By Abuchi Obiora

When the present members of the Board of the NBTE (National Board for Technical Education) were announced on April 14th 2021 by the government of President Mohammadu Buhari, little did Nigerians known that the clog withholding the wheel of progress in the transformation and transfer of technology in Nigeria and to Nigerians respectively had just been unclogged from its root. By that appointment, that government plugged in square pegs in square holes.

At the head of the board of NBTE as the Executive Secretary is a Chemical Engineer and Former Rector of Kaduna Polytechnic, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje. Like some of the members of the board, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje was chosen from the background of stakeholders who train and nurture manpower resources and personnel that take charge of the nation’s technology infrastructures.

With these appointments, there was no doubt that the then newly-appointed members of NBTE understood the challenges that they would encounter on the way serving as the touch bearers in the transformation and transfer of technology through the medium of an agency of the government one of whose major functions is to regulate Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in institutions of higher learning in Nigeria. TVET institutions include Polytechnics, Technical Colleagues, vocational training centers and other public or private specialized training centers.

By the way, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is a Nigerian Federal 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 their appointment, the members of NBTE hit the road running in order to achieve the much envisaged national goal of massive development in the nation’s Technology infrastructure. Like a Colossus, the ES, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje led his team to ride astride the hitherto and seemingly insurmountable problems that had bedeviled the NBTE as they jointly stood akimbo over the traditional obstacles which had challenged the creative acumens and best intentions of their predecessors in the previous boards of the NBTE.

One of the traditional obstacles to the realization of the core 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 Polytechnics/Technical Institutions and the BA/B.Sc graduates of the Universities respectively.

Sequel to the prompting by the NBTE, a one-day dialogue on the future of Higher National Diploma in the Nigeria Education System was recently held by stakeholders who converged 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, an academician and administrator who had also served as the Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Nasarawa and as the Director General of National Research Institute of Chemical Technology, 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 BA/B.Sc certificates of the Polytechnics/Technical Schools and their counterparts in 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 sensitization and engineering public awareness in this regard, insisting that, “Despite the pivotal role it plays, the HND qualification, earned after five years of rigorous study and internship continue to face unwarranted discrimination within the Nigerian public service”. Concluding, he said, “Even with concerted efforts, including proposed legislation and appeals from students and staff unions, discrimination against HND holders persists.”

It is a good development for Nigeria that NBTE’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Idris Mohammmad 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 other 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 needed solid foundation for total infrastructural development of Nigeria which will be the direct and natural result of the policies the Board presently pursue.

The initiative of strengthening the man power sought for technological development in Nigeria has been captured in the NBTE’s Dual Certification and Mandatory Skills Qualifications (MSQ) scheme introduced to all ND/HND programmes in all the polytechnics in Nigeria.

The Dual Certification and Mandate Skills Qualification (MSQ) will not only assure a complete and comprehensive set of skills for graduates after graduation in the HND programs but also increase employability of graduates as well as make them versatile and adaptable to related job specifications during employment.

Another issue that the recently held meeting of the stakeholders in TVET trashed out was that of the fate of an outstanding Bill already passed into law by the National Assembly. The meeting brainstormed on the modalities to mount pressure on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to sign the Bill into law. The Bill, vide: “An Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma in the same Profession/Field for the Purpose of Employment and for Related Matters” has for sometimes been held up waiting for the President’s signature and Presidential assent.

Apart from quickly passing this Bill into law, it is hoped that the Federal Government of Nigeria will follow up the lofty ideals and initiatives of the ES of the NBTE to completion by providing the necessary logistics to enable the NBTE complete this major role 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 vocational institutions in Nigeria vis-à-vis the conventional universities with a view to stressing on building capacities and not acquiring certificates.

In an in-house plethora of reform aimed at re-establishing the unique position of technical education of the polytechnic in the educational landscape of Nigeria, the NBTE, led by Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje, among other things, announced the introduction of a scheme called ‘Consolidated Recruitment and Promotion Plan of Action’ for the members of staff of polytechnics across Nigeria.

This scheme which will be used as an accreditation instrument in old and new institutions in respect to compliance to established rules and regulations took effect on 7th June 2024. Additional to what it is meant to achieve, the scheme will also check the inflow of academic staff from universities into the polytechnics especially those of them who may not have the necessary and required qualifications.

Announcing the many reforms which touched on all the academic departments and staff cadre within the polytechnics (all aimed at improving the overall effective performance of individual staff members and value-oriented and prompt service delivery within the academic departments), the ES concluded that “This provision shall check the inflow of academic staff from universities into our polytechnics, especially those who may not have skills qualifications.”

Before ending this work, mention must be made of yet another lofty engagement of the NBTE. This master stroke by Prof. Idris Mohammed Bugaje, the ES of the NBTE, who is a visiting Professor of Chemical Engineering in many Universities across the world, is like a home coming for him. The creative engagement recently embarked on by the NBTE 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 initiative and creative engagement is the present collaboration the NBTE 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 roundtable discussion with the PTDF, the ES of NBTE, contributing to the theme of the roundtable discussion (Bridging The Skills Gaps for the AKK Downstream Industries), observed that “The AKK gas pipeline project stands as testaments to our nation’s commitment to harnessing its abundant natural 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 the gas. It is one thing to deliver the gas and it is another thing to develop the downstream utilization.”

In the roundtable discussion where the PTDF was represented by that body’s Executive Secretary, Ahmed Aminu, were also the Minister of State for Gas Resources, Obongemem Ekpo (represented by the Executive Vice President, Gas, Power and Energy); Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, (represented by Mr. Olalekan Ogunleye); National Power Training Institute of Nigeria, NAPTIN (represented by the Institute’s Director General, Ahmed Nagode); the ES of the NBTE, Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje concluded that “This ambitious endeavor promises to revolutionize our energy landscape and economic diversification and job creation, particularly in the downstream petrochemical industries”.

At the end of the roundtable discussion which was attended by seventy four participants, a Communiqué signed by Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje (NBTE) and Prof. Abdulazeez Atta (Chairman, LOC), was delivered 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.

Reflecting on the immense contributions of Prof. Idris Mohammad Bugaje and his vibrant and performing team at the NBTE, there is no doubt that Nigeria is not only going to enjoy the short term benefit of the efforts of the present team at the NBTE which will be massive employment opportunities for graduates of B.Tech (Hons.) but also the longtime benefit of their ingenuity to initiate the supply of very skillful and competent technicians and engineers who will successfully drive technological development in Nigeria.


Abuchi Obiora

([email protected])

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *