By Maduka Nweke
Joseph Olusegun Ajanlekoko is the President, Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE), the umbrella body for all the surveying professions in the Commonwealth countries. A past President of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) and Africa Association of Quantity Surveyors (AAQS), Ajanlekoko became the second Nigerian to be elected as the President of the 52-year-old CASLE after Senator Ebenezar Ikeyinna. In this interview, the former President, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), spoke on the Construction Bank project and issues relating to the construction industry in general.
CASLE’s role in growing industry professionals in Nigeria
CASLE has members in about 32 Commonwealth countries across the world. One of its major objectives and which the surveying professionals in Nigeria have benefited from is fostering appropriate standards of education as well as helping to develop appropriate professional techniques and practices attuned to national needs and global standards. So often, workshops and seminars are held to attain this goal. One was held in April last year. There is one in the pipeline for August this year. There will also be a big event in Tanzania in August 2017 too.
Fate of Construction Bank
The Construction Bank project is still very much on course. There have, of course, been some set of new rules put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), that we are working on to meet their requirements. But the good thing is that we are in discussion with new foreign investors who are keen to be our partners in this venture. I cannot over emphasise that the key to the rapid growth and development of this country lies in the wholesome embracing of this bank. For any nation to develop rapidly, it needs a long term, cheap, low interest fund to stimulate growth. That is what Construction Bank will bring to the table when it commences operation.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
CASLE, along with other Commonwealth built environment professional organisations, is indeed keen to see a change in sustainable urban development. What does this entail? It means the need for reform of market mechanisms to achieve environmental goals and achievement of a balance with social and economic considerations. This reform includes the following: A change in the quality of growth; conservation and minimisation of the depletion of non-renewable resources; merging of economic decisions with those on the environment, for example; allocation of green spaces and strong consideration of the needs of future generations.
In summary, sustainable urban cities’ reformation should be healthy, providing housing and employment opportunities and meeting environmental standards. In short, the sustainable urban reformation requires responsible growth and development strategies that are broader in vision. This is the case now for our major cities in Nigeria. A new regional roadmap and strategy is now required for Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Enugu, to mention a few, if the new agenda of the SDGs is to be achieved. The welfare and the wellbeing of cities’ dwellers are absolutely important. We must key into sustaining the laws of nature and not bastardise them.
Construction industry’s role in revamping Nigeria’s economy
The construction industry globally has been known to be the barometer of a nation’s development growth. It is therefore not out of place to expect that the key to getting out of the woods for the country lies in a vibrant and healthy construction industry. Government must make a concerted effort to invest in the construction industry to stimulate economic activity. This will have a multiplier effect on the economic activity of other sectors and would thus upscale employment and the integration of modern technologies in the economy.
Reducing construction cost in Nigeria
There is no empirical data to suggest or indicate that construction cost in Nigeria is the highest in the world. But it is safe and true to say that cost of construction in Nigeria ranks among the highest in the world. Some of the causes are high interest rate, inaccessibility to cheap affordable funds, lack of skilled manpower and marked dependence on imported construction materials. And also of great concern is the endemic high corruption in the industry.
The way out lies in creating a good enabling environment that can warehouse cheap, faster and economic design. Our taste must match our pocket. Due process must not just be in place but must be seen to be operational. Don’t leave out professionals in the execution and planning of capital projects. Finally, infuse affordable, loanable, cheap and long-term funds into the system.
Corruption in the industry
Earlier, I did mention that corruption is one of the cankerworms that have eroded and distorted true construction cost. Sadly too, it is the same in other sectors of our economy. The pathway to checking this menace is to institute an open transparency through open competitive tendering both to the design concept and the construction stage. This will enable you to get the best buy. We must also introduce public ombudsman whose duties will be to monitor and supervise construction works, funding and expenditure.
But overall, the solution lies in attitudinal change. A retrace of our value system and what lifestyles the people in governance are fed to the youths and the general public. A new culture of integrity, nobility and honesty will pave way for the re-orientation of the new Nigeria. A key ingredient in this is the sustainable economic development that will guarantee a lower cost of living and establishment of new job possibilities in the country.