Dr. Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri

To ensure unified welding standards and codes for the continent, the Nigerian Institute of Welding and Southern Africa Institute of Welding are now collaborating to set up of the African Welding Federation. The president of NIW, Dr. Solomon Iyobosa Edebiri revealed this and more in an interview with Segun James. Excerpts:

Recently, you announced the formation of the African Welding Federation (AWF) as part of move to standardise welding activities in Africa. What is the motivation for this?

All over the world, regions, and indeed continents have common standards and codes to manage the practice of welding and related fields. This will make it easy for management of things within neighbouring countries and people. In the Americas, you have the American Welding Society, in Europe it is European Welding Society. This way whatever is obtainable in France is the same with that of Germany, Italy, Spain etc. With this the Continent is able to harmonise training schemes and industry practice regulations. That exactly is the motivation and the reason for the formation of the African Welding Federation.

It is being created in order to have a common standard and codes for the continent on welding and related fields. We need to harmonise the practice of welding across the continent in order to create what will look like a semblance of the European Welding Federation and to ensure that welding practice in African countries can compare to the world best practices. But more importantly, we are the only region or continent remaining which does not have a standard practice. That is why the Americans will come with come to our continent with their standard, then the Europeans will come with theirs and even the Chinese will do the same. The confusion is much and it rages on and on. So Africa must bring all these together working with various standards Boards and organisation of various African countries to create a common standard through adoption and creation. We have to unify it for it to work. I must say however that this does not apply to welding alone; it affects all facets of engineering activities on the continent but our focus is on welding and related fields.

This is a daunting objective. How are you going about it?

That is true. It is a daunting task, yet we must achieve our objectives. I have just returned from a meeting with the Southern African Institute of Welding (SAIW), Johannesburg where we agreed that the SAIW and the NIW being the two leading members of the International Institute of Welding (IIW) on the continent must act on the issues of standards and codes for the continent in line with what is obtainable the world over as recommended by the world body. We took the decision to midwife the establishment of the African Welding Federation.

Although discussion about the AWF has been on for over three years now, this meeting finally put in place the drafting of the aims and objectives of the AWF. The meeting also concluded that the AWF will be formally unveiled at the annual regional conference of the West African Welding Federation taking place in Ghana in April, 2017.

Is there any urgent need for the AWF?

After the SAIW, and until the coming of the Nigerian Institute of Welding, the only active members of the IIW from the continent were Egypt, Libya and Algeria. This has left the continent venerable for the dumping of all kinds of unregulated systems, standards and codes. But now, Nigeria has successfully chartered the Ghana Welding Society, while countries like Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Gambia, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Liberia are almost through with the process of having their welding institutes established to join the league of International Institute of Welding members.

To set up a continental body like the AWF, we must have the involvement of at least membership from three regions. In Africa, we have five regions – North African, East African, West African, Central African and Southern African regions – we have attained that milestone. Even Zambia and Namibia are on the verge of joining as full members. With these countries ready to go, the continent is ready for a continental body like the AWF.

Now let’s talk about welding in Nigeria. There is still this misconception among Nigerians that welding is all about artisans plying their trade by the road side, what are you doing to correct this impression?

Over the years, we have been doing all we can to correct this impression about welding; that welding is not dirty, it is not dusty and that it is not about the artisans alone as assumed by many Nigerians. That position has been underscored by the numbers of professionals and highly trained Nigerians who are plying their trades as welding engineers. Some of them have qualifications as high as Masters of Science and engineering degrees.

So, basically, the misconception has changed over the years with the involvement of more educated people. Even with the artisans and those in the informal sector, we are doing all we can to ensure that a code of practice is established for them. We in fact want to sanitise that part of the industry by creating a standard and code of practice for them.

Today, the impression has changed. More people are now interested in what welding is all about. It may interest you to know that welding is all about man. It is all about development. Without welding, there cannot be development. That is why people are taking more interest

That the NIW has come a long way in the last 10years and its achievements cannot be disputed, can you tell us about journey so far?

Yes, it has been a long and exciting journey for the institute. The road was never paved in gold, but I can assure you that within this period we have not only learnt along the way, but we have achieved a lot also. Let me summarise some of our achievements so far. The most important part of our achievements is that we have increased and sustained our membership, it has increased very tremendously. Within this period, we have also sustained our membership of the International Institute of Welding (IIW), with the attainment of the status of Authorised National Body (ANB) of the IIW which gives us the authority certify International welders and other cadres of welding personnel up to international welding engineers level.

Having gotten to this level, the NIW has accredited some Approved Training Bodies (ATB). In the last 10 years, some six centres have gained full approval; additional three will soon be approved with over 20 waiting to meet the standard required for their approval under the NIW/ANB for welding personnel training using the guidelines of the IIW.
Within the same period, we have grown our collaboration with government through such agencies as the NCDMB, PTDF and the NDDC. There is also the United Nations Office of Project Services. We also have a good relationship with the Federal Ministries in the areas of job creation, research and development.

We have helped to grow and stabilised welding training in a number of tertiary institutions. Before now, most Nigerian universities and polytechnics do not understand the need for welding engineering, but now a number of them including the University of Benin, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Abubakar Tafawa ballewa University, Bauchi, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun have committed themselves to setting up a full-fledged welding engineering department in their campuses.

We have also synergised with some private institutions to develop welding training in all parts of the country. I think we have achieved a lot. Within this period, you will also remember that in 2008, we started the development of a National Centre of excellence for welding engineering and technology in Edo State. Today, we have been able to put on ground the process of achieving this lofty dream. We have inside the complex right now an administrative building, a block of well equipped classroom building and a laboratory which will ensure that all welding engineering tests and analysis are carried out in-country. This laboratory was actually completed and equipped by Shell Nigeria Exploration and production Company Ltd (SNECO)

I believe that we have come a long way. Also with the collaboration of Federal government interventionist agencies like the PTDF and NDDC, we have been able to train highly competent Nigerians in various welding fields including underwater welding.
We have been able to close the skill gaps that were identified in 2006 that the gap of about 2,600 professional welders must be bridged. So far, the PTDF alone has been able to train up to 1,200 of these people with about 960 fully certified in different cadres of welding processes. We are hoping that within the next couple of years, that gap will be completely close.

You spoke about the support of Shell to the NIW, what has been the cooperation level of other international oil companies in your effort to raise the bar in welding activities in Nigeria?

What I can tell you is that the other companies are interested in the activities of the NIW and are willing to support, I sincerely believe that once the laboratory is completed and equipped by Shell beginning to make its impact in the industry, other companies will come to our support to provide the other facilities required in the centre.