FG Has 2,000 Abandoned Properties Nationwide, Says NIESV President

Sir Emmanuel Wike is the 24th President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). He spoke to NKECHI ONYEDIKA-UGOEZE in Abuja, on why Federal Government should use NIESV members to drive maintenance culture and the need to tackle insecurity with new strategies.

The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) has made tremendous strides in advocacy within the real estate sector, especially as it relates to assent to executive order 11 and ensuring a conducive environment for the players. What have been your expectations?
FIRSTLY, we applaud the President for signing that Executive Order 11 because it was overdue. One of the problems we have in Nigeria is that we don’t have maintenance culture. What we do is an ad-hoc process, which is not supposed to be so, but with what Mr. President has done, he has given an order or assignment to all parastatals, agencies and departments that they need to have a maintenance culture and department to maintain assets.

The national assets are used to measure whether a country is developing or not. The more you have assets maintained, the more your assets are retained and sustained, and the higher the value of the assets. In Nigeria, we have allowed our national assets to rot away, which has also affected our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because those assets are supposed to be income-generating, directly or indirectly.

If it is a government asset, it is either the government is using it to save rent or save revenue or leasing it out to those who might need it and earn revenue. The government can also realise tax on the properties. We have not been able to do that.

So, when we talk about public assets, we are not referring to cleaning, we are talking about the highest and best use, which we can put the assets to generate revenue. At the same time, it serves the purpose for which it was built.

According to our research, due to a lack of maintenance culture, we have over 2,000 abandoned and underused Federal Government properties spread all over the country, such as the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Glass House in Onikan, Federal Ministry of Justice Building in Marina, Federal Inland Revenue Service on Tinubu Street, all in Lagos, even in Abuja. They need to maintain those properties and ensure that they are put to the highest use.

We should also be looking at roads and bridges because these are public assets. Most of our roads are not motorable and it affects the economy. That is why we need to have maintenance culture.

The institution was most delighted in the signing of this executive order and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for yielding to our plea for national assets maintenance. Maintenance is not just cleaning and repairing, it also involves putting the asset to its highest and best use so that it would be able to gain from the assets. We also appreciate the efforts of past federal administration in public building maintenance through the public building maintenance units under the Ministry of Works and Housing.

The institution also commends the Federal Government assets maintenance approach for the Presidential Villa by partnering and engaging construction companies like Julius Berger that built the facility. The reasons that the former public building maintenance division did not perform to expectation could happen to the new department for federal public assets maintenance if provisions are not made for maintenance budgeting and capacity building of the workers in that department.

There must be a collaboration between the private professionals dealing with facility management like estate surveyors and the Federal Government. What we are saying is that, let them put a round peg in a round hole. We have professionals, who are trained as facility managers and that is estate surveyors and valuers.

So, we are appealing to the Federal Government, the Head of Service of the Federation and all other heads of parastatals to engage professional facility managers, including estate surveyors to manage these assets, give them the highest and best use and at the same time increasing their contribution to the GDP of Nigeria.

NIESV consists of well-trained professionals in the area of facility management, which can assist the Federal Government in establishing a sustainable maintenance economy for federal public buildings. Our institution can also provide training, either in-house or off-site for those that would be involved with the Department for Federal Public Asset Maintenance. We as an institution are ready to partner with them, give them training on how this asset facility can be managed and from time to time.

Nigeria’s economy is facing serious challenges following the outbreak of COVID 19, insecurity and energy crises. How can government revamp the real estate sector to improve the GDP? 
In most countries, the real estate sector contributes more than 10 – 15 per cent of their GDP but unfortunately, we are not up to that and the reason is very simple, we are not developing the real estate sector. With insecurity, no one will want to put his money where there is insecurity because it is an investment that needs returns and profits. The government should try to reduce the level of insecurity in Nigeria. As a professional body, we have advised that the security architecture of the country needs to be pragmatic and people-oriented.

We should bring out people that would be willing to work for the government. We should not leave security issues to only security agencies; security matters should be everyone’s concern.

Secondly, the government should reduce the importation of arms into the country, while those maintaining our borders need to work harder. The regulatory bodies and government agencies should take their responsibility very seriously and security agencies need to be trained and equipped, as well as upgraded because most of the security apparatus that they are using are outdated.

When there is an improvement in the security situation, people will come into the country and invest, not only in real estate but also in all the diverse sectors of the economy. For us, in real estate, it is affecting our practise so that there are a lot of empty and abandoned properties because at the time the property developers started these projects, they didn’t envisage emerging risks.

The institution is one of the professions that have been encroached on by non-professionals, especially in the area of valuation. How do you view this? What strategies have the institution adopted to curb such activities?
Valuation is the core competency of an estate surveyor and valuer. Like any other professional body, we have quacks. We have other professionals, who are encroaching into our profession and we are in court with one of them. I know that soon the matter would be dispensed and we will actually know who should carry out the valuation in the country. Now, we must distinguish financial valuation and physical valuation or functional valuation. What estate surveyors and valuers do is financial valuation.

When it comes to functional valuation, we have engineers; we have other professionals that actually contribute to the financial valuation because you need to know if the machine or building is functioning before you begin to market, ours is to place financial value.

It is the estate surveyor and valuer by training that has the competency to place a financial value on assets. We also know that we have international valuation standards as it is only estate surveyors and valuers through our regulatory body-Estate surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) and NIESV that are members of that international body, which means by their standards, it is only estate surveyors in Nigeria that they recognise to carry out a valuation.

So, the strategy we are using is to carry out capacity building, such that when an estate surveyor undertakes valuation, wherever you are taking his report to, it will stand the test of time. We are also encouraging our younger generation to venture into specialisation. For instance, if you’re an estate surveyor and want to specialise in the area of plants and equipment, people will know that is your area of competence. We have 16 areas of competency that we are using in our professional services.

Under the real estate sector, we have about eight professional bodies. What we have done is to emphasise collaboration and teamwork among the professional bodies, rather than competition. That the engineer gave me some data to do my work doesn’t make him an estate surveyor. We need to complement and collaborate to do the job so that society will benefit from our services.

What of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, has their intervention in any way help?

Yes, our members are still working there, but the issue regarding valuation is in court. The ministry is trying, but we still need to let them know that these are our areas of competence, so that they wouldn’t be giving our jobs to other professionals, who are not estate surveyors. 

With what you’re saying, it seems the institution is not satisfied with the level of government patronage?
No, we are not satisfied. I think we need more. To our training, each department in the ministry is supposed to have an estate surveyor and valuer because these departments and agencies have properties they are occupying and using.

Secondly, when it comes to fanning out jobs to professionals, they should also consider estate surveyors and valuers when it comes to real estate development and management. It is not only valuation; we do facility and property management. There are times that government wants to dispose of some properties under their portfolio, what they need is an estate surveyor and valuer to carry out a valuation, according to the procurement Act. We also need more government patronage as we have many estate surveyors that are ready to work both in the public and private sectors. 

The theme of this year’s conference is remarkable as the institution is 52 years. How has your institution been able to implement proposals put forward at the conferences?
Well, ours is an advocacy group, we are a professional body and we offer advisory to the people in government and our clients.

Secondly, we use the programmes to educate our members and update our knowledge, skills, as well as competency. 

Why the theme “City of the Future: Development Infrastructure and Sustainability” and what do you intend to unravel under this theme?
In Africa generally, you will find out that our cities are decaying every day. Most times, you go to a place, you will witness dilapidated infrastructure. This year’s theme will enable our members to acquire competency and expand and deepen our professional activities. Depending on how you see these cities, some are not planned, managed and financed. Cities play an active role in society; aid economic growth and act as breeding grounds for poverty, mental hazards and communicable diseases, among others.

In planning, managing and financing, you have to let the city play the role that will enhance the well-being of the people, but in most African societies, including Nigeria, we are growing without corresponding economic transformation.

There are largely unplanned, highly fragmented and disconnected pantry investments in physical, social, and economic infrastructure and services, which are characterised by informal modes of social protection, infrastructure, social provision and deformation of municipal administration.

Most people are moving away from urban centres to smart cities, where everything is automated but we are struggling to build an environment that would be livable and workable. So, that is a major drawback and cause of many malfunctioning cities, which is due to the failure to plan the city’s growth or failure to adhere to prescription and regulation, as well as pay close attention to land use management.

Besides, many real estate developers don’t obey city plans. So, that is why we want to look at what kind of cities Nigerians want to see in the next 30 years.

The transformation to make them more livable and functional should be a priority for the government and other professional bodies. Failure to transform our cities will amount to a failure to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target, which was adopted by 193 countries, including Nigeria.

The SDG is a global endeavour at putting an end to poverty, securing the planet, and ensuring that everyone enjoys peace and prosperity by the year 2030. It is aimed at ensuring three critical issues of functionality, economy and aesthetics, which are largely lacking in Nigeria’s present cities.

This week your tenure as the 24th president of the institution would be ending. What will you say you have achieved during this period and what will you like to be remembered for?
I look at administration as a joint venture. I don’t look at it as a one-man affair. When we came on board, the world was almost crumbling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were lockdowns, including in Nigeria, restrictions of movement and all that. We were able to follow the new normal, with the help of technology to conduct our meetings.

Our key programmes were aggressive drive for membership growth, advocacy, capacity building, the welfare of members, an alternative source of revenue, restructuring and completion of the national secretariat, reconciliation and mediation, as well as ensuring the cordial relationship with the board and rebranding of the institution.

Of all these, we should be remembered for almost all, except the rebranding of the institution. For the first time in the history of the institution, we were able to inaugurate about 933 new associate members. We never had such membership, which has increased our potential and opportunity to search for jobs.

Also, we were able to make four governors – Edo, Ondo, Lagos and Katsina our patrons. We also made some advances to have President Muhammadu Buhari our grand patron. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to achieve that but we now have a relationship with the Presidency.

The business arm called NAES Venture which was idle for many years was reinstated so that they would be able to apply for jobs and generate revenue for the institution.

We have also incorporated NAEIS cooperative society. Our intention is to see how to use this cooperative society to source funds that our members can apply for and use for their businesses.

Then, our national secretariat at the time we took over was at roofing level and now stands at 80 per cent completion.

Source: THE GUARDIAN

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