We Have Less Than 2000 Land Surveyors in Nigeria, says Nigerian Institution of Surveyors Boss

Mr. Afolabi  Olukayode Solesi,  a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), is currently the Chairman of Lagos State Branch of the institution.  Before now, he was the Registrar of Surveyors Registration Council of Nigeria (SURCON). Also, he once served as  treasurer, secretary and secretary-general of the NIS in Lagos and Kano branch, and the national body respectively. In this interview with DAYO AYEYEMI, the erudite land surveyor speaks on how best to administer land for the benefits of all citizens in the country, the job of a land surveyor, the activities of the institution to curb quackery, his vision to promote ethical standards among members, and defects in the Land Use Act. He also speaks on the problems confronting provision of affordable housing to the citizens, and the need to research into local building materials to cut  high cost of houses, relevance of digital mapping to national development and his career development. Excerpt:

How can you assess land administration as regards  housing development in Nigeria?
Are you talking of land administration in terms of making land available for people or in terms of getting documents for people for the use of land. So, it depends on which ways you are looking at it. As far as making land available to people is concerned, price of land is not in the region of the poor. But in terms of getting documents on land matters in the government’s offices, the bureaucracy is so much and there is no way you can get Certificate of Occupancy in three months in any part of Nigeria.

This is because the existing law which guides the operation is a bit faulty. For instance, what we call the Land Use Act Allocation Committee (LUAAC) and the people or professionals that are expected to be in that committee are without a single mention of the word ‘Land Surveyor’. So if you don’t know what you have, how can you manage it? If you don’t know the extent of the land you have, its location and how it appreciates, you can’t manage it properly.

The Land Use Act provides for professionals that will make up the Land Use Act Allocation Committee without the mentioning of a land surveyor, whereas surveyor is the one that will help you to find out the extent of land you have, its location and shape.  But if the state executive does not know the size of land he is to govern, does not know its shape, does not know where it starts and ends, then he doesn’t know what to manage and he can’t manage it properly. Technically speaking, the professional land surveyor is excluded in the Act. It now depends on the goodwill of the governor and if the governor should stick to the provision of the Act, he won’t include the land surveyor.

Like I just said, if a governor must manage his property, for instance Governor Fasola must know the extent of land he has, he must know the extent of wetland he has, he must know the heartland he has, it is then he can manage it very well with the help of surveyors in identifying the size of the land, location and shape. It is this particular aspect that was omitted in the Land Use Act.

Who is a surveyor?
Since the introduction of the Surveyors Registration Council of Nigeria (SURCON), there is only one definition of   a surveyor. A surveyor is someone that is recognised by the Surveyors Registration Council of Nigeria as passing through all the processes that would make him fit and practise professionally. So surveyor is someone that is registered with SURCON.

What is the institution doing as a body to ensure that the omission of land surveyor in the Land Use Act as one of the members making the Land Use Allocation Committee is corrected?
You see, a lot of noise has been made about the Land Use Act. Whether you like it or not, that Act cannot be easily amended. Already, it has been part of the constitution   of 1999 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Before you can amend any part of the constitution, both two third of members of both Houses in the National Assembly must agree with you; and two third of the States’ Houses of Assembly nationwide must also agree with you.
So, if you want to amend the Act, you just have to go through that processes. So that is where the problem is. Everybody has a good idea about how the law should be amended or what it should look like, but the condition to that process is very tough. It is a good thing about the hues and cries in the National Assembly now about the amendment of the Act.

How relevant is digital mapping to the development of the national economy?
Let’s forget about mapping now, what about the digital thing? Take for example, the laptops and other computers we are using, with mere pressing a button you get connected to the internet and this makes it easier for you to get and manage information. So when you talk of digital mapping, with mere pressing a button, you can access any information you want on land matters; and I am very happy that the Lagos State Government has  gone so far about digital cadastral of Lagos State.

What are you doing to ensure that members uphold the ethics of the profession?
In every profession, there is what you call ethics; and in every profession, there are people who will like to look for loopholes so that they can sidetrack the ethics of the profession. In Nigeria right now, surveying is such that we have less than 2000 surveyors dead and alive in a population of about 150 million people. We don’t have enough numbers of surveyors to start with. The people that practised ethically are not enough to really sanitise the place because most people who received training in one way or the other in surveying and cannot register as surveyors by SURCON would want to cut corners and present themselves to people who are not quite knowledgeable as surveyors. These  people do a lot of shoddy things. That is why we have people we call omo oniles now and when you say you are a surveyor and you are truly a surveyor by law, they don’t want to associate with you because they have their own people they patronise. It is very unfortunate and I am sure efforts are on to sanitise the profession. It will take a lot of times but we shall be there one day.

What are you doing specifically to curb quackery in the profession?
Like I said every profession has its own ethics. There are ethics in very profession and these ethics are published regularly and circulated among members. Once you are   found to have fallen short of the ethics of the profession anywhere and you are reported; you will be fully investigated first by the Committee on Ethic, then your case will be passed over to Surveyors Investigative Panel, which is the investigative arm of SURCON. Then  there recommendation is passed to the Disciplinary Committee which will take a decision and announce it and also publish it as dim fit by the council. And if you are not satisfied, you can go to the High Court to appeal within 21 days.

What is the institution doing to ensure that the upcoming professionals get the best training for quality service when they are in school?
The good thing is that in every profession, even when you are in school, you are taught by members of the profession. Every lecturer in the Department of Surveying in all the tertiary institutions nationwide is a surveyor in one way or the others.  He must have been register to even be fit to be called a lecturer. So he also knows this and there are subjects that deal with the ethics of the profession. So, all along, even when they are in the school, they are being trained about the ethics of the profession and the rules guiding the practice of the profession are been taught the students right in the school.

What influence your career as a land surveyor sir?
What a funny question! What happened was that when I
left secondary school, I was looking for a place to work before proceeding further. But luckily for me, the place I got employed was the old Federal Survey Department, a department in the Federal Ministry of Works.  I was later sent further for training at the Federal Survey Scoool in Oyo State; now Federal School of Survey in Oyo. It was there I actually got interested in the profession and pursued a career there.

Apart from surveying, what would you have loved to study?
If I did not read surveying, I would have loved to go  for medicine or automobile engineering. I love what they call mechanics in the common parlance; I love them a lot. Before you know it, you bring your car and they were not there when the car developed faults and they worked on it   and put it back. I love it.  It is a good profession even though people looked down on them.

Who among your children is taking a career in land surveying?
None. My first child graduated from the Federal University of Technology Akure, started in surveying out of his freewill. He went to Yaba College of Technology and started with surveying out of his own freewill and all of a sudden, he had a change of mind and  say daddy look, I am no longer interested in surveying. I say look, I don’t force you in the first instance, so go and read whatever you like; so none of my children is into surveying.

What is your vision for Lagos NIS?
Thank you very much. When I offered to serve, I say look, I want to see surveyors in Lagos State controlling their profession. I want to make the profession near-impossible for anybody to practice if not a surveyor. And that is why we have reviewed the cadastral survey in Lagos State. Not only that, very soon if you have a property in Lagos and someone says he is a surveyor, you have to ask him whether he has registered with SURCON, his registration number, his office and if you can confirm his registration? And if he cannot provide answers to those questions, then he is not a professional in the real sense of it.  It is then you can contact us. We will go into sensitizing the public.
Also, we will also make sure that any surveyor that does a bad job to any client is booked.

Let us look at the issue of housing provision for Nigerians, are we there?
Definitely not, we can be there. The reality is there; we aren’t there. Let me remind you that when the last census was done, there were newspapers reports that in some places in Ijora-Badia in Lagos, when the enumerator got there, they said this is a bungalow, so let’s go there to count the people and for  four hours, they were still counting and getting information about people that lived in that house. That area is really overpopulated and had taken enumerator hours to complete  the counting. If there is enough houses for the people, definitely that would not be.

How can they provide houses when a bag of cement is over N2000 and a load of gravel is about N150, 000?
The cost of constructing houses is very high and no government will provide houses for the people at subsidized rate except we research into local building materials. In those days, our people used to match red mud together, conditioning it, pour water, leave it to dry, match it again and use it to build houses. Those buildings were fire resistant and even when shot with gun, it won’t enter. They were very solid but because of the European influence, we have forgot about old methods of building houses and there is no way housing will be made available to the people at good prices if we don’t go back to what we used to  build in those days.

So, what is your suggestion?
 Research into local building materials, of course! When will build houses with local materials, the cost will definitely come down considerably?
Also, don’t make land difficult to access by the people. Like I said earlier, the cost of getting land in Nigerian is very high. If you want land in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, you are talking of millions of naira. I don’t no of any land in government scheme in Lagos that is less.  I know Isheri North is N3 million from the government’s office and you know land speculators will sell for N10, N20, N30 million.
Also, the issues identified in the Land Use Act and I am sure you were at the late Kukoyi Memorial Lecture where Chief Afe Babalola talked about the amendment of the Act. The Act must be amended to make land cheap and easier for the people to access.

Another problem is the issue of mortgage finance
Cut in….How can you get mortgage where bank will not give you any facility if you don’t have collateral? And the only collateral the bank recognises is the Certificate of Occupancy. The C-of –O takes minimum of two, three years before you get it. My C-of-O has been in the Governor’s office in Ogun State for upward of three years now and nothing has happened. If I was processing loan in the bank to build my house, I would have been frustrated. So the bureaucracy must be reducing to the bearest minimum in order to get there.

Can we know you more sir?
My name is Price Afolabi Olukayode Solesi. I am a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors, the current Chairman of Lagos State branch. I was a Registrar of  Surveyor Registration Council of Nigeria (SURCON), I was  a treasurer of the branch and assistant secretary-general of the national body,  I was a  secretary of the Kano State branch and I  served in  various committees of the association.