Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline that deals with the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment, including works such as bridges, roads, canals, dams and buildings. Civil engineering is the oldest engineering discipline after military engineering; it was defined to distinguish non- military engineering from military engineering. It is traditionally broken into several sub-disciplines including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, water resources engineering, materials engineering, coastal engineering, surveying, and construction engineering. Civil engineering takes place at all levels: in the public sector from local governments through to federal levels, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to corporate organizations.
Engineering has been an aspect of life since the beginnings of human existence. Civil engineering might be considered properly commencing between 4000 and 2000 BC in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia when humans started to abandon a nomadic existence, thus causing a need for the construction of shelter. During this time, transportation became increasingly important leading to the development of the wheel and sailing. The construction of Pyramids in Egypt (circa BC) might be considered the first instances of large structure constructions. Other ancient historic civil engineering constructions include the Parthenon by Iktinos in Ancient Greece ( BC), the Appian Way by Roman engineers (c. 312 BC), and the Great Wall of China by General Meng T'ien under orders from Ch'in Emperor Shih Huang Ti (c. 220 BC). The Romans developed civil structures throughout their empire, including especially aqueducts, harbours, bridges, dams and roads.
Until modern times, there was no clear distinction between civil engineering and architecture, and the term engineer and architect were mainly geographical variations referring to the same person, often used interchangeably. In the 18th century, the term civil engineering began to be used to distinguish it from military engineering. Civil engineering today deals with bridges, roads, buildings, railways, airports, seaports, water supply, irrigation, dams, environmental sewer flood control, transportation, telecommunications and traffic to mention a few. In essence, civil engineering maybe regarded as the profession that makes the world a more agreeable and comfortable place to live.
The aim of this lecture is to examine the challenges in civil engineering construction practices as it operates in Nigeria. It is therefore essential to understand what construction practice means. Wikipedia describes construction as a process of building or assembling of infrastructures like buildings, roads, airports, and others earlier mentioned. It involves planning and execution of designs produced by architects, engineers and other professionals like quantity surveyors. It is not a single activity. It is multifaceted. The knowledge and experience required for each project vary; it depends on the size, location and complexity of the project.
Construction practices in a developing country like Nigeria differ significantly in important aspects from practices in industrialized or developed countries. Even in Nigeria, the greatest challenge facing professionals in the field is that the practice of construction is not uniform. It varies with the client, size or complexity of the project from the perspective of the owners. In order words, construction practice is the process of handling the whole project from conception to completion. Construction practice cannot be limited to actual construction. It involves design, approval and planning which we refer to as “Pre Contract” then the physical construction and maintenance, which we refer to as “Post Contract”. For the purpose of this lecture, the discussion will be limited to construction activities of the following clients
These constitute the highest percentage of clients in Nigeria. The projects handled under this category are mainly buildings of various sizes, storm water drainage, access gates to estates, petrol stations e.t.c. We also have a vast majority of small building renovation projects such as addition of a room or renovation of a bathroom.
The Local Government Town Planning Authority is the prescribed authority with jurisdiction over approval of designs. A private individual contacts an architect or draughtsman to put up the drawings and submit for approval. The requirements for approval of new developments are not stringent for residential bungalows. For multistory buildings, a signed structural drawing must be included with the architectural drawings. Services drawings are not considered important. Other developments like petrol stations attract additional requirements, but there is no uniformity. The omission of these details put the projects in precarious situations because; the developer or contractor will have to use his initiative and experience where detailed drawings are not available.
In most cases, there is little or no planning. At this stage, there is the need to consult a quantity surveyor, whose duty is to calculate the overall cost of the project and advice the owner on material and labour requirements for each stage of the project. Most private individuals do not see the need for this stage. In most cases, these types of construction works are residential bungalows for personal use. The owner contracts a bricklayer or carpenter while he and his family act as labourer, paymaster and design team for the whole project. The absence of concrete financial planning is a major challenge to both the homeowner and contractor. Most times such projects are not completed in good time; some are abandoned and sold later to a buyer who does not know the quality of work done on the project. The cycle continues. In some cases however for the very literate private house owner, a professional is brought in on unofficial basis to advice on specific areas when they run into problems or foresee a problem.
A variant of these group of individual property owners who is desirous of embarking on complex multistory buildings or special projects like hotels, petrol stations go a little further by inviting a “contractor” who most times are non professionals. The naturally intelligent ones among these ‘’contractors” get by and complete the project after a lot of hassles but at what cost and anxiety
The role of the town planning authority ends with approval of the development. In most cases, the inspection unit of the planning authority only checks if there is an approved drawing. Supervision and quality control is the responsibility of the homeowner. The proliferation of non- professionals in the field is encouraged by private developers. You can hardly separate an engineer from a pseudo engineer. The lack of control is responsible for incessant collapse of buildings and fire outbreaks across the country. The only improvement in recent times is in Lagos State of Nigeria where the owner is compelled to name a qualified engineer who is responsible for the quality of work done. The advantage, which the private individuals enjoy in handling projects without consulting a professional, is just a personal belief that he has saved money. However, he gained nothing.
The clients that fall under this category are banks, insurance companies, multinational manufacturing companies, oil companies, telecommunication giants and others too numerous to mention. Construction practices in corporate organizations are more organized. The challenges here are not complex because they have laid down procedures and standards. These procedures vary for different organizations. Development of infrastructure in many organizations is precipitated on the need for maintenance or expansion, which is conceived and approved by the relevant authority within the organization.
Corporate organizations employ the services of relevant professionals in the design and planning of their renovations or new developments. Although they seldom advertise in the dailies for the services of these consultants. The consultants approach these organizations for registration in their fields of specialization. The organizations appraise their resumes. Sometimes they invite them for interviews. After the appraisal, if the organization is convinced that they are competent, they will be registered and called upon when the need arises. In some cases, however some organizations invite consultants with proven record of performance in their area of specialty. However, it is worthy to note that, most corporate organisations are interested in quality and competence of consultants.
Whenever these organizations embark on projects, a team of consultants or in-house professionals is assembled, comprising of the architect, structural engineer, services engineer, quantity surveyor and any other professional whose expertise is required in other to achieve the set objectives optimally. The consultants will set to work within the scope of their brief and in compliance with peculiar specifications of the client. The architect and engineers produce drawings while the quantity surveyor produces the Bill of Quantities, which includes the specifications of the clients.
Some very big organizations like oil companies and banks have these professionals in the establishment. In cases like these, for routine projects they do not employ consultants. Nevertheless, a complete set of comprehensive and detailed contract documents is available for consideration of the organization. Typical contract documents are Architectural Drawings Structural Drawings Services Drawings Bill of Quantities (B.O.Q) / Bill of Engineering Measurement (B.M.E)
At the end of this exercise, the client is in a position to know the probable cost of the project as well as the financial commitment required for each stage. If the design is not within their budget, it is possible at this stage to prune down the project, or divide it into phases. Some organizations even go as far as delaying the project until adequate funds is available. The drawings produced are subject to the approval of the Local Government Town Planning Authority within which the new development is located. The major challenge here is that it is difficult for a new engineering outfit to break into the system. The older generation of consultants monopolizes these set of clients.
The procedure for award of contract is similar to that of commissioning of consultants. The invitations of contractors here is at the discretion of the company. They do not place advertisement for this purpose in the dailies. Contractors invited are from a data bank of previously registered contractors or specialists in the area under consideration. The tenders submitted by the contractors are analysed by the consultants, while recommendations are made to the client who awards the contract to the most suitable contractor by their standards. The challenges here for contractors are similar to that of the consultants. Unless there is an insider who is convinced about the competence of the incoming contractor, it is difficult to get patronage from this group of clients. It is not an all comers affair.
The contractor here is a professional and he is expected to submit a programme of works showing the beginning and completion of each item of work. The process and progress of work is monitored vigorously by the consultants or in –house professionals. The materials used are subjected to scrutiny for compliance with specifications while the method and skill of construction is monitored. Concisely construction is practiced in the way it should be. The details of this practice will be discussed later.
In this category, we have the three tiers of government namely, The Local Government, State Government and Federal Government. The challenges here are monumental. Construction practice in these three tiers of government varies and until very recently there is no transparency in the system. Each arm of government operates a convenient method of design, planning, award and supervision of construction works in the three tiers of government. However since the stability brought by democracy there is a semblance of order and control.
Each arm of government has departments or ministries charged with handling new developments or renovations. At the local government, level there is a Director of Works who heads the Works Department. This department is charged with the responsibility of producing working drawings, bill of quantities or bill of engineering measurement. They are also charged with advising the Local Government Chairmen and the executive on the planning and execution of the development. It is very rare for a local government to employ the services of consultants for their projects. The contract documents are prepared by the works department where the various professionals required for efficient delivery of such services are absent or not employed. These documents are not detailed in most cases. The quality and standard of the drawings depends largely on the experience and competence of the Director of works.
The state ministry of works is responsible for producing contract documents for the various states. In some cases, other special ministries like “The Ministry of Water Resources” exist in some states. These ministries still rely on the ministry of works for inputs into their projects. The procedure adopted in the past does not follow any pattern. Sometimes consultants are commissioned to produce drawings and other contract documents while in some cases, the professionals in the ministry produce these drawings and documents on their own. However, in the last few years, there is an improvement. ‘Due Process’ has been introduced. The new Procurement Act of 2007 has given the guidelines on design and award of contracts. Regrettably, not all the states have complied with this directive.
In this new dispensation, when a project is conceived, the state government advertises for interested consultants who are registered with the state to express their interest. These consultants submit the relevant documents as advertised. Their submission will be analyzed and a team of consultants will be assembled. The procedure is quite similar to the process discussed under corporate organizations. The major difference is that advertisements are placed in a national newspaper for the state government contracts while the corporate bodies do not advertise theirs.
Previously at the federal level, there was no transparency. Each ministry fashions its procedure to meet certain political and personal interest. There is now an improvement in the system; the procedure for the Federal Government contracts now follows the procurement act of 2007 strictly. Unlike the state government contracts, all contracts are advertised. Consultants and contractors are prequalified for each project while detailed drawings and other tender documents are produced. Geotechnical investigations are not taking into consideration always.
At the local government level, there is no prequalification of contractors. Once the tender documents are ready, an advert is placed for contractors who are registered with the particular local government to pay the stipulated tender fees. The only document available in most cases is a Bill of Quantities, which is priced and submitted within the stipulated time. The tender analysis and consideration for award lies primarily with the director of works and chairman of the local government. Contract award is not transparent despite the new procurement act. It is still subject to political interest and patronage.
Contract award at the state or federal level is more tedious. A contractor who is desirous of working for these two tiers of government must register in a category of its choice. When the contract documents are ready, an advert for ‘PREQUALIFICATION OF CONTRACTORS” is placed in at least two (2) national newspapers. However, as stipulated by law, these adverts must be placed in ‘The Construction Journal’. However, it is only the Federal government that complies strictly with this directive. Most state governments limit their adverts to the dailies while some do not even advertise at all. The requirements for prequalification are listed, while only prequalified contractors are invited to pay for tender documents. At the state level, some other considerations come to play before a contractor is chosen. However, at the federal level, the lowest tender received is automatically considered for award. There are still some sharp practices in the industry but the situation is improving.
A myriad of problems plague government contracts. At the state level, the quality of the contract documents produced reflects very strongly on the level of planning. These qualities can be adjudged as just average for some states while it is below average in most states. The wish of the governor in most cases takes precedence over all other considerations however technical. A good number of contractors also are non-professionals, while the bureaucracy on the part of government hinders the smooth running of contracts. It is important to note at this junction that the major hindrance to planning on government projects is funding. It is very unpredictable. If a project is not included in the budget, it will not go beyond the design stage and if it is an ongoing project, it will be abandoned.
At the Federal government level, there is a deliberate attempt to improve on the performance at the state level. The quality of contract documents is higher while the planning is improving daily. However, the effect of funding and bureaucracy is still the same. The quality of supervision is very high when consultants are employed. However, whenever the in house professionals are in charge of supervision, their performance is tainted with bureaucracy. This impact negatively on the project.
There are three categories of universities namely, private, state and federal universities. Construction practice and its challenges in most state universities compare favourably with the operations of the owner states; it is therefore be unnecessary to discuss them here. The pattern of administration in the private universities varies considerably. Each private university has its own peculiarities. Discussing them collectively will not be appropriate. The emphasis here will be on Federal Universities. The federal government is responsible for the new developments or maintenance of structures on federal universities. However, other agencies like Education Tax Fun (ETF), banks and other donors contribute to physical development. Each university has a governing council that oversees the affairs of the university on behalf of the federal government.
Each University has a Physical Lanning Unit (P.P.U) under the office of the Vice Chancellor. This unit as the name implies is responsible for the development of new structures on the campuses. While the works department is in charge of maintenance of infrastructure When the university is desirous of embarking on a new project, the physical planning unit receives directives from the administration. The unit will liaise with the users / department who will benefit from the development to take inventory of their requirements and peculiarities. At this stage, the university may decide to employ the services of consultants or use their in – house professionals for the design. There is no uniformity in the operations of the universities in this regard. The various options adopted are: Some universities engage the services of consultants most of the time and sparingly use in house professionals for their designs Some university use only in house professionals Some use combine in house professionals from the physical planning unit and lecturers from relevant departments of the university.
The good thing is that the quality of the contract documents is always very high and detailed in most universities, but geotechnical investigations are usually not carried out. Only a handful of them use incomplete documents. After the completion of the contract documents, most universities would have an idea of the range of probable cost of the project before proceeding to other stages. Planning is easier in the university system because the academic environment dictates orderliness. The law establishing them creates procedures for achieving their objectives. Secondly, most of them have a master plan. The academic area is distinct from the residential area. There are further subdivisions to faculties and administrative areas. This does not mean that the university system does not have its own challenges. The peculiarities of the personalities of each administrator have its own effects on the management of the construction of infrastructures but the checks and balances of the university system still makes it more conducive.
Until very recently, the governing council of each university is the body that awards contracts. The idea of inviting contractors to tender for projects through advertisement in the dailies was not common. However, the method used in inviting contractors for tender and award vary for the different universities. The only thing they share in common is that any contractor desirous of being considered must register with the Federal Ministry of Works and the university in the appropriate category. Some of the methods employed are Some universities place adverts on their notice boards within the physical planning unit and the administrative block. This is common with the first generation universities Some universities go for selective tendering procedure. In this case, the few contractors considered receive letters of invitation to tender. The tenders collected are submitted to the office of the registrar after pricing. The consultants will analyze these tenders and submit their report to the physical planning unit for scrutiny. The reports of the consultants and the physical planning unit are merely for technical considerations. The management of each university will study the reports and forward their decisions to the governing council.
In some institutions, only contractors that fall within a range of the consultant’s estimates are given further considerations. While some institutions still considers the tender of all the contractors before a decision is taken. The tender’s board, headed by the Chairman of the governing council will consider the reports and award the contract to any contractor of their choice. In some universities however, the contractors are invited for further interview and negotiations. Technical issues are discussed with a view of getting an insight into the professional competence of each contractor. It is however difficult to understand the principles that guide their choice of contractor. However, the method of planning and award of contract in the university system has witnessed major changes. A few years ago, “Due process” was introduced, and very recently, the procurement act of 2007 has increased the transparency in the award of contracts. All federal universities now operate a uniform method in the planning and award of contracts.
It is the duty of the physical planning unit to ensure that all projects are properly managed with or without consultants. Most universities do not employ consultants for resident supervision. Nevertheless, they still give instructions on site anytime their attention is required. The university appoints a clerk of works who is responsible to the director of physical planning. His duty is to ensure that the contractor adheres to specifications and carries out the construction as designed. The contractor submits a programme of work in line with his previous completion period during tendering. The feasibility of the programme is discussed and amendments are made without changing the period of construction.
Building construction is the commonest in the university system. We have occasional estate roads, dams or other structures. Professionals are in charge of every aspect of the construction. For a building project, the architect is the leader of the team while the structural and service engineers are available for their inputs. The quantity surveyor carries out a valuation at the instance of the contractor. An architects’ certificate is issued for every valuation and sent to the physical planning unit for processing. In cases where fund is available, these certificates are honoured in reasonable time. The project is completed and commissioned. However, some universities award contracts on the projection of expected funds. These projects run into difficulties because, without funding, the contracts get abandoned. We have many of such projects in some universities.
Quality control is very important to the university system. All materials are inspected before the contractor uses them. Periodic test on the strength of concrete (Cube Test) are carried out. While the specimen of reinforcement are subjected to tensile strength test. Other materials for finishing are inspected and approved. In addition, the management of contracts in the universities does not give room for a shoddy execution. There are periodic site meetings, which addresses and controls issues relating to quality of materials and workmanship.
Post contract is the professional terminology used for all activities carried out when actual construction work starts. The challenges here are too numerous and complicated because of the financial implications and control of construction personnel. Some of these are Quality of construction materials Source of equipments Availability of qualified and competent workers Proliferation of experienced artisans into the field of engineering Finance
The assemblage or mixing of different construction materials is the art of construction. Therefore, it is very important that these materials must conform to specifications. However, it is very sad that Nigeria is just a dumping ground for various materials and equipments. There is no control on the quality of locally produced or imported materials. This factor affects the infrastructure negatively on completion. Primary construction materials, which are common to all construction projects, are:
Cement is one of the commonest building materials. Elephant and Dangote cement are locally manufactured. They dominate the market, while there are other brands. These products are good but some unscrupulous individuals adulterate and re-bag them. This affects the setting time and overall strength of concrete and mortar. In order to augment local production, cement is imported. Experience has shown that the strength these brands of cement are not uniform. The initial setting time vary considerably.
This is a major challenge because it is not possible to know the manufacturers at the point of purchase. The size and quality is a joint problem. Common sizes in the industry are 8, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25mm. However, these are sizes in name only. 10mm rods has many varieties namely, 9mm, 9.5mm or full 10mm. 12mm has 11mm, 11.5mm and full 12mm. There are at least two or three varieties of each size. There is further subdivision of local and imported reinforcement, which cannot be verified. Occasionally when samples of reinforcement were taken to the laboratory for testing. The tensile strengths were found to be lower than design strength. Availability and cost are the major problem for structural steel members. Structural engineering consultants are constrained by the limited size and type of members available in the market.
There are two types of aggregates; coarse aggregates refer to granite chippings or gravel. While fine aggregate is supposed to be river sand. Granite chippings are manufactured mechanically and locally, it should be free from dust, loam, silt, clay and other impurities. The source of worry here is mainly availability, we have occasional bad chippings, but it is easy to detect. However, fine aggregate to be used for mortar and concrete shall be clean, sharp natural pit or river sand. River sand is very scarce. In upland states, river dredging is uncommon. What is referred to as river sand does not meet all the qualities of the sand specified for construction works.
Other materials used for construction are, aluminum roofing sheets, doors, mortise locks, electrical cables and fittings, sanitary wares, asphalt, paints e.t.c. We have various manufactures for these materials, but the quality of their products differs significantly. Most of them are substandard because the country does not have an efficient regulatory body to enforce compliance with international standards. The professional in the construction industry is at the receiving end.
The big multinational companies do not seem to have any problem in this regard. However, the bulk of other indigenous contracting companies who do not need major equipments like bulldozers, vibrating rollers, excavators for more than a few days at a time face hardship in locating equipments in good working condition. It is extremely difficult even if you have the money to pay. Basic equipments like concrete mixers, concrete vibrators, survey equipments, small lifting devices, cranes, vibrating rollers, pavers and other equipments are common to all contracting firms. Availability of spare parts and high cost of maintenance is the only major challenge. In addition to the above, Indigenous contracting companies are not benefiting from latest developments that have taken place on equipments worldwide. In developed countries, equipment- leasing companies complement these disadvantages in the construction industry. But leasing outfits are not common in the country. The fact that we are still placing concrete manually on multi storey buildings is not good enough. Concrete pumps and small lifting devices should be available at affordable prices.
These are two major problems in the construction industry. Fluctuations are caused by increased in the cost of materials while variations occur when a contractor carries out additional works, which are not included in the BOQ. The price of materials fluctuates without notice or reason. This becomes a major problem for the contractor because most clients insist on non- fluctuating contracts despite the fact that we are all aware that prices fluctuate. The time lag between tendering and award of contract is not fixed. It is very common for the prices of materials to have fluctuated even before the project commences. The financial losses incurred by contracting firms in this regard are a major source of concern.
Corporate clients as earlier discussed pay fluctuations and variations claims. It is extremely difficult but not impossible for a contractor to claim for fluctuation on state government and federal government contracts. In the university system, variation claims are paid, if it is properly handled and approved by the consultants. However, fluctuation claims are not entertained at all. The combined effects of fluctuations and variations in the construction industry can be severe and detrimental to the overall completion of projects.
The inadequacy of competent work force is another major challenge in the industry. The quality of recent graduates is declining. Training facilities are running short while incessant strikes in our education system leads to poor education. It is so bad that you cannot trust a trainee engineer on a simple task. This factor indirectly encouraged the proliferation of experienced artisans who pose as engineers to unsuspecting clients and employers. The problem caused by incompetent workforce is that expected basic engineering knowhow is lacking. For instance, an engineer on a road project is expected to know that asphalt laid below the given temperature will quicken deterioration of the road surface. He is also expected to identify bad laterite for earthworks even before laboratory tests.
Likewise, on a building project, an engineer should acquaint himself with the use of basic tools like tape, builders’ plums, squares, bricklayers range and a host of others. He is also expected to know the setting time of concrete and workability for various uses; he should be conversant with lap lengths suitable for the various sizes of reinforcement. An average engineer on any project is therefore expected to have a reasonable understanding of the various components: electrical and mechanical works. The incompetence of the site engineer or supervising consultant affects their employers negatively and the client generally on the successful completion of the project. The training of artisans has also dropped. Apprentice artisans are not available. This has led to insufficient artisans in all categories. While the volume of work available is increasing daily, the numbers of artisans are decreasing.
The aim of any individual pursuing a carrier in civil engineering is to be able to generate enough money to live comfortably. The financial difficulties in the industry are so staggering that achieving the objective is a mirage. Bureaucracy by civil servants leads to delay in payment to both the contractors and the consultants. This is common to all tiers of government and university. Only corporate organisations pay for services rendered as and when due. Inadequate budgeting for ongoing projects is another mitigating factor. To compound these problems, banks are not willing to fund contractors because of bad loans. The combined effect of all these factors on the industry creates a crippling effect. This accounts for a high percentage of abandoned projects.
In summary, the challenges facing the civil engineering construction in Nigeria are many ranging from: (a) modalities of achieving contracting documents, (b) poor planning, (c) lack of transparency in the award of contracts (d) the presence of unqualified individuals posing as professionals in the industry, (e) inadequacy of finance (f) declining competence of trained professionals and artisans.
However, these challenges can be alleviated: Implementing the procurement act of year 2007 at all levels of government and agencies involved in infrastructural development Improve budgeting and implementation Reduction of bureaucracy in the planning and implementation of new developments Adopting the points and suggestions raised in the communiqué issued at the end of the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers in Abuja which was published in “The Punch Newspaper” of 17 th November, Some of these include;
*Improving and domesticating all codes and standards of civil engineering with a need for National civil engineering codes of practice. *Organisations responsible for infrastructural development should imbibe the culture of training and retraining their personnel. *Government should make geotechnical investigations mandatory for all civil engineering projects because it is a major parameter in the failure of engineering investigations.