President of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), Yakubu Maikano, in an interview with Senior Correspondent, Dada Jackson, he bares his mind on issues related to the Land Use Act, collapse of buildings, and the controversial National Building Code. Excerpts:
What are your plans for the institution? I mean what do you intend to achieve during your tenure?
It may interest you to know that I became the president of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) barely two months ago. I thank God. It has not been easy but what we have been doing so far since coming into office is getting ourselves acquainted with the office and making sure that we unwind our road map, so that we can start properly. To go back to your question, my vision or plans for the institution during my tenure are firstly; this is an administration that would strive to involve all stakeholders in the quest to making the profession the envy of others in the built environment. I want to do that because it is my belief that it is only when all the stakeholders are thinking in the same wavelength that we can move the institution forward. This profession has been trying for a long time to move forward. The problem has been that each stakeholder has his own different agenda. We are not all focusing on the same thing at the same time. And I think that this is the time for all stakeholders to sit down and plan how to move the institution forward. Secondly, is the issue of building a befitting secretariat for the institution; it may interest you to know that we have just moved our headquarters from Lagos to Abuja. There is the need to build a befitting secretariat for our new headquarters in Abuja. I want to be remembered for being instrumental to the successful completion of our new secretariat. Thirdly, our colleagues in the tertiary institutions will benefit from a training programme that we intend to put in place; also to provide the technical know how to them in the area of equipment and the introduction of new technology to meet with the challenges of modern times. These are the three areas I want to focus on during my tenure.
How do you intend to address the issue of quackery and malpractice among your members and even those who pose as surveyors and who, over the years, have dented the image of the profession?
Thank you very much for this all-important question. The issue of quackery and malpractice as you rightly put it are two areas that are disturbing the profession. People, who are not surveyors, engage in quackery. They pose as surveyors and in most cases, charge even more than the genuine surveyors. They go about deceiving people, doing inferior and inefficient jobs and yet charge more than what the surveyors would ordinarily charge for the same job. We have a programme that we have put in place to address this ugly and worrisome development. Very soon, you will see surveyors wearing official jackets, which is called field jackets. And any surveyor on duty that is on the field, manning equipment, who is not wearing the jacket is already a quack. This is one strategy that we have put in place in order to identify a quack, arrest and hand over such a person to the police. The other issue, which is the one on malpractice basically, concerns the genuine surveyor. But this is a problem that has over the years, eaten into the profession. The problem of malpractice among members, borders on the surveyor who carries out his or her duties without regard to the ethics of the profession. They cut corners, they probably ask for a fee less than the approved fee. This type of surveyors we are determined to check their activities and excesses. We are going to put in place serious punitive measures that will serve as deterrent to their unethical behaviour. Any surveyor caught engaging in such unethical activity, would have his registration suspended, even after asking him to pay some fines, which would be spelt out by the Surveyors’ Council of Nigeria (SURCON), the regulatory body responsible for monitoring the activities of surveyors in Nigeria.
How does one distinguish the surveyor from any other person on the street?
Well, for some years now, a surveyor in his office has a signpost to identify him as a surveyor, he is a member of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors. As for the surveyor in his office, that is how you can easily recognise him. But on the field, of course, mostly at construction sites, you see somebody with a three-legged instrument like a telescope, looking into it, probably giving direction to bulldozers on where to go, during road construction or where they are doing housing development. You will see surveyors in such locations. The other area where you will see our members is in the area of measurement of farmlands. From time to time, we have asked SURCON to publish in the dailies at least once in a year who a surveyor is. This at least, would help members of the public to identify the genuine surveyor.
You said recently that land surveying is key to development. Could you please shed more light on this?
Surveying is the bedrock of all development. We believe that for any development to be successful, the surveyor must be allowed to carry out those measurements that are necessary to properly fix the position of that development and to properly start it from beginning to the end. Be it road construction, dam construction, bridges and other development, that are critical to the economic well being of any society. The surveyor is the first to be on the site and should be the last person. Take the case of road construction, the surveyors is the one that determines the centre line of any road that is to be constructed. He is the one that determines the width of that road so that government can pay compensation to whoever owns the land, where that road is to be constructed and at the end of the construction of the road, there is the need for the surveyor to come again and properly demarcate the width of that road. You will understand with me, that there is development on both sides of the road. In most cases, they come too close to the road, even resulting in the loss of lives. But if the surveyor is allowed at the end of the construction of that road to demarcate the right of way, which is the zone that government had already paid compensation for. If it is properly demarcated, anybody who wants to construct anything in that area, would be told he is encroaching on government land. In order to enable that right of way to remain accessible, it is the surveyor that would be in a position to tell the public, the extent to which they can build and the area where development cannot take place
What is your take on the Land Use Act? Should it be amended or out rightly abrogated?
Surveyors in Nigeria have written a lot to government complaining of the complete exclusion of the duties of a surveyor in the Land Use Act. As soon as the act was published, we noticed that the duties of a surveyor, which are paramount to the issue of a certificate of occupancy (C-of-O), were completely left out. What we have in the Act is a sketch plan. And a sketch plan we all know, does not give concrete and exact limit to the land in question. The right thing which should have replaced the sketch plan as indicated in the Land Use Act should have been the survey plan or title deed plan. These are the documents used by surveyors that are attached to the body of a certificate of occupancy. This is the document that gives the correct length and breadth of any land in question. The bearing and distances are clearly shown and the signature of the Surveyor-General and the Surveyor that carried out the survey are clearly written. This is the limitation that surveyors were able to recognise in the Land Use Act and we wrote a lot of papers to the authorities to express our displeasure. The Land Use Act we all know in the Southern part o
f the country does not confer total control of the Land on the Governor. But in the Northern part of the country, the government almost has total control of the Land. So coming back to your question, I would suggest and amendment of the Act and not a complete abrogation. What I am saying is that there should be an amendment to the Land Use Act.
What should be done to abate the incidence of collapsed buildings?
I have been involved in several discussions on the issue of collapsed buildings and it is my belief that it is not an area that can be addressed by only one of the professional bodies in the built environment. There is the need for all the professionals involved in the construction industry to sit down with the owners or developers whose structures had collapsed in the past with a view, to drawing a line on the major cause of collapse of building. But as a surveyor, I will tell you that my profession is involved in the quest to curb the incidence of collapsed buildings.
Not quite long, the Presidency directed the Ministry of Housing to build 53,000 housing units before the end of its tenure. We have less than nine months to go, how feasible is this mandate?
I would have said no but the truth is, that, if somebody is planning to go to heaven, if you raise his feet by just one foot, you have actually started the journey. It is my belief that even though, the houses cannot be completed within that period, at least, they should be able to reach a certain stage. With proper planning, they should be able to reach a stage whereby the next administration will be in a position to complete the project. The idea that No, they cannot finish the project and therefore, should not start, is not the best thing to do. The NIS is fully in support of the mandate because we believe that it is one area where government’s assistance to the downtrodden in the area of housing. It is a well-known fact, that in the suburb of Abuja, you have a situation where 10 or more people live in a room apartment. And this is not healthy. When we are talking of democratic dividend, the issue of housing should be paramount, we as surveyors are ready to partner with the present administration to ensure that the take-off of this promise to Nigerians is actualised. What the government should do is to muster the political will.