Dominic Aigbogun
Dominic Aigbogun

Pa Dominic Aigbogun is a founding father and former Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the defunct Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals (NISP). He is currently a Member of the Governing Board of Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON), which succeeded NISP. A Life Member of the institute, Pa Aigbogun gives detailed insight into the formation of the foremost safety professional body in this interview conducted in September 2014. Excerpt…

Tell us how the Institute of Safety Professionals started…

In 1967, I was employed by BP Nigeria Limited, as the company’s Safety Officer and was based at the company’s major installations at Apapa in Lagos. It was a complex petroleum premises which attracted safety inspection by Factory Inspectorate, because of its Lubricant Plant, Kerosene Canning Plant, LPG Filling Plant, and a Boiler Plant. Thus, in 1968 during a visit by Factory Inspectors, my employment in BP Nigeria Limited was known by the Inspectors. Consequently, Mr. Akpanokon, Safety Inspector in the Factory Inspectorate, who was then the General Secretary of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN) strolled into my office one day, in 1969, with a request for me to facilitate in a course he organised on behalf of NISCN. At the end of the course he was impressed and I got a letter of appreciation from him. That established our friendly relationship.

I had been registered as a Graduate of the Institution of Industrial Safety Officers of the UK and got full membership of the Institution in 1970. Though I was proud of the membership, an agitation fired by patriotism developed in my mind that a similar body should be established in Nigeria. But, in a discussion with Mr. Akpanokon, the pertinent question he raised was: where are the Safety Officers to form the institution? That kept us quiet for a while. There were not many full-time industrial safety officers in Nigeria then.

Alh. Dada, a Principal Fire Officer in Oyo State Fire Service, got a job with Mobil Oil Producing Unlimited and came over to Lagos. Late Alh. Dada and I sat for the Institution of Fire Engineers examination in the same year. That brought us together as friends. Through him, I met late Engr. Osinuga and Mr. Ogwai who were also in Mobil safety team. We were still not enough. So, the matter was put to rest until more people could be found. Meanwhile, I got appointment with Dunlop Nigerian Industries Limited and left BP Nigeria Limited in 1974. Dunlop was a manufacturing Industry and that increased the frequency of my visit to see Mr. Akpanokon in the Factory Inspectorate.

A very good opportunity came our way in 1978 during the Annual Conference of NISCN at the University of Lagos when we:  Aigbogun,  Akpanokon, Dada, and Osinuga met with some of the attendees who were having responsibility, full time/part-time, for occupational safety in their organisations. They all affirmed positively that they would join a body of Safety Officers if/when formed. That set the ball rolling. Mr. Akpanokon had the clue but we had to wait till another Conference of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria which was normally two-yearly event.

At the 1980 annual Conference/AGM of the NISCN, the Honourable Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chief Ogedegbe of blessed memory, directed in his keynote address that the Safety Officers amongst the Conference Participants should organise themselves to form a technical arm of NISCN. That official pronouncement gave impetus to our strong heart desire for a professional body of safety professionals in Nigeria. At the end of the conference, about 15-20 of us at the conference met to actualise the body which subsequently we named ‘’NIGERIAN SOCIETY OF SAFETY PROFESSIONALS’’ with which the Society was registered in 1983 by 7 Trustees under the Land Perpetual Act in the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. The registration was facilitated by Barrister (Mrs.) Osinuga, who was in the legal department of the Ministry.

Who were the founders?

I would say that those who came out from the 1980 NISCN CONFERENCE to form the Nigerian Society of Safety Professionals, at the conference venue – Durbar Hotel, in FESTAC, Lagos – were the founders of our noble Institute. Those I could remember off-hand are: Ogwai, Osinuga, and Dada, of Mobil Producing; Adoghe, Captain-Briggs, Asini, and Agaga, of Shell; Alebiosu of Agip; Raji of Vanleer Containers; Awolowo of Kwara State Fire Service; Akpanokon of Factory Inspectorate;  Aigbogun of Dunlop;  an Engineer from NPA, whose name I have forgotten; and one participant from Sugar Refinery in Kwara.

Factory Inspectors who in every sense are safety professionals did not join us, out of ego – superiority complex. Akpanokon must be mentioned amongst the group of founders because he was the cause of the pronouncement by the Honorable Minister, for the professionals to form a technical body.

Back then how was the leadership experience of the new professionals?

Mr. Ogwai was elected to head the steering/organising committee while I was one of his vices. My continued role as a leader stemmed from my offer to provide venue for the organising committee meetings when we were faced with a challenge of a venue for meetings. Fortunately, the Personnel Director in Dunlop, Mr. L. A. Nakpodia of blessed memory, was very supportive. He authorised me to use Management canteen for our meetings. The Canteen had been included in my portfolio as Manager, Safety and Welfare; thus, I had easy access to the Canteen. That took care of the challenge of venue.

I was the chairman of the Board, at the pleasure of my colleagues, from inception to October 2013 when I voluntarily stepped aside for Sir Adoghe to take over the mantle of the Board’s leadership.

With Love, Tolerance, Patience and Humility, I avoided crisis between the Board and the NEC and so, peaceful co-existence was maintained.

In 1989, the Board was dissolved at the Annual General Meeting. Some new members were elected into the Board, painfully to replace Alh. Dada, Alh. Alebiosu, Mr. Asini and Mr. Garrick. The Board had wanted only Messrs. Asini and Garrick replaced for non-performance. At the same AGM, NEC leadership changed from me to Sir Adoghe, after eight years of nurturing. A change of name from the Nigerian Society of Safety Professionals to the Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals was considered and agreed.

How did the body come about its constitution and logo?

Dada and I were living in Ikeja. He was only about two poles away from my house; so, I invited him to a discussion on the need for a draft constitution for the Nigerian Society of Safety Professionals. After some deliberations, we zeroed in on the constitution of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) which both of us were familiar with and he undertook to write the draft along the pattern of the IFE constitution, for consideration at the Organising Committee Meeting. The next thing I thought of was Logo which the body must have. Fortunately, my secretary, Mr. Adelu was good in arts; so, I requested him to give me a design that would contain the name, the PPE and fire control symbols which I gave him. He did it to my admiration, but I was at a loss as to what to fill into the gap at the bottom of the logo. Elder Grant Captain-Briggs suggested we should put “IN THE SERVICE OF MAN” in the gap, to complete the wordings on the logo. Both the draft constitution and the logo were accepted. The features on the logo have stood the test of time and have remained relevant till today; except the changes in name from the Nigerian Society of Safety Professionals to Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals in 1989 and lately to Institute of Safety Professionals by the Act of National Assembly which established the institute in accordance with Government regulation.

It must not have been all rosy championing the institute back then. What challenges did you have to overcome?

When it was observed that the NEC was financially handicapped and the branches held on to the institute’s money in their possessions, due to the sharing formulae that was designed to ensure that no vibrant Branch is disabled from executing institute’s programs, I tried, as BOT Chairman, to intervene. My appeal for an understanding that the Institute is one, therefore, the President could call for fund from any Branch at any time, did not make any impact. In view of the fact that what was due to NEC from the Branches was insufficient for the President to run the Institute effectively, suggested to Chief Okunamiri who was then the President that the institute should formally create a Training and Consultancy Division in which the National Body (NEC) should also be running training courses and be responsible for consulting services. He agreed and I drafted the constitution for the training division which was included in the institute’s general constitution. I took up the chairmanship of the Division and recommended Sir Adoghe and Elder Captain-Briggs to be the Training Coordinators in Delta and Rivers Branches respectively. The proposal was agreed by the President and the training at the National level commenced.

Fortunately, Nigerite Limited offered us two training programs: one for their managers and a defensive driving course for drivers. Following that was the safety training we conducted for Dangote Sugar Refinery. A separate account for the Training Division to which the President, Chief Okunamiri and I would be signatories was agreed. In trying to establish the Current Account with the First Bank of Nigeria Plc. a serious challenge to the genuineness of NISP establishment confronted me.

The big challenge came when I was opening a separate account with the First Bank of Nigeria, Ikeja Industrial Estate Branch, to which both Chief Okunamiri and I were signatories for the Training Division, in the name of Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals, which the Institute had assumed. The certificate the President had for presentation to the bank was the one bearing Nigerian Society of Safety Professionals which the Bank would not accept, because the name I gave the Bank was Nigerian Institute of Safety Professionals, which the Institute had assumed since 1989 before the opening of the Account in 1994, due perhaps to oversight or ignorance that such a change should be registered at the CORPORATE AFFAIRS COMMISSION (CAC). The issues with the CAC were compounded by the fact that the Trustees elected in 1989 were also not registered with CAC. Thus, the elected Trustees in 1989 were not recognised by CAC and the original Trustees were required to sign the change of name. The insistence of CAC for the original Trustees brought Alh. Alebiosu, who was replaced in 1989, back to the Board of Trustees. Alh. Dada had translated. Alh. Alebiosu had a link to Calabar, so he kindly volunteered to look for Mr. Garrick in Calabar where he found that Mr. Garrick had also translated. May they rest in divine bliss of God.

In all that negligence of the Institute’s secretariat, penalties on annual returns not made over the years, the fees due on annual returns for the number of the years and travelling costs by Dr. Anyanwu who accepted to do the running for the Institute, amounted to over NGN250, 000.00 (two hundred and fifty thousand naira only) funded by money generated from the three training programs conducted in Lagos. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to the President and without consultation with me, at least, as the Chairman Board of Trustee, who started the program, the training division was disbanded at a NEC meeting in Port Harcourt which I could not attend. The Branch Chairmen were once again placed in-charge of training. That opportunity given to the Branches heightened the dichotomy between the Branch Chairmen and the President. The Branch Chairmen, for particularly Delta and Rivers States, would not want the President to intercept their plans for their Branches. As good as their intentions were, I felt that their projects should be tabled at NEC meeting for approval. I, as the BOT Chairman, would not have opposed their plans and on principle, I expressed my displeasure in a branch engaging on a capital project without NEC and BOT approval.

However, the good side of the dichotomy was that while the President had no fund to execute national projects, Delta State Branch, led by Mr. Shaw Fregene, built a very impressive storey building for the institute’s Secretariat and training facilities in Warri. This development calmed down strained nerves and Rivers State Branch which indicated availability of funds at the Branch to replicate Delta’s example was given the approval to do so. Not long after, a more imposing two-story Branch secretariat building, incorporating training rooms, was built for the Institute in Port Harcourt.

As good as those eventual developments were, they, in my opinion, showed the dominance of the chairmen of fund generating Branches, over the control of the President of the Institute. That was a serious challenge which the BOT wanted to peacefully control with introduction of Annual Budget System. As at the present the budget system is still on the runway and has not taken off the ground. Happily, now that the Institute has become chartered by an Act of Parliament, there is only one option left for financial control, that being to operate annual budget system for central fund control by the Board of Chartered ISPON.

You are the present Vice-President of the Fire Protection Association of Nigeria; tell us about your involvement in the fire protection business and how you were able to marry that with ISPON

I am one of the founding members of Fire Protection Association of Nigeria in1978. To give it the necessary clout it deserved, being a loss prevention NGO, we took the idea of the association to the Managing Director of NICON , Mr. Yinka Lijadu, ON, who happily embraced the idea and got it nurtured by the Nigerian Insurance Association (NIA), through their Fire Offices Committee (FOC) and registered the Association as a Company Limited by Guarantee. The subscribers were representatives of NIA.

I became the Chairman of the Education and Technical Committee in 1981 when Professor Fafunwa of blessed memory, who was the Chairman, stepped aside from the Association. Currently I am the Vice President of the Association. The President is Mr. Remi Olowude, OON, the Executive Vice President of Industrial General Insurance Plc (IGI), a conglomerate.

To create synergy between the Association and ISPON, I secured membership of the Association’s Governing Council for late Alh. Dada and Chief Okunamiri. Only Alh. Dada was interested and active in the Association’s business during his lifetime.

My functions in both ISPON and FPAN have been running smoothly without any clash. Both bodies are safety organisations. While ISPON is an omnibus safety organisation, FPAN majors in fire prevention and control; though being a loss prevention organisation, it runs relevant safety courses as would be found in developed economies. Occupational safety and fire safety are multi-disciplinary fields of human endeavor.

I still strongly feel that synergy should be established and maintained between the two distinct bodies because there are common grounds especially on standards in which there should be consensus by the two bodies. Additionally, the two bodies should speak with one voice on common safety issues.

To say that you have seen it all would not be an understatement. What challenges do you foresee for the management of ISPON?

I am seeing ISPON that will expand in leaps and bounds, consisting of various functional Divisions, Branches and Chapters, as already envisaged, to accommodate groupings in areas/places where there may not be many safety officers. It is not unlikely that the Institute, having been chartered may now attract the interest of:

  • Factory Inspectors of the Federal Ministry of Labour
  • Staff of the Department of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources
  • Corps of the Federal Road Safety Commission and similar Traffic Officers at the States of the Federation of Nigeria
  • Members of the Society of Occupational Health Physicians of Nigeria
  • Industrial Hygienists
  • Industrial Nurses,
  • Municipal Safety Officers to maintain safety in townships, reduce significantly, levels of disturbing noise, air pollutions and other pollutants, etc, in the cities and towns. This can spring up in 774 Local Government Areas and beneficially enhance membership and value in ISPON.

However, good developments in the above directions will come with trails of implications of factors arising from different human levels of understanding.

Secondly, a serious challenge could arise from improper budgeting, haphazard budget implementations, and poor financial reporting.

Thirdly, the procedure for election of officers at both the Branch and National levels should be reviewed. ISPON that is advocating strict compliance with safety rules must be a role model in electoral procedure. In some organisations, Officers that will be elected at a general meeting are known in advance. Such a system should be put in place to avoid rancor in the Institute.

What would you advise the executives of ISPON to put in place to keep the institute on top gear?

  • I would like to see an establishment of a Research and Development Division that will incorporate established program of standardised Workshops and Seminars at the National level for members of the Institute and Retreat for Fellows, National Officers and Course Facilitators of the Institute. This is without prejudice on local refresher training activities at Branch / Divisional levels.
  • To see official synergy established between the Institutes’ Research and Development Division, with Government established/recognised Research Centres, for practical tests of materials for developments of Nigerian Standards and ascertaining the actual properties of materials being dumped in this country. It will also serve as an exchange in scientific information.
  • To see established collaboration with relevant government departments/agencies on investigation of accidents for their root and contributory causes for training and prevention of reoccurrence.
  • To establish its own Research Laboratories in the University of Port Harcourt where through the good foresight of our members and kind understanding of the University Authorities we already have a good space of land for training at University level.

Each of the above objectives, in my opinion, will support the cause of ISPON, give it more recognition, promote professionalism and add value to it.

What would you say are the tasks ahead of ISPON on the grounds of the new charter?

One of the best things that have happened in this country is the clause in the ISPON Act by which it has the sole authority to register safety professional who may want to practice in this country. It seeks to eliminate quacks and avoidable dichotomy, and promote, with one voice, discipline and perfection on safety matters. Safety must not be laden with confusing opinions.

However, just as ISPON has the omnibus status given to it, it must in turn meet the expectations of the Federal Government in endeavoring to promote, in all angles, safety issues, to the advantage of the citizenry and the country as one entity.

While the image of ISPON must be promoted by its individual and corporate members, ISPON must, in turn, promote the personality and image of its members, by improving their knowledge and skills regularly and seeking, for them, positions of authority with commensurate remunerations that will enable them to perform creditably. ISPON should encourage medium and large organisations to employ ISPON registered safety professionals and encourage small-scale industries to engage safety consultants for periodical safety survey and advice. Additionally, business organisations should be engaging Safety Consultants periodically for independent safety advice as it is done by international companies and in developed economies.

In all of this, individual and corporate members, of course, should know that ISPON would hold them accountable for their actions and be so guided in their showings. Members, especially the ones serving in Industry, should/must report accidents occurring in their organisations to ISPON, purely for data collection to determine the trends of accidents in the country and seek applicable elimination/reduction measures to enhance safety in the country.

What other steps would you advise ISPON to take to further enhance their duty as safety body in the nation?

ISPON’s role-play to encourage and promote safety in all sectors of national economy should include the following:

  • ISPON should encourage establishment of safety offices at Local Government Areas for Municipal Safety Officers to take care of home and public safety.
  • Establishment of very good criteria for selecting, annually, one leading organisation in each different sector of the national economy, for award of certificate and plaque as the best safety-conscious organisation on the level of its safety establishment, administration, and performance, within/amongst the companies in its category in the sector. For example:
  • Food Industry: Flour Mills, Nestle and Cadbury separated from Breweries and Soft Drink Producers; and into large, medium and small scale categories.
  • Household items: Roof Sheet producers separately categorised from producers of Electrical Cables and Fittings.
  • Other innovations that will inspire organisations to compete for ISPON Awards.
  • ISPON should raise a team responsible for courtesy visits, that may be led by the President/Vice President, to business organisations, depending on the size of the Company, to afford an opportunity to show appreciation of ISPON on the organisation’s safety performance and to advise them on perceived levels of improvements. There is always one more step ahead to improve on safety standard in a dynamic world of constantly advancing scientific and technological improvements.

What final words would you want to share with our readers?

In 1975, while attending Advanced Safety Management course by the British Safety Council in a yacht on River Thames, there was a participant who was unstoppable in talking about his knowledge. He was a complex of amusement and a bit of nuisance, which warranted another participant to describe him as someone suffering from verbal diarrhea, during a recess, when he was out to ease himself. That comment caused hilarious laughter and attention was removed from him during the rest period of the class.

I would urge the leadership of ISPON to imbibe the spirit of releasing tension with jokes and keep focus on desired objectives. In the words of Sri Harold Klemp, a man of God, in his message at the beginning of a new year to his followers: “DO NOT QUIT, KEEP ON TRYING UNTIL YOUR OBJECTIVE IS ACHIEVED”. I suppose this attitude/consistency paid off handsomely in the achievement of ISPON charter.

In 1966, towards the end of October, I and Mr. Lawani, who like me had to leave the Refinery in Port Harcourt as a result of the civil crisis in the country, went to Warri in search of jobs. The following two events in the hotel we stayed over the night had an effect on my outlook on life:

  • At about 4.30 pm when we returned to the hotel, very tired, we sat in an open court where the hotel owner was relaxing in an armchair. The breeze was cool and nice, so, we sat to enjoy the pleasant breeze but our plights remained with us. As we engaged ourselves in conversation on our plights, the hotel owner, with compassion, cut into our conversation saying: “Young men don’t despair; everything that has a beginning will have an end”. He rested his comment with: “when one road closes another will surely open; which may not be recognised if one is lost in sorrow over a past unpleasant event.”
  • The second impression that touched me was from a conversation between two young ones, slightly above youth bracket in age. One of the young men related his experience with his uncle, his father’s immediate younger brother who, he said, was healthier and stronger than his father. At every instance of a quarrel, his uncle would have his father severely beaten to the extent that his father would be crying. He and his elder brother, the only two children of his father, could only join their father in crying; they were too young to be of assistance to their father. When their father died, they were still young and had no other choice than to stay with, and be farming for, their uncle who traditionally took up fatherly responsibility for them. Because he continued with his beating habit, each time he felt they did not work hard enough, they one day, decided to ignore his fatherly figure and had him beaten to a pulp. It was so severe that they were summoned before the head of their village. At the village meeting, his elder brother narrated the cause of the fight and made references to their uncle’s treatment to their father during his lifetime which everybody at the sitting confirmed. He ended his statement with their intention to leave the village to live on their own elsewhere, which their uncle did not want because, by his age, his farming ability had sharply declined.

The above account indicates the law of retribution: “What you sow you reap”. Our thoughts and actions in life flow into the ethers of life. Like the ocean wave, it moves outward and comes back with the receding wave. Whatever we do should be in line with safety precepts and doctrine.

We are sure you really would want to acknowledge the efforts of some others to you during your course of leadership and in the emergence of ISPON as a charter

The principle of collective responsibility in safety applies to leadership administration. Without the support of ardent followers no leader can succeed. Therefore, I would like to highlight and show my appreciation of the following support services rendered by the following gentlemen:

  1. Mr. Grant Captain-Briggs: He gave me all the support I needed from him freely at the formative stage, notwithstanding that he had been deployed to security department at his place of work. That informed my request for his appointment as Training Coordinator in Rivers State Branch at a time the Branch was perceived to be unstable. His influence, in my opinion, placed the Branch at par with the Delta State Branch and contributed considerably to the progress of ISPON at the Branch.
  2. Sir G. O. Adoghe: He initiated safety training at Branch level when in Warri, Delta State Branch; he created “Swimming for Survival Training” for our society now institute to generate fund. It was out of the fund generated from that training that the Institute was able to host its first Annual Conference/AGM separately from that of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria to which the Institute had attached itself in 1980. Additionally the fund from that training facilitated the purchase of a plot of land adjacent to the environment of the University of Benin in Edo State, to satisfy the requirement of the Land Perpetual Act on which the institute was registered in 1983.
  3. Dr. N.A. Okere: His membership at the time he joined the Institute, added unquantifiable value which I was very proud to mention on important occasions and when on membership drive. An ardent constructive supporter, he remains extraordinarily committed to uplifting the Institute up till date.
  4. Mr. Uzamere: In 1981 I left Dunlop Nigerian Industries Limited to partner with an expatriate investor. The institute had no money to rent a room for its office. To keep the Institute alive I had to provide an office for the institute and venue for NEC meeting in my house for a number of years. Lagos State Branch was comatose financially. Surprisingly, when Mr. Uzamere was burdened with the leadership of the Branch, he came to me after a few months with a report that the Branch had generated about NGN100, 000.00 (One hundred thousand naira only). That was how the institute was able to rent an apartment that accommodated both the Branch and the National Secretariat. I was highly impressed and was the cause of my love and regard I have for Mr. Uzamere as an action member. He has maintained that trait on the occasions he was made to the Conference/AGM Organising Committee.
  1. Alh. Alebiosu: His support went beyond the circle of membership in ISPON to the extent that he would want me to stay with him each time I was in his domain for Institute’s business. He has remained committed to the Institute such that he would bail the institute out of financial hardship as and when such occasion arose.
  2. Mr. E. Akpokodje: As Internal Auditor in those days the Institute had no money he did his job with little or no financial support from the Institute. It was great personal support which enabled the Institute to survive.

 

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