The quest for improved regulation of the Nigerian mining and geosciences sector received a boost on Monday as the Management Team of the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG) collaborated with the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN), for effective regulation of the sector.
The regulatory bodies lamented the dangers associated with ineffective regulation, and the spate of poor service delivery in the sector. They agreed to work together for improved success of their regulatory mandates, while reiterating the need to maintain discipline in the profession according to the law.
Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, COMEG, Prof Zacheus Opafunso who led COMEG Management team to the Head Office of COREN, in Abuja, said COMEG is determined to leave no stone unturned in the quest to ‘regulate and control the training and practices of professionals in the extractive industries.’
He said ‘geoscientists, mining engineers, petroleum and gas engineers, metallurgical engineers, geotechnical engineers and others in related professions’ are among professionals that fall under the regulatory authority of COMEG.
According to the Registrar, mining and geosciences significantly contribute to the country’s foreign exchange earnings, adding that the drop in price of crude oil and the impact of COVID-19 on the economy calls for the development of mining and geosciences sector, in order to generate revenue needed for the country’s fiscal needs.
Prof Opafunso recalled a recent consequence of explosives abuse, saying: ‘At about the end of March 2020, an explosion occurred in Akure that took stakeholders by surprise,’ adding that the tragic explosion and the accompanying loss of lives and properties, was avoidable if regulatory authorities effectively carried out their regulatory responsibilities. He assured regulators that COMEG will rise up to the responsibility of monitoring the use of explosives in order to address the challenge of explosives-abuse by non-professionals at the expense of lives and properties.
Discussing the economic significance of properly regulating the mining and geosciences sector, Prof Opafunso explained that it will standardize service delivery, and bring better profit while facilitating wealth and jobs creation.
Opafunso said COMEG was established to regulate the practice of professions associated with exploration, extraction and refining of vital mineral resources of the nation, for the benefit of its people. He said the resources include solid minerals, petroleum, water and gas.
‘In order to ensure safety of all, COMGE will enforce the regulations without fear or favor,’ he stated, adding that COMEG will move to ensure that only competent officers are entrusted with the responsibility of administering explosives.
Prof Opafunso said ‘COREN and COMEG have so much to do together towards address the ineffective regulation of mining and geosciences practice in Nigeria,’ adding that ‘it is easy for an engineer to come into Nigeria from China and begin to practice without consulting COREN or COMEG,’ a development he said must be addressed.
While commending COREN for immensely upgrading the engineering activities in Nigeria, including registering its presence in all achievements of engineering programmes both at home and abroad, Opafunso proposed the establishment of a progressive working relationship with COREN.
He recalled that in order to create an avenue for relevant professionals from different specialized groups to assemble, brainstorm and proffer workable solutions for safety of the people and for the advancement of the industry, COMEG organised ‘The COMEG (GEM) Assembly.’
Speaking further, Professor Opafunso explained that the Assembly was inaugurated on Thursday, 24th October, 2013 featuring lead paper presentations by Presidents of the Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Nigerian Society of Mining Engineers (NSME), Nigerian Association of Hydrogeologists (NAH) and Council Chairman, Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).’
He however expressed concern that COMEG Council is yet to organize another Assembly since its maiden assembly in 2003.
‘I would like to mention that COMEG wishes to emulate COREN in its footsteps, and to seek a joint collaboration in order to achieve the activation of COMEG Assembly, create a functional website with online registration, printing of practicing licence and payment interface as well as operating a professional driven organogram.’
Discussing the benefits of being certified by COMEG, Prof Opafunso said: ‘COMEG registration regularizes the practices of a member,’ adding that some State Governments have made COMEG registration a requirement for promotion beyond Grade Level Ten in the Civil Service.
He explained that it is illegal to engage the services of Individual professionals (Nigerian or Expatriate) or firms in the Nigerian Extractive Industry that are not duly registered with the Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG), noting that only COMEG-registered professionals can endorse applications for mineral titles, exploration, quarry and mining licenses among others.
In his response, the Registrar, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, Prof Joseph Odigure who welcomed the COMEG Team said Opafunso has raised pertinent issues of interest. ‘I am interested in the issues you have raised,’ Odigure said, adding that COREN will work with COMEG in the interest of the country and the profession.
‘COREN will definitely do all we can to collaborate with COMEG,’ Prof Odigure said, adding that registration has been difficult for regulatory bodies. While saying that COREN has about sixty thousand registered engineers in Nigeria, Odigure lamented that the figure accounts for about twenty percent of engineers who are outside the profession, adding that it shows how difficult it is to regulate engineering practice in Nigeria.
The COREN Registrar identified quackery as ‘a major challenge in the practice of engineering in Nigeria,’ and agreed with the visiting COMEG Registrar that regulation must be made effective in order to address challenges. He therefore pledged readiness of COREN to work with the management of COMEG to achieve set goals.
The regulatory bodies agreed to work out modalities for a continuous working relationship.
Kindly read the full speech of the COMEG Registrar below:
A KEYNOTE ADDRESS ON THE ACTIVITIES OF COUNCIL OF NIGERIAN MINING ENGINEERS AND GEOSCIENTISTS (COMEG) AND THE WAY FORWARD BY THE REGISTRAR/CEO – PROF. ZACHEUS O. OPAFUNSO (FNMGS, FNSE) AT THE COURTESY CALL VISIT TO COUNCIL FOR THE REGULATION OF ENGINEERING IN NIGERIA (COREN) ON MONDAY, 22ND JUNE, 2020.
- BRIEF INTRODUCTION
Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG) was established by Decree No. 40 of 1990 now CAP C33 LFN 2004, to regulate and control the training and practices of professionals in the EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES. These professionals include Geoscientists, Mining Engineers, Petroleum and Gas engineers, Metallurgical Engineers, Geotechnical Engineers and others in the related professions. These professionals, through their practices, contribute the bulk of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings.
The instrument establishing the Council as a regulatory Agency was instituted to drive Government’s policy for the regulation and development of the practice of the professions associated with exploration, extraction and refining of the vital mineral resources of the nation, for the benefit of its people. These resources include: Solid Minerals, Petroleum, Water and Gas, of the nation
Part VI, Section 17 (1) of the Act states that “a person, who is not registered in accordance with this Act, shall not be entitled to hold any appointment in the Public Service of the Federation or of a State or in any public or private establishment, body or Institution, if the holding of such appointment involves the performance by him/her in Nigeria of any act pertaining to the relevant profession for a gain”. It is therefore illegal to engage the services of Individual professionals (Nigerian or Expatriate) or firms in the Nigerian Extractive Industry that are not duly registered with Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG).
- FUNCTIONS OF COUNCIL
Council is charged with the responsibility of:
- Maintaining a register of persons entitled to practice as mining engineers and geoscientists;
- Prescribing and enforcing the minimum standards of education and experience to be obtained by persons qualified to practice as registered mining engineers and geoscientists.
- Prescribing and enforcing the code of conduct for registered members.
- Regulating and controlling the practice of mining engineers and geoscientists in all its aspects and ramifications.
- Maintaining discipline in the professions in accordance with the Act; and
- Performing such other functions which in its opinion are calculated to facilitate the carrying on of its activities under the Act.
- BENEFITS OF REGISTRATION
The following, among others, are some of the benefits a registered member is entitled to:
- COMEG registration legalizes the practice of a professional member;
- Some State Governments have made COMEG registration a requirement to advance beyond Grade Level 10;
- Only competent COMEG registered professional can endorse applications for mineral titles (Exploration, Quarry and Mining Licenses) in the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office (MCO);
- In the Academia, COMEG registration is required for the advancement of lecturers in the relevant fields; and
- COMEG is now involved in the promotion exams for professionals in the Federal Civil Service and without COMEG registration the candidate is automatically disqualified. 4. MAJOR ACTIVITIES OF COMEG
A. Professional Development Training Programme
In line with its mandate on Professional Development Training and the President’s Transformation and Vision 20:2020 Agenda to establish Professional Development Programmes, Council has carried out a series of workshops with a focus on the Solid Minerals Sector. The Development Training Programme will be a continuous event as Council intends to carry out subsequent training programmes in Water, Oil and Gas and also in Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM).
B. Monitoring and Evaluation Programme of Operators in the Nigerian Extractive Industry
One of the major thrusts on COMEG is to regulate and control the practices of Mining Engineers, Geoscientists and other related professions in all its aspects and ramifications and to maintain discipline in the profession in accordance with the ACT. In view of this, Council has embarked on the monitoring and evaluation of Mining/Quarrying Operators and Professionals in the South-West, North Central and North West Zones.
The main objective of this exercise is to monitor and evaluate the operational activities of operators in the industry to ensure that they adhere to the existing laws. Council will continue the monitoring and evaluation exercise to cover all the sectors within the Extractive Industry because the programme is a useful tool in regulating and maintaining discipline.
C. Induction of Newly Registered Members
The Induction Ceremony of registered professionals is in accordance with the statutory provision as stipulated in Part IV, Section 9 of the COMEG Act. During the Induction Ceremony, newly registered members are issued with certificates of authority and seals for authenticating of all legal documents. As at present, over 2765 professional members and 166 corporate bodies have been registered. The last induction held at Abuja on 17th December, 2019, 577 individual members and 86 corporate institutions were inducted by the Honourable Minister, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Arc. Adegbite Olamilekan.
5. COLLABORATION BETWEEN COMEG AND COREN.
Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, established by decree 55 of 1970 and amended by Decree 27 of 1992, now the “Engineers (Registration, etc) Act, CAP E11 of 2004” Law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Act establishes COREN as a statutory body of the Federal Government empowered to regulate the Practice of Engineering in all aspects and ramifications in Nigeria.
The Decree empowers its Council to regulate and control the training and practice of Engineering in Nigeria and to ensure and enforce the registration of all Engineering personnel (i.e. Engineers, Engineering Technologists, Engineering Technicians, and Engineering Craftsmen) and consulting firms wishing to practice or engage in the practice of Engineering.
COREN has contributed immensely to the upgrading of Engineering activities in Nigeria and has registered its presence boldly in all achievements of Engineering Programmes both home and abroad; thus giving hope to the Engineering family. It is widely known that COREN continues to successfully host The Engineering Assembly, a yearly event which is attended by participants including Engineers, Technologists, Technicians, Craftsmen and other stakeholders from all walks of life. The annual Engineering Assembly continues to be the biggest gathering of engineering professionals in Nigeria and this year will make it the 29th Engineering Assembly.
COREN has a membership strength of over 40,000 members and this numbers continue to grow as members continue to put forward their applications through a well-designed and functional website.
In order to create an avenue where the relevant professionals from different specialized groups can assemble together to brainstorm and chart a new course on how to move the industry forward, COMEG decided to organize The COMEG (GEM) Assembly. The Inauguration of this assembly was carried out on Thursday, 24th October, 2013 with short lead paper presentations by Presidents Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS), Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Nigerian Society of Mining Engineers (NSME), Nigerian Association of Hydrogeologists (NAH) and Council Chairman, Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). Council is yet to organize another Assembly since its maiden assembly in 2003.
At this junction, I would like to mention that COMEG wishes to emulate COREN in its footsteps and to seek a joint collaboration in order to achieve the following:
- Activate COMEG’s Assembly;
- Create a functional website with online registration, printing of practicing licence and payment interface;
- Operating a professional driven organogram;
- Professional Scale of Fees; and
- Registration of Artisanal Miners, Blasters, Drilling Technicians, Geological Assistants, Geophysical Assistants and Mineral Processor Assistants, etc. 6. CONCLUSION
The role of COMEG as the apex regulatory Agency in the Nigerian Extractive Industry cannot be overemphasized because without a strong and virile COMEG, it would be difficult to monitor and regulate the professions including the elimination of quacks in the industry. It is therefore imperative that COMEG seeks ways to enable her actualize her responsibilities and mandate. As we would all agree that regulation is the key to the success and growth of any sector of the economy.
SIGNED: Prof. Zacheus O. Opafunso Ph. D, LLB, FNMGS, FNSE, FNSME, MNIM