of whose major functions is to regulate Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria.

By the way, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is a Nigerian government agency and an organ of the Federal Ministry of Education. A creation of an Act of Parliament (Act No 9 of 11th January 1977) to achieve the purpose of

developing a critical manpower base for the execution of national development plans and agenda, it is a surprise that this organ of the Federal Ministry of Education has not, till now dipped in a necessary anchor needed to achieve one of the primary objectives of its existence as a statutory entity upon whose care is entrusted with regulating the policy frameworks in the training of manpower resources for the development of engineering systems and processes that will drive national development plans and agenda.

Upon his appointment as the Executive Secretary of the NBTE, Prof. Idris Mohammadu Bugaje immediately hit the road running in order to achieve the much envisaged national goal of massive development in the nation’s technological infrastructure. Like a Colossus, he has ridden astride the hitherto and seemingly insurmountable problems that had bedeviled the NBTE as he stood akimbo the traditional obstacles that tasked the efforts of his predecessors, conquering those obstacles which had challenged the creative acumens and best intentions of the former Executive Secretaries of the NBTE.

One of the traditional obstacles to the realization of the purposes for which the NBTE was created is the inequity in the response of the Nigerian private and public sectors in dealing with the HND graduates of the Polytechnic/Technical institutions and the B.A/B.Sc graduates of the universities, respectively. Sequel to an executive prompting from the ES of the NBTE, a one-day dialogue on the future of Higher National Diploma in the Nigerian education system was recently held in Abuja by stakeholders who converge and proposed the transition of Higher National Diploma (HND) to Bachelor of Technology, B.Tech (Hons). In his presentation during the meeting, the ES of NBTE, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje observed that the dialogue was necessary to address pressing issues especially regarding the non-level playing ground that exists between holders of the HND and B.A/B.Sc certificates of the Polytechnics Technical schools and the Universities respectively. He said, “We all recognize the unique role of the TVET sector in complementing other educational domains and fostering industrialization and socio-economic progress”. He noted that there are still more to do to enhance the operations of the Board of the NBTE, insisting that, “Despite the pivotal role it plays, the HND qualification, earned after five years of rigorous study and internship, continues to face unwarranted discrimination within the Nigerian public service.”

Continuing, he said, “Even with concerted efforts, including proposed legislation and appeals from students and Staff Unions, discrimination against HND holders persists”.

It is a welcome development that Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje, a keen lover and promoter of made-in-Nigeria systems and processes who had once emphasized the critical need for Nigeria to embrace indigenous production and fabrication of laboratory equipment, tools and resources, in concert with the stakeholders in the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), have at long last decided to take the bull by the horn in bringing forth an initiative to lay the solid foundation for total infrastructural development of Nigeria and the consequent emergence of the technologically-developed nation which all of us envisage. This initiative has been captured in the NBTE’s Dual Certification and Mandatory Skills Qualification (MSQ) scheme introduced to all ND/HND Programmes in the Polytechnics in Nigeria. The Dual Certification and Mandatory Skills Qualification will not only assure a complete and comprehensive set of skills for graduates after graduation in the HND programmes but also increase employability of graduates as well as making them versatile and adaptable to related job specifications after employment. It is hoped that the Federal Government of Nigeria will follow up this lofty initiative of the ES in the NBTE to completion by providing the necessary logistics to enable the organization complete one of its major roles of not only resetting and realigning the certifications of graduates of tertiary institutions in Nigeria to reflect equity and fair-play but also to plan the course contents of the Technical and Vocation of institutions in Nigeria vis-a-vis the conventional universities with a view to stressing on building capacities and not acquiring certificates.

Before ending this work, mention must be made of yet another lofty engagement of the ES in the NBTE. This masterstroke by Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje is not only going to ensure optimization of benefits from natural gas value chain but also create more employment opportunities for both the skilled, the semi-skilled and the unskilled labour force in the Nigerian labour market. This creative engagement of the NBTE under the stewardship of the ES, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje is the present collaboration it has with the PTDF (Petroleum Technical Development Fund) to maximize the socio-economic benefits of the Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) gas pipeline.

In his address during a round-table discussion with the PTDF represented by the Executive Secretary of that body and some of its key officials, the Executive Secretary of National Board for Technical Education, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bujaje contributing to the theme of the roundtable discussion (Bridging the Skills Gas for the AKK Downstream Industries), observed that “The AKK Gas Pipeline project stands as testament to our nation’s commitment to harnessing its abundant national resources for the benefit of the people.”

Noting that the collaboration between the two agencies of the government will help to explore strategies for power generation as well as address security concerns within the axis that the gas pipeline passes, Prof. Bugaje added that, “We are concerned that we are not seeing the utilization that comes from gas. It is one thing to deliver the gas and it is another thing to develop the downstream utilization.”

In the roundtable discussion attended by the Petroleum Trust Development Fund, PTDF (represented by the ES, Ahmed Aminu); the Minister of State for Gas Resources, Obongemen Ekpo (represented by the Executive Vice President, Gas Power and New Energy; Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPC,

(represented by Mr. Olalekan Ogunleye); National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, NAPTIN (represented by the institution’s Director General, Ahmed Nagode); the ES of the NBTE concluded that “This ambitious endeavor promises to revolutionize our energy landscape and presents unparalleled opportunities for economic diversification and job creation, particularly in the downstream petrochemical industries.”

At the end of that roundtable discussion which was attended by seventy four participants, a Communiqué signed by Prof. Mohammad Bugaje (NBTE) and Prof. Abdulazeez Atta (Chairman, LOC) was signed on behalf of the attendee organizations and participants. The AKK gas pipeline project presently at 62 percent completion rate will come on stream by December, 31st 2024.

Articulating the immense contributions of Prof. Mohammed Bugaje and his team at the NBTE, there is no doubt that Nigeria is not only going to enjoy the short term benefits of the ES,s ingenuity and initiatives which will be massive employment opportunities for graduates of B.Tech (Hons) and their former HND colleagues, but also the longtime benefit of producing very skillful and competent technicians and engineers who will successfully drive technological development in Nigeria.


Abuchi Obiora ([email protected]) is Editor at Large – Education Monitor Group of Newspapers



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