Government should collaborate with the Engineering Industry to provide Adequate Funds for Trials – Prof. Chinwuba Arum

Government should collaborate with the Engineering Industry to provide Adequate Funds for Trials – Prof. Chinwuba Arum

…As he delivers inaugural lecture in FUTA
…Also shares stories of how he became a renowned Engineer

Professor Chinwuba Ned Arum is a professor of Civil/Structural engineering and the Dean, School of Postgraduate Studies at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA).
The Scholar on 20th of April 2020 delivered his inaugural lecture which was titled, The Structural Engineer’s Mandate: A Fascinating Game of ‘Add and Drop’. He charged and recommended that the government should collaborate with the industry to provide adequate funds for trials of the developed construction materials in pilot projects to prove their viability before full-scale implementation.
In an interview with Olanrewaju Ayo and Kehinde Ajayi of the Chronicle Magazine, the Don also shared the story of how he worked hard to rise to the Pinnacle; his journey to the Engineering profession.

Can you lead us into your background, especially your educational and career sojourn?
I was born in Amechi town in Enugu South Local government area of Enugu State. I had my Primary School in that town from 1970 to 1975 and my Secondary School from 1975 to 1980. After the Secondary School, I gained admission to the University in 1981. Under scholarship, I travelled to the then Soviet Union where I went on to obtain a master’s degree in Civil Engineering at the Kharkov Institute of Municipal Engineers. I later went on to the foremost Civil Engineering institution in the then Soviet Union, Moscow State Civil Engineering Institute (now Moscow State University of Civil Engineering) where in November 1992, I obtained my Ph.D in Civil Engineering with specialization in Structuring Engineering.
Back in Nigeria, I worked in the industry for eight years before joining the University system in the year 2000. I started as a Lecturer II and over the years, I grew in rank and became a full Professor in 2014.

Do you have any academic engagements outside FUTA since your first appointment in the University?
Very well. Between first appointment as Lecturer II and attainment of the status of Professor, I had the opportunity of getting appointed as a visiting assistant Professor in the Civil Engineering Department of Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia as a Nigerian Technical Expert under the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria, in 2006. TAC is actually a volunteer scheme and the purpose is to assist African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in the provision of manpower in specific areas of need, on request. I was in Ethiopia until 2008. Again, I had the opportunity of being appointed a visiting Professor to the civil engineering programme in the Faculty of Engineering and IT (Jose Eduardo Santos Campus) of the University of Namibia in 2014 when I took Sabbatical leave from FUTA. The University had since then kept inviting me as guest Professor until 2018, when I became the Dean, School of Postgraduate Study (Dean, SPGS) here in FUTA and could no longer honour such invitations for want of time. The work at SPGS is enormous, because the School services all other Schools offering postgraduate programmes in the University.
In Nigeria, I have been external examiner to many undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Even as a Dean, I am currently the external examiner to the civil engineering undergraduate programme at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), external examiner to the structures option of civil engineering postgraduate programme of the University of Ibadan (UI), and have just completed serving a 3-year appointment as external examiner to both the civil engineering undergraduate and postgraduate (Structures) programmes of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti (ABUAD). I have also at various times served as external examiner for master’s and Ph.D civil engineering programmes at the University of Benin (UNIBEN), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Covenant University, Ota, among others. I have also served as External Assessor of candidates for promotion to professorial cadre for a number of universities including: University of Ibadan; University of Benin; Federal University of Technology, Owerri; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Federal University of Technology, Minna; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Covenant University, Ota; Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti; Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso; Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.

Can you narrate how the vision to Study Engineering came into being?
I have always been an admirer of beautiful houses, fascinating highways and elegant bridges, etc. My enquiries in my high school days revealed that towns and cities owe much of their physical infrastructure and magnificence to the civil engineer. With this knowledge, I took the study of Mathematics and Physics very seriously knowing that these are the two subjects in which I must excel in order to realize my dream. When I took JAMB exams in 1981, I actually got admission to study Civil Engineering at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). However, that same year, I also applied for a Federal Government Scholarship and was subsequently interviewed by the Bureau for External Aid (BEA) for Education, an arm of the Federal Ministry of Education in charge of the scholarship programme. Those days, you needed a Division One in the West African School Certificate Examinations before you could be called for interview to compete for one of the few available slots.
I had applied to study Civil Engineering as my 1st choice and since it was a requirement to fill a different course as 2nd choice, I chose Mathematics. At the interview, the Panel members found my performance in Mathematics impressive, and felt I should be encouraged to study Mathematics. Consequently, they made me an offer: Accept Mathematics and you have a sure slot! I accepted, but all along thought to myself, ‘There must be a way of later switching to Civil Engineering’. Immediately I arrived Moscow, I commenced enquiries at the Nigerian Embassy on how I could change to Civil Engineering. Unfortunately, I was told that the Ambassador had said categorically that people should be discouraged from changing the courses they were offered from home. Disappointed, I travelled to Donetsk City in the Ukraine to begin the one year language training.
In the class for engineering and mathematics students (Technical Group), I became a favourite of our language instructor. She later observed that I was frequently moody, and she was concerned. When she enquired, I told her that although I liked the course I came to study, I would prefer Civil Engineering while Mathematics would be advantageously used to make me a good engineer. She then took me to the Dean of Foreign students who promised that if I complete the preparatory courses with a CGPA of 5.0 out of 5.0, he would write to the Students’ Affairs Officer at our Embassy to the effect that the University was not against my change of course.

To God be the glory, I completed the preparatory faculty in Distinction (5.0/5.0). The Dean gave me the letter as promised. I travelled to the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow and as I was in the premises trying to figure out how I would get the Students Affairs Officer and present my case, I saw a man taking a walk in the compound. I approached him and enquired about the Students Affairs Officer. He wanted to know why I was looking for the Officer and I told him my story. He asked to see my ‘O’ level result and I showed him, obliging him even the letter from my Dean, although he did not ask for it. He sent for the Students Affairs Officer and asked him to give me a letter to study any course I wanted, provided the institution’s admission requirements were met. What course would I choose? Your guess is correct – Civil Engineering! And who was the Angel I met in the Embassy premises? The Ambassador himself! For my Master’s and Doctorate programmes, I would later go into the Structural Engineering Option of Civil Engineering, to fully utilize my potentials in Mathematics.

Recently, you delivered the FUTA inaugural lecture series 125, what are your major highlights and recommendations?
I delivered a lecture titled: The Structural Engineer’s Mandate: A Fascinating Game of ‘Add and Drop’. In the course of the lecture I explained that every structural engineering problem has many predictor variables upon which the solution depends, but since in practical situations it is impossible to account for all influencing factors, the structural engineer will normally take a decision on which factors are major determinants and so ‘add’ them to consideration, and which ones influence the solution to a lesser extent and so ‘drop’ them from consideration.

I informed the audience that my research on concrete as a construction material revealed that its structural properties can be enhanced through the use of well-graded aggregates, use of coarse aggregates of optimal maximum nominal size, shape and surface texture, employment of low water/cement ratios in combination with plasticizers, and effective curing methods.

Also, I presented the results of my research which proved that partial replacement of Portland cement with granulated cupola slag can reduce the permeability of concrete produced from it without any loss in compressive strength, and that at certain percentage replacement levels, will even yield concrete with improved compressive strength. I also shared the findings of my research on recycled aggregate concrete, that at higher water/cement ratios, the compressive strength of recycled aggregate concrete is similar to that of reference normal aggregate concrete but lower than that of the reference concrete at lower water/cement ratios.
Furthermore, the workability of recycled aggregate concrete is lower than that of the reference concrete.

In addition, I informed the audience that in an investigation conducted by my research team on the use of non-destructive methods for the assessment of the condition of concrete in structure, we developed applicable predictive equations for compressive strength of various grades of concrete by combining the test results from the Rebound hammer and ultrasonic pulse velocity (UPV) tester and correlated them as appropriate. I also shared that my research to determine effective lightweight steel frameworks revealed that depending on the wind region of Nigeria in which large span frameworks for multipurpose auditoria are to be constructed, the framework can be either truss-on-column construction, pitched roof portals with castellated web members of continuously varying depth, various forms of arch and polygonal arch construction, as well as mixed construction with possible combinations of concrete, steel and timber.

I made recommendations to three different sub-groups: the government, academia and the industry; professional bodies and regulatory agencies; and the engineering team in the construction sector/ other end users.
To Government, Industry and the Academia
Government, Industry and the Academia should partner to provide necessary funding for taking the developed sustainable construction materials and the other research outputs from the laboratory to the market place.
The government through its various agencies, especially the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), should increase the number of research proposals it commits to fund in the area of the development of sustainable construction materials.

The Academia, particularly the University, is best placed to conduct research which generates Knowledge while the Industry is best positioned to practically use the knowledge generated by the academia through Innovation in order to generate Money. By way of signing various memoranda of understanding (MoU), the University and the Industry can work such that some fraction of the money generated will be retained by the Industry while another fraction should be dedicated for funding more research for generation of more knowledge upon which innovation will be applied once again to generate money, and the cycle continues in perpetuity.

Government should also play the role of Facilitator in this case, providing enabling laws to ensure the sustenance of this town-gown collaboration. Government should provide the seed money to kick start this mutually beneficial cycle.

To Professional Bodies and Regulatory Agencies
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) should work with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and other agencies charged with the regulatory controls of construction works to:
Impose a ban and rigorously enforce same on the use of steel reinforcement bars of non-recognizable origin for construction works, unless such bars have been tested and confirmed to conform to contract specifications.
Ensure that bars of recognizable origin supplied by Nigerian steel rolling mills or imported into the country are accompanied by product’s certificate which must contain necessary information on material quality, or else be subjected to tensile test before use.

To the Engineering Team / Other End Users
The Site Engineer should ensure that at every stage of the construction work, the various aspects of quality control are exercised on site, particularly in respect of the following: formwork material and design; concrete batching, placement and compaction; provision of adequate concrete cover to reinforcement; regular casting of cubes or cylinders from different batches of concrete and their timely testing to check uniformity of concrete quality and ensure production of concrete that satisfies minimum strength requirement.

The site supervisors and other end users should take disseminated research outputs from the academia seriously and strive to ensure that relevant recommendations are complied with at construction sites. For example, Site Engineers and other relevant supervisors on construction sites should ensure that every batch of steel rods brought for use on a project is tested for compliance in terms of strength and ductility, as appropriate.

To say you are a successful academic is an understatement. But what have been the challenges so far?

My most important challenge has been how to effectively manage my time and schedules. You see, while the amount of time I have in a day remains the same (24 hrs), the number and level of activities competing for that same time continues to grow. As a professor, I am involved in teaching, research (including supervision of students’ master’s and Ph.D theses), and community service. For example, as Dean of School of Postgraduate Studies, I still teach both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, supervise undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D projects, dissertations and theses, attend to various other engagements including membership of programme accreditation teams, external examinership of civil engineering programmes in other universities, act as external assessor of publications of colleagues in other universities being considered for promotion to professorial cadre, and once in a while, serve as a visiting or guest professor in other universities both within and outside Nigeria. As you move up the academic ladder, recognition grows and efficient time management becomes increasingly essential. Consequently, time management is a major challenge for me today.
However, as a Christian, I am a strict believer that only God gives the grace required for performance. I have this grace that does not permit anything to overwhelm me. During the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was at work every working day of every week (although in full compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols) because the Postgraduate School cannot close for one day without hurting many people requiring one form of its services or another. Thus, we are honour bound to accede to requests for issuance of academic transcripts and verification of results.

In the next ten years, where would you like to see yourself?
In the next ten years God willing, I want to look back and with a sense of fulfillment see that the various results of my research works for all my past years in the academia are not just in the laboratories and office shelves but are already translated into products for use in the wider society. I want to see that innovations have been applied and they have moved to the market place. For example, there are some software programmes that I developed with other members of my research team, which can actually be used in real practical designs. But how many people know about them? For them to actually get to the market, more work is needed. Government should provide funds for some pilot projects because my salary is too meager to be used for this purpose. I will like to be in a position to consult people on how best to apply my various research results and to demonstrate to them that the research works are not mere theoretical exercises but need-driven actual problem-solving measures.

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