‘Lack of enforcement, bane of substandard building materials’
The challenge in the buit environment sector is institutional, says the new President of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), KENNETH NNABUIFE NDUKA .He argued that the materials, especially the ones imported are not properly certified; the government should create the enabling environment, bring down interest rate for housing investments and reduce the difficulties in accessing Certificate of Occupancy. He also spoke with VICTOR GBONEGUN on the National Building Code and other issues
One of the cardinal objectives of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) is to promote the science and practice of building technology, construction management as well as research for the good of the nation. How much of these have been achieved since inception?
The activities of the institute like any dynamic organization is work in progress and issues are followed up in accordance with the objectives of the institute as highlighted. We pigeonholed challenges that are very urgent, addressed them and continue because it is wheel grinding towards achieving the designed objective.
When you talk about science and training, building technology and research, it is a thing of pleasure to say that when NIOB came up in 1967, there was no school teaching building technology or building as it is. Then came ABU, Zaria, Yaba College Technology, The Polytechnic Ibadan, IMT and then Obafemi Awolowo University. These were the few higher institutions that were offering courses in building technology but today virtually most of the higher institutions are offering courses in building.
As a responsible institution, NIOB has also ensured that its members are competent, have the experience and knowledge. We do that by organizing annual conferences, periodic workshops, especially on identifiable issues that stand as a challenge and equip members. That is part of the responsibility to satisfy the intentions of the institute and to convey proper values to the government and the people.
Building profession is one of the most dynamic human endeavours because everyday, new ways of doing things emerge and builders are always on edge to see how they could cope. Our members have been at alert in this regard. On the issue of research, the Nigeria environment frustrates research. For instance, there is nobody that can give you reliable figure on deficits in the housing sector.
NIOB is putting a lot of efforts in place. We have a dragnet of 36 chapters and we are trying to build up data on what happens in each of these locations, identify their peculiarities and adapt it into a module that somebody could key into. Research is bottom-up and not top-bottom approach and so with that, we are tackling the challenge headlong.
Adherence to the highest standards of competence and conduct in the building industry has been a thing of concern recently. How are you checking quackery and promoting international best practices?
NIOB has code of conducts and on the issue of quality, we have signed an MoU with the Nigeria Board for Technical Education. The Institute has been granted an awarding body status because the National Building Codes specifically define the roles of builders in terms of supervising artisans and craftsmen. We have also sent out our members to be trained as resource persons and quality assessors in construction process. We will soon be going for senior quality management training. Buildings remain a piece of paper on design unless it is transformed into a three dimensional reality. The issue of quality therefore, has to do with the person that transform the specification, the best production management practices, and plan for the job to be delivered as at when due.
It is only people who have met Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) conditions and registered with them that we can refer to as builders. Quackery could be checked but the government has not shown the will to checkmate substandard building materials and quackery in the built profession. The National Building code that we have as at today has not been promulgated into law.
Government roles in the housing sector cannot be overemphasized, especially in housing delivery and policy formulation. Do you think the Federal Government should be involved in direct housing construction? What should be the government role in this regard?
The role of any reasonable government all over the world is to create the enabling environment. Yes, government has a role, they should bring down interest rate for housing investments, provide land, reduce the difficulties in accessing Certificate of Occupancy (C of O), and issue of land use decree must be addressed among others. Government must therefore provide the general enabling environment to drive the sector.
Dearth of skilled artisans/craftsmen in the construction industry has become worrisome. What NIOB doing to improve the skills of artisans?
NIOB went into the up-skill of artisans, partnered the Federal Government during Sure-P programme and trained 1,000 men nationwide. That was the much we could afford in terms of funding. What we gleaned from this excited us into getting across to NBTE to also train artisans. We are encouraging our members to set up training centres to adequately address this.
Lack of reliable and consistent data for the real estate market has remained a major challenge, what should be done to solve the problem?
There should be coordinated approach to doing things. People should learn to respond to the needs and not the profitability index. Tribal sentiments, interests, political considerations and individual passion must not drive us. In the quest for building reliable and consistent data, the culture of Nigerians, the demand and access to sources of raw materials must be respected.
We must focus on where there is problem and so we must address the challenges. We have to identify the demands criteria for housing and respond to those demands. Housing is about integrating the demands of life to address the needs of man.
The issue of affordable and quality housing for all Nigerians has continued despite different efforts by the government and private sector. How do we achieve housing in Nigeria?
There must be consistency of policy and institutions must be built, looking at the issues of professionalization of activities as part of efforts to address the need for housing. We need to build strong institutions. There must be affordability of lands, funds, sufficiency of requisite professionals and institutional framework to serve as a control and prevent wastages.
What has been your institute’s relationship with government? Do you think the housing ministry is performing better now that it is merged with Power, Works and Housing?
I am sure that the intention of government is to do well. We view things from the way they manifest. In terms of relationship, NIOB is been regulated by the Council of Builders of Nigeria as an agency under the Federal Ministry of Works, Power and Housing. Government said they want to build 1,000 mass housing for the past two and half years now but how far have we gone on that position. We are yet to see it.
Are you in support of government’s current housing policy? What needs to be improved?
Everybody who knows the current challenges we have in housing, we support the mass housing policy of government but want people seek to know how soon and how feasible it is that when they are delivered, it is the people that they are been built for that would get it at the end of the day. The issues of responsiveness and effectiveness must be improved, understanding the needs of man and deploring resources to satisfy them.
The biggest problem now in the housing industry is substandard building materials, which some professionals blame for building collapse. With the building code still in limbo, how do we ensure the use of quality building materials in the sector?
The challenge we have in Nigeria is institutional. We have the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) amongst others. The materials especially the ones imported are not properly certified, the profit interest that some people have will always drive them to do things the wrong way.
When people know that you have a system that could be compromised they would do things they are not suppose to do. Substandard building materials persist due to lack of enforcement. Buildings are collapsing because people who are supposed to monitor them are been compromised.
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