The desire to develop (formulate, adapt or adopt) standard is an intent by a profession to work within defined and agreed rules and guidelines for improved safety, product quality and service delivery. In our environment, there is a common belief we can thrive and profit more where there is no standard. Lack of standard undermines safety, product and service quality, cost and client’s satisfaction and may ultimately lead to death.
There are several organizations and bodies from different countries of the world bandying different standards. However, in all there is a convergent point to global standards. The European community has been able to harmonize its standards in practically all fields of endeavor and USA will naturally key in while independently setting a parallel and higher standards for herself. The Chinese have deployed enormous resources in recent years to develop standards which have aided in their quest to lead the world technologically.
The most important and generally accepted electrical engineering standard is that of International Electro -Technical Commission, IEC. Every country of the world is expected to domicile these standards. In doing so, the underline and basic element remains unchanged with only minor variation to meet the country’s environmental conditions, cultural and social needs. This is also applicable to other known standards in other engineering fields.
Apart from IEC, The International Bureau of Weights and Measures, BIPM is subscribed by nations of the world as well. Member countries are expected to establish the National Metrology Institute in their countries. NMI in every country handles basic elements of Time and Frequency, Mass, Electricity, Chemistry, Thermometry, Ionizing Radiation, Length and Photometry and Radiometry which are referenced to BIPM in France. Recently, scientists all over the world met in Versailles, France and voted to change the definition of a Kilogram at the General Conference on Weight and Measures, tying it to a universal constant in nature. The major reason for the change is that Big K has lost around 50 micrograms since it was created. Thus, Big K is not constant.
Our nation cannot develop without adequate engagement in standards development and enforcement. However, standard development is not the responsibility of Standards Organisation of Nigeria. SON only coordinates or facilitates such process for stakeholders and acts as a storehouse for standards. In Nigeria, standards are mostly adopted or adapted as the case may be. There is a continuous abdication of responsibility by the academia, professional bodies and stakeholders in this regards. Bodies, institutions etc who are concerned about safety, quality of product and services in a particular field and have found the need to address and uphold it are usually the initiators of the process. They will work with SON to produce an acceptable document. SON will forward it for inputs and convene stakeholders meetings. The document is worked on till final document agreeable to all is produced and adopted for the nation. The document is meant to be reviewed periodically.
The challenges of developing standards are enormous leaving us as a nation with little standards to work with. Standard development requires concerted efforts from stakeholders and the following amount to some of the reasons why it is a challenge;
Attitudinal; anything that will regulate our life, change our thinking and the way we do things are usually resisted. Standard is resisted by business persons, politicians, engineering personnel, quacks and everyone benefitting from the status quo. This attitude makes enforcement of standards difficult.
Documentation; development of standard is a product of research and documented experience. When field experiences are not documented, experts most time do not logically buttress their positions and draw conclusion on issue of standard. It is always, even more so, difficult to identify these experts who may sometime not affiliate with professional bodies. They carve a niche for themselves and do their works unnotice thus, ending up with many years of undocumented industrial and field experience. When issues on standard are discussed, they seem to be left out for comments and inputs. Documented field experience plays a major role in standard development.
Academic; there is an erroneous belief that the university professor is best suited to develop standard. The truth is the end user; the craftsman, technician, technologist and allied professionals make more inputs than any other. Field Reports are very important in standards development. However, we cannot ignore the work of subjecting these field experiences to scientific analysis and test to produce result which can stand up to close inspection as done by the academic. The academic must also have a tinge of field experience to enhance his work. There must be empirical evidence to support his results. This is grossly lacking and where the academic is needed most.
Funding; research requires funding but our attitude always indicate that it should be sacrificial and selfless. Funding can come from government, corporate organizations, NGOs, Institutions etc. Lack of funding is a threat to standards development.
Indigenous Technology; we must develop our technology, apply the standards so developed to it and gradually enlarge and expand it. When we import engineering equipment from different countries, they come with different technical standards of country of origin. This has made Nigeria a pool of technical standards without any. Engineering practice in Nigeria is in disarray, completely comatose by lack of standards and the many Original Equipment Manufacturers, OEM, from Asia, Europe and America will continue to dump their products here with their standards. Since standard is a global issue, we should align ourselves to Standards Development Organizations to produce standards that meets our needs.
Intellectual laxity; there seem to be intellectual laxity and lack of focus concerning this issue. Our institutions lack strong research base with poor interface structure with the manufacturing sector for a sustainable evolution and development of standards. This has encouraged intellectual laxity thereby negating standards as a panacea for national development. Government should address the many challenges beseeching our citadel of learning.
Wide spread and coordinated approach is needed to address this issue. Professional bodies should see standard development as a prerequisite function to its existence. The Nigerian Society of Engineers should review the requirements for the establishment of new Divisions and close ranks with Divisions that are not engaging in standards development. Standards development require the involvement of all cadres of engineering personnel and Divisions should be encouraged to adjust their membership criteria for inclusive capacity to accommodate all personnel so as to address the challenge of engineering standards in the country.
Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN, whose responsibilities include regulating, monitoring and control of engineering practice should take special interest in sponsoring standards development otherwise it would have to continue to wait till these standards are ready for it to function effectively.