‘Online title registration, perfection will eliminate corruption’

Victor Adekunle Alonge, Photos: Property Insider

VICTOR ADEKUNLE ALONGE is the Chairman, Professional Practice Committee, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON), Principal Partner, Nelson Thorpe Alonge and Chairman, Institute of Directors (IoD) Federal Capital Territory Branch. In this interview with CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM, he throws more light on issues in the sector, especially the newly introduced green book for valuation practice and stamps needed to identify registered estate surveyors and valuers.

Government has introduced the ease of doing business, even set up a Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC). Do you think it has worked for the real estate sector?
In the real estate sector, we’re badly affected by lack of transparency in business dealings.

There are some policies of government, which are also affecting us negatively. The anti corruption policy has its effect on us.

Corruption is a cancer on the economy and we need to eradicate it or reduce it to a level that we no longer feel the impact. But how government executes it is very important.

Now, the way the anti -corruption crusade is being waged is preventing economic transaction in the real estate sector.

A lot of people that made their money genuinely are afraid to embark on any transaction.

For instance, if you make a transaction of N500 million, the next day, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) will probably be at your doorstep.

Intimidation of people is actually making the anti corruption war to have enemies. So, the estate surveyors are badly affected. Many of us have properties in the market for years, not that people don’t want to buy, but they are scared.

They are scared because of the policy of government. The government may have good intentions but the operators of those policies are overzealous and the process is not transparent.

The ease of doing business in the property sector is really worse. When you’re able to complete transaction and want to register your title, is another long process, and in most cases not transparent.

Unfortunately, that’s why the sector is not contributing much to the economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Presently, the real estate sector is contributing about six per cent, which is ridiculous.

In developed countries, it contributes over 40 per cent to the GDP. We need to be serious with ease of doing business, especially in the real estate sector. We should get our policies right, make the title registration more transparent and friendly.

In the United Kingdom and United States, if you buy a property, you don’t need to go and see any government official.

It is done online. You conclude registration and perfection online. If you don’t see anybody, corruption is completely eliminated.

As far as there would be a face-to-face contact and the process is shrewd in darkness, corruption will thrive.

In the United Kingdom, a lot is happening in the real estate sector due to the Brexit. What will be your advice to Nigerian clients eyeing the UK market now?
Talking from an informed point of view, United Kingdom is going through a period of business and investment uncertainty.

A lot of investment that would have come into UK, investors are holding them back. They want to know what is going to happen to the Brexit, the same thing with the property market.

When an economy is in a good shape, there is demand, investment will be made, employment will be created and property would be demanded.

It is all different elements of economic prosperity. But what we have in England today is quite different.

Businesses are not planning long term, they are planning at best on a day to day and waiting for an official decision whether to invest or pull out. Because of this uncertainty, some organisations are already pulling out of England.

In the real estate sector, you can’t make a general statement now on the property values. In some areas, the values are down and in some others it is not affecting it.

In a way, it will be so simple to say, it is a good time to buy properties. But it will be irresponsible of any professional to say; you can buy properties in the United Kingdom now. It depends on individual cases. Whether you’re talking of commercial, residential and industrial properties.

The demand has weakened due to Brexit uncertainty. Again, the supply pipeline has also been affected because investments in property developments are being put on hold.

Estate Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) recently adopted a new adhesive stamp for valuation reports. What is the essence of the stamp to your members?
Adhesive stamps are one of the regulatory instruments that were adopted to promote professionalism and assist the board in compliance monitoring and regulation.

It was introduced in 2016, what we did last year was to improve on it; based on feedback we got from registered estate surveyors and valuers as well as users of our services.

The earlier version of the green book has the board’s name and registered estate surveyors’ number, but the improved version that took effect from January this year has the board’s identity, the name of the person and registration number.

Of course, it does not have an expiration date. In terms of appearance, it is easily seen and appreciated. We also have increased the range of documents that must now carry the adhesive stamps.

Previously, it was limited to valuation reports, but now you have letters of offer, arbitration, property management, auction and facility management agreements.

The main purpose is to differentiate documents coming from registered estate surveyors and valuers from non professionals, who are trying to overlap into areas of our services. You may be aware of individuals and agencies of government that gives out valuation jobs to un- registered estate surveyors and valuers. It is illegal and wrong.

If you see a valuation report that carries a seal and stamp of the board and the person carrying out the valuations, you will know valuation has been carried out in accordance with our laws, any report not carrying such, is a service delivered by quacks.

For close to two years, ESVARBON has been trying to enhance its practice standards. Now the flagship document known as Green Book has been launched. How do the Green book function, and what is the relevance to real estate sector?
The green Book has been released, it is now effective. Registered estate surveyors and valuers are enjoined to take notice of the green book, start complying with it.

The green book is a valuation standard. The journey of the book started three years ago.

The world is changing and changing for good. The world is now a global village and a great deal of interconnectivity in service delivery and the economy, even institutional interactions are taking place daily.

Standards have become a global thing and foreign investors want a platform that they can consider.

The valuation standard is borne out of the fact that Nigeria has to move with global trends. The nation has interest in our service, but when the National Assembly legislates, they don’t legislate to protect.

Our profession is a public interest profession and we adopt self-regulation. The board was established and given the latitude to regulate the profession than coming to the National assembly all the time.

If we fail to actually move the profession in line with global practice, it may affect the economy, because if we are not able to deliver services that the foreign investors expect, and there is a law that prevents them from bringing in their own consultants, then it means the nation will be losing economically.

Then the regulation will be forced on us. We then move from self-regulation to being regulate by government.

That is why the green book was introduced. What the green book did was to domesticate International Valuation Standards (IVS). Every jurisdiction is expected to implement it. That’s what we did.

RICS red book was used as a delivery framework because it a detailed deliverable mechanism.

There were some modifications to reflect our local nuisances. It has addressed client satisfaction in valuation and issue of five valuers getting different figures miles apart.

We acknowledged RICS and International Valuation Standards Council (IVSC) contributions and support, which was massive to the green book. We are the first in Africa to effectively domesticate and pioneer the IVS.

What is the status of ESVARBON with IVSC?
ESVARBON was admitted to IVSC last year as an institutional member. The same status with RICS and other international groups.
The benefit is that we’re now part of standard setting globally.

So, we will be there when standards are being discussed, bringing our local experience to the table.

Global standard is actually a synchronization of many experiences from different jurisdictions and making sure they are acceptable.

So, we’re now part of that process, our own experiences in Nigeria in terms of our services, challenges and opportunities will now be reflected in decision-making.

The display of multiple boards by estate surveyors and valuers has resurfaced in several locations in major cities. It seems your members don’t’ follow the ethics of your practice. What is the view of ESVARBON on this?
We have a regulation regarding the display of multiple boards on properties.

The problem has been on monitoring, compliance and enforcement. Now, the board has established a unit on monitoring, compliance and enforcement.

This is part of what we expect this unit to look at. It is very unpleasant to the eyes and not acceptable to see four to five boards of estate surveyors on one property.

We are addressing it and the established unit will actually ensure that these incidents and other regulatory infractions are checked.

The board is going through a recruitment exercise for the head of that unit. They will help registered persons to comply with the rules and regulations.

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