Tijani Shuaib is the President, Nigerian Institute of Building. In this interview with journalists, he said if passed into law, the National Building Code would rid the construction industry of duplication of duties among professionals and restore sanity.
What is your take on the National Building Code, which seems to be taking so long to be passed into law by the National Assembly?
It is quite unfortunate that since 2006 that the draft bill of the National Building Code was sent by the Executive to the National Assembly, not much has been done by the lawmakers to pass the bill. This development has continued to be a source of concern for the seven professional bodies in the built environment. Having said that, let me say that those of us in the NIOB and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria have commenced fresh moves by talking to the relevant authorities and top government officials on the need for the bill to see the light of day.
I want to believe that members of the other professional bodies in the built environment are not relenting in the quest to ensure that the National Assembly passes the code. Don’t forget that the bill has undergone the second reading, awaiting the third reading before being committed to the committee stage. I believe strongly that the 8th Senate will expedite action on the passage of the bill because it is important to emphasise here that the early passage of the NBC will no doubt help in sanitising the construction industry.
There is no doubt that the code will serve as a document to regulate workings in the construction industry and also help to define the duties of all the seven professional bodies in the built environment in order to avoid the frequent conflicts among them.
What is your take on the clamour for the abrogation of the Land Use Act or that a section of it concerning governor’s consent be amended?
I do not subscribe to the notion that the Act should be totally abrogated because it is good for the polity. I am of the opinion that the section that gives enormous powers to governors in the area of title deeds should be modified to reduce their powers. Although, it is being alleged that most of the governors use the section that gives the power over title deeds as a witch-hunt on perceived political opponents; I do not think it is enough to make the Act inconsequential, hence the need to have such powers curtailed.
What is your view on mass housing, do you think there could be affordable housing for people in the lower end of the pyramid?
The housing shortfall in the country is said to be about 17 million. In order to address the issue of mass housing, the government should strive to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to be a part of the initiative. Government should involve the private developers in this venture by providing the basic infrastructure needed for the scheme to succeed. If we are to achieve the objective of providing for the shortfall in the housing sector, there must be massive housing for the people, especially the low income earners. Like they say, what we have in Nigeria now is the low and high income cadres.
It is pertinent to note that there are some major factors that should be taken into consideration on the issue of provision of mass housing. These are cost of land, finance and sustainability of the projects. Another important factor that should not be glossed over is the need to involve genuine professionals in the initiative so as to avoid untoward consequences.
As the president of the NIOB, how do you intend to address the issue of quackery, which has been a major issue for the professional bodies in the built environment?
This is one issue that has been agitating my mind ever before I became the president of the institute. There is no doubt that the issue of quackery has become endemic and the earlier it is nipped in the bud, the better. First, there is what I call intra and extra quackery. Intra quackery is that which involves genuine professionals. Take for instance, if an architect whose job is to design a project now goes ahead to supervise the construction of such a project, then that to me is quackery, because he is not trained professionally as a builder.
Likewise, if a builder decides to evaluate the cost of a project when he is not a quantity surveyor, he automatically becomes a quack because that is not his area of specialisation. Let me state here that we now have in place a body called the Association of Presidents and Registrars of Built Environment Professionals, which tries to ensure compliance with set guidelines for all the professional bodies in the built environment so as to avoid conflicts.
On the other hand, the extra quackery thing is all about a non-professional who engages in the building process without any form of certification by a recognised professional body. This is the worst form of quackery that is currently bedevilling all the professional bodies. As the new president of the NIOB, I will endeavour during my tenure to ensure that this issue of extra quackery is reduced to the barest minimum.
What is your take on the issue of incessant building collapse being witnessed in the country and the way out?
Let me say without sounding immodest that in the last two years, all the building collapses that were recorded in the country, professional builders were not involved. It is quite an unfortunate and worrisome development that the spate of building collapse in the country has been on the increase lately. A major factor that can be adduced to this development is greed on the part of most developers and the use of sub-standard and inferior building materials. Most developers, in a bid to maximise profit, chose to cut corners, hence jeopardising the lives of the ordinary people. For instance, where he is supposed to use one bag of cement to produce 35 blocks, he will rather use one bag of cement to produce 60 blocks. This development, no doubt, will be detrimental to the finished product.
The way out is for developers to engage the services of professionals in the construction process. We, as an institute, will continue to canvass the use of genuine professionals in supervising ongoing projects. There is a need for developers to use genuine and standard building materials for construction; and finally, anybody found culpable should be severely sanctioned.
In a nutshell, my vision for the institute is to strive to take it, within my capability and the support of my team, to the next level and also to make the body an attractive brand within the seven professional bodes in the built environment. At the end of my tenure, I want the institute to be on the lips of every Nigerian.