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It is Time for the Country to Enforce the Use of Qualified Building Professionals — Wike

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Recently, the President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Emmanuel Wike in an interview with The Punch, spoke on the importance of having and implementing building insurance, in the wake of the Ikoyi building collapse that happened few weeks back. He also spoke on the need for a robust mortgage scheme in Nigeria.

The Ikoyi collapsed building brought the world’s attention to Nigeria and its built sector. Why is the country recording rising cases of building collapse?

I need to console the people of Lagos State and the immediate families of the people who lost their lives in that collapse. It is very unfortunate that we are still witnessing this kind of incident at a time people are being encouraged to invest in the real estate sector to enhance economic growth. This development will affect the real estate directly and indirectly.  Directly, in the sense that many people may find it difficult to invest in real estate considering this investment that has gone down the drain. Indirectly, in the sense that many people would lose their jobs if the sector is not functioning very well. I don’t want to go into many details because the Governor of Lagos State has already inaugurated a panel to investigate the cause and other related matters concerning the building collapse. We are waiting patiently for the outcome of the investigation. We believe that with the calibre of professionals we have on that panel, great solutions will be proffered to the problem of incessant building collapse in Lagos State and Nigeria.

There are so many reasons for building collapse: We have the natural cause and man-made causes. I think we should concentrate on the man-made causes, which could be as a result of several reasons. It could be because of faulty designs, faulty construction, negligence, corruption and greed on the part of either contractors or regulatory agencies.  We were told the contractor built beyond the number of floors approved by the government. Within the period he exceeded the approved number of floors, was it that the regulatory body wasn’t going to the site? At what point did the regulatory authority get to know this? When the regulatory agency eventually got to know about it, why didn’t they stop him? These are the issues that we need to look at. As I said, I will allow the panel to do their job and maybe they will come up with the real cause of the Ikoyi building collapse.  However, It is time for professionals in the built environment to come together as it is affecting our profession, business and service to the people. We shouldn’t say we are not involved or look over it. It is affecting us. The professionals and regulatory bodies in the built environment should come together and see how we can build up public confidence in the real estate sector.

What lessons would you want the government authorities to learn from the Ikoyi building collapse?

The lesson I would want the government and the general public to take away is that it is time for us to make use of qualified professionals especially in issues that involve lives and property. We should maintain the standards and try as much as possible not to compromise at any point. The reason is that if we do it (compromise the standard) would affect the general public, directly or indirectly. Directly, look at the lives lost, look at the money that was lost. We were told people had already subscribed to the investment. We should allow professionals to do their work. Any professional that is found wanting in the cause of his or her services should be prosecuted so that people would learn from it.  If I am in charge of a site, I should be able to be held responsible if anything goes wrong there; that is what distinguishes the person from those who are not professionals. Professionals at the sites should be able to defend whatever position or services they render to the clients or public.

Why are many Nigerians not having a roof over their head with several others abandoning their housing projects?

There should be a housing policy that allows people to have access to funds. You find out that real estate development or building construction is capital intensive and not everyone has the financial wherewithal to start and finish a building construction. We should have a robust mortgage system that will help people pay their rent or help them develop their properties.

We should go into research and development where we will be able to develop our local building materials. Most people abandon their housing projects because of the high cost of building materials. Over 50 to 70 per cent of the building materials used in construction are imported. As a result of the high naira-dollar exchange rate, there is a rising cost of construction. For us to reduce this high cost, we should encourage the use of local materials, which the government’s regulatory body, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, would have certified okay, and ensure that other building materials are up to the standard of the construction. We should allow professionals to do their job. For some of the abandoned projects, professionals were not involved from inception. Sometime, you find out that someone has gone into development at a location he is not supposed to go to. At the end of the day, you find those projects may be abandoned. The low-income people do not have a roof over their heads, because they do not have the funds to develop their property. Even when the funds are there, the cost of saving those funds are high because the mortgage system is not readily available. Everybody is claiming to use from their savings, and it may not be easy to save because of the high cost of building materials. Even when you have the money, you discover the cost of buying materials is high. Now when the cost is high, it affects the general cost of construction in the built environment

What are the causes of flooding in so many parts of the country, especially Lagos?

I do not stay in Lagos, but the principles are the same. Some of the causes of flooding are blocked drains which have not been cleared for years. Water would take its course. Environmental factors are involved also. The other thing I think is that the rains are coming; what we need to do is to get prepared for it. We need to ensure our environments are clean so that there will be a free flow of water to the water bodies.

Why are houses so expensive, especially in some parts of the country?

Property is a localised product, localised in the sense that what is happening in Lagos may not be what is happening in Port Harcourt. It depends on the location. One of the things that lead to increase in the value of the property is the land. Now, when you look at the land factor and the construction factor, it would give you the general idea of the price. You discover that where the price or value of land is high, definitely the cost and the value of the property would be high.  I have also mentioned the cost of the construction in a localised place. By the time you transport some of the materials you have there in Lagos to places like say Port Harcourt, the cost of building will be high. So, the cost of construction in Lagos, Port Harcourt or these areas would be high. But when you check the demand factor to the construction cost, it would give you a higher value and that is one of the reasons why property costs are higher in these areas. If you can design and build a similar property in Lagos, and you construct the same property in Imo State; if you want to sell, you will discover that property in Lagos would be higher than the one in Imo State because of the land factor.

How does NIESV collaborate with the Nigeria Insurers Association in the implementation of building insurance in the built environment?

There is a government policy that stipulates that all public buildings should be insured and I am also aware that in Lagos Stare, as soon as you start any construction, there should be insurance cover for those that would work at the site.  The essence is that in this kind of calamity, the insurance company would be taking part of the responsibility and pay insurance cover including the indemnity to the family. Going forward, it is for us to ensure that the policies are being implemented on every site so that an insurance company books the cover. The investor/ contractor should ensure that there is insurance cover above his property and those working on the site. The NIA is trying to determine if there is indeed an insurance cover, and what they are doing is correct. If there is insurance liability, they will pay, but if there is none for the collapsed building, it means the contractor or owner did not do the correct work. This is because even as a professional, you are supposed to have an insurance indemnity cover for all jobs that you do, in case you have a job that is not properly done, the indemnity covers for such jobs.

Culled from The Punch.


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