NATA News: Can we know you sir; and a little of your profile please?
Timothy: My name is Timothy Chimezie Iwuagwu, a retired officer of the Nigerian Navy after (serving for) 31years. After my service, I contested and won as the Chairman of the Institute (of Safety Professional) Lagos Branch.
I started from a technical background.
After my course in Federal Government School, I got my City and Guild of London Institute Certificate (in) which I scored Distinction in Part One and went on to get a Credit in Automobile Technology in Part Two with which I joined the Nigeria Navy and became a personnel in the Engineering Branch.
Engnr. Iwuagwu has also served as a Senior Instructor in Nuclear Biological & Chemical at the Defense School; Senior Instructor Marine Engineering School; Senior Instructor at the Nigerian Navy Underwater Warfare School and I spent 16 years onboard ships & offshore platforms.
I was also trained in the Institute of Engineering and Technical Studies, Las Pacia Italy.
Iwuagwu is a Masters Degree holder in Security Operations & Management Studies. A Post Graduate Diploma (holder) in Health Safety & Environmental Management.
I’m also a Masters Degree holder in Transport Management at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.
With my wide knowledge acquisition, I am also a Specialist in Ship Propulsion & Controls; and also a Part-time Lecturer at the Institute of Shipping, Nigeria.
NATA News: Please tell us about your association?
Timothy: The Institute started as a group of friends gathering together and later became a statutory body registered with CAC (and) saddled with a responsibility in 1980 and from then to 2014, the Institute became Chartered by an Act of National Assembly; then we become a Regulatory Body which the act gave us some powers & functions and our objectives become defined through the act which made it mandatory that people who want to practice safety profession become certified, registered and publish the list of certified members at regular intervals.
NATA News: How can you measure the achievement of the Institute so far?
The Institute became part of the public hearing during the establishment of Safety Commission in Lagos State which is existing (till) today and we took same to Cross Rivers State and currently to Delta State which is still going (through) legislative considerations at the floor of the Delta State Assembly.
The Institute has also responded to so many safety critical issues across the country, for example; the gas explosion in Lafia, Nasarawa State; several tanker explosions & mishaps in Lagos and Ogun States.
The Institute has taken capacity development efforts in Kanji Dam where electricity distribution companies are operating in Kanji and we have a lot of things doing with Oil & Gas Industry as far as safety is concerned both in Maritime Sector.
NATA News: How is your institute handling land transport safety?
As it concerns land transport, the Institute is trying her best to bring safety teachings to every home, schools and motor parks to be safety conscious so long as transport is concerned.
We let people know the basic needs of safety as to before you move your vehicle; check your environment and within your car before moving out. Check your vehicle very well starting from your engine, mirror, wipers, tyres and your lights.
We also do reach out on the use of seat belts, because when a vehicle is on motion everything in the car tends to be moving and it is only the seat belt that can help save a life in most cases when there is emergency.
NATA News: If you were to advise the government on safety, where do you start from?
Timothy: I will start by advising them to establish Auto Mechanic Villages, so as people will not have reasons for not going for regular auto services. Government also (should) provide transport accessories along the high ways, such as: filling stations, restaurants, clinics and hospitals as well (as) towing vans along the high ways.
NATA News: What other things does the Institute of Safety Professionals do?
Timothy: We train professional drivers on how to comply with road rules. We have our simulators (that) we use to test drivers alertness and with this, you may be surprise that after years of driving, there are things you don’t know and with this effort, we are trying to improve human capacity and bring in development.
NATA News: Why don’t we have safety gadgets along our highways and motor parks as it is done in some developed countries?
Timothy: It is direct manifestations of the evil of not having professionals handle or occupy professionally critical positions (in ministries, agencies and parastatals of governments in Nigeria).
For example, it is very difficult to make someone who is not agriculturally inclined, to understand the need to make boreholes and have pipes to bring water to irrigate the farm; he can just tell you that it will soon rain.
Today, Nigeria is expanding and road infrastructure is in high demand, not that we need roads, but good roads. Like the fire hydrant should be in strategic points for easy access in case of emergency on the highways.
Note: All these things ought to be there, but the reason is the people in charge do not see reason for them to be there. Secondly, in Nigeria, we are running a system mostly by description not by rules, because if you follow rules all these things will be there.
NATA News: Do you see the country’s transport system improving?
Timothy: Yes. In time to come, Nigeria will soon get it right, because we are gradually entering into Multi-modal Transport System. Though, it is unfortunate that we allow much time to be wasted.
NATA News: As regards Transport Safety, why do we not have welfare packages for drivers and why do drivers in Nigeria not properly recruited?
Timothy: It is obvious that when you have monkeys in any team to play football games, you should also expect monkey results. There is always no formal driving school and the types we have here were the make-shift driving schools; “pay little and learn for one week”.
It is important to establish good driving schools such that one will go and learn all that he/she needs to know about driving, so as when people are advertising for driving they will state that and that as requirements. We need to have national policy on driving and that is the only way they can be recognized.
NATA News: What safety measures are you taking on the issue of school buses?
Timothy: In abroad and on some of the fairly used cars we buy here (in Nigeria) have stickers on the (wind) screen; which directly tell (us) that a baby is in the car, but here in Nigeria, laws and its enforcement becomes the case.
Here is the only place where you will see a school bus without proper signage operating on the road putting future hope lives at risk. But in this regard, as an institute, we have taken it to our heel to schools, advising them to introduce or have safety officers, re-train their drivers in the proper use of the roads and try as much as possible to be putting signage on the school buses, because (literarily speaking) most drivers are mad. Some of them even rub shoulders with trailers; forgetting that they are carrying school children.
NATA News: What are the challenges currently rocking the institute?
Timothy: We are having challenge of men who are not ready to work, but are concerned in leadership for title sake; and that has kept the institute nonfunctional effectively for years.
We do not have operational vehicles to move around. For example: in the case of emergency where the security agencies do not arrive immediately, we should be able to give account in proper safety language, but due to lack of mobility we are not always visible in most cases. As part of our challenges, we need more faculty members, office and training spaces. We need scientific equipments in checking air quality because there is a lot of environmental pollution here in Lagos.
NATA News: How do you think the Institute can help in this regard?
Right now, Institute wants to start helping as we have been doing in the past by reporting air quality because this is causing more harm than good.
NATA News: What do you think the government can do for the institute?
Timothy: It will interest you to know that the government is supposed to do something for us, but we are the ones doing for government out of our own little nothing. Do you know trained Factory Inspectors of the Federal Ministry of Labor on Safety at height; because a lot (of) Nigerian youths who were employed by these construction companies are at risk because when they fall nothing happens and in most cases (such incidents are) not reported.
We want the government (to) do something in this aspect. We have called the government on most (of) the needs I mentioned above from the Institute, but no respond yet and we cannot continue to disturb them if they know or have anything to do for us let them do (it).
NATA News: What is the membership strength of the Institute?
Timothy: Approximately, we are 8,000. Currently, we are doing what we call membership drive; the reason being that you cannot just come and join the Institute, but the law has made it clear who should join the Institute and companies should stop operating without safety professionals, this is the main aim for the Institute to see that companies operate with professionals in safety.
NATA News: Like the FRSC, do you carry out safety campaign and sensitisations?
Timothy: Yes we do a lot and even as I speak with you, we have one coming up soon tagged Safety Managers Forum”.
NATA News: What is your message to the general public?
Timothy: My message is that work should not be done if it cannot be done safely, because safety provides the basics for profit and productivity.