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Onashile’s Quest For Collaboration

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With professional bodies like the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS, one would expect that buildings collapsing every now and then would have been permanently addressed. But according to the organisation’s president, Obafemi Onashile, that and many other issues is what is paramount on their agenda and there is hope. Interview by Chima Akwaja.

Our focus is mainly on all professional bodies…

Beyond Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS, our focus is mainly on all professional bodies. We want to a chance to meet with the government to fine-tune a growth plan for the sector. It’s high time we did that and take the bull by the horn. It’s high time we decide our future by ourselves.

There is need for partnership between government and the construction industry…

There is a lot of reforms that need to be done in all the professional bodies and especially in the construction industry. For starters, we need to urgently form a construction industry development board or a construction industry development council. There is need for partnership between government and the construction industry to get the industry producing and exporting, thus consciously improving our GDP.

Another urgent need is the adoption of modern procurement systems, procedures and processes, to run the industry more efficiently. Apart from the traditional procurement system, the adoption of other formal procurement systems such as design and build systems, construction management systems and project management systems.

Also, there should be an urgent formation of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) or Construction Industry  Training Council (CITC) to actively promote and manage technical/vocational training of skills for the industry. This may involve subsidized or attractively sponsored training programmes.

In addition, we are calling for a greater promotion of health and safety in construction processes to make it more attractive.

Finally, there is a need for an urgent creation of purpose-fit juridical systems for the industry as well as enactment of laws recognising and promoting faster dispute resolution mechanisms such as adjudication and mediation.

Construction can also make money for the growth of the economy…

There is a lack of cohesion in the industry and to correct that, we need to come together. If professional institutions come together, it would be easier to convince the government. We are saying to them, we know what you are going through, why not let’s come together as good patrons and address the issues. Construction can also make money for the growth of the economy.

We export our products and services…

At the moment, we have kick started collaboration amongst professions and we are using the platform to insist that government finds workable roadmaps for the different industries to grow and contribute to growing the Nigerian economy.

   We are proud to say that in our professional body as quantity surveyors, we export our products and services which, by the way, are in high demand. Nigerian surveyors are sought after in Africa and Europe especially in Ireland.    Also in Middle Eastern countries like Bahrain and Dubai. If you take your NIQS certificate there to get a job, you will be quickly engaged. But why limit it to just our profession? Why not make it an industry affair so that just as our consultancy service can operate outside the country, our contractors can also operate outside the country.

We are bothered about how government projects are executed…

Yes we are different and have different objectives. But we need to understand that we have a common objective which is to make our nation better. When we agree on that, then we can strategise on ways to increase the income of our professional bodies and the economy of our country as well as the GDP of our country.

As a firm, we do not execute government projects. But we are bothered about how government projects are executed. We are bothered about the development of this nation. We are ready to come and sit with government and find common solutions. Solutions that they thought about but that we have seen from our practice outside and from all over the world, we want to bring in to share with the government.

Let’s use our diversity right to strengthen our economy and nation…

If we make our nation efficient and productive, there will be something to leave behind for the coming generation and posterity will judge us rightly. So it is not a question of diversity any more, but rather, let’s uses our diversity right to strengthen our economy and nation.

Emphasis should be placed on health and safety in this business…

Building collapse is the product of the inefficiency in the system and once that is addressed, there won’t be collapses any more. Emphasis should be placed on health and safety in this business. Once that is done, building collapse would have been solved.   The industry is striving for the enactment of a health and safety Bill or regulations to address how constructions are executed, the quality and responsibility of stakeholders. I was privileged to be part of the putting together of this Bill. To be more succinct, the Bill stipulates obligations of building developers to ensure that they get competent designers even as the designer must be competent and have an obligation to brief the employer of his obligations on health and safety.

   The employer must employ a consultant specifically on health and safety issues that will review the design to ensure safety, as well as highlight areas that would pose a potential danger from the drawing and many other regulatory instructions. 

There is no price that can be attached to human life…

There is no price that can be attached to human life. I am fortunate to have been involved in so many projects and in any project of over N5billion, a worker must die during construction. Are we saying Nigerian lives are that cheap? Now what the law says is that, if there is injury or death, you, as the employer, must provide the coffin, and take that corpse to the village in addition to giving the family N250, 000.

   Are you saying that is the worth of a Nigerian life? So, no matter the cost to health and safety, you must abide by safety rules. In the oil and gas industry, they don’t joke with health and safety.

Don’t just to do quality work, but quality work of international standard…

We are concerned about quality management and we are consciously drumming it into the ears of practitioners. Don’t just to do quality work, but quality work of international standard. You shouldn’t get anything less than what obtains in the United States or Australia when you give out a contract. That is what we are clamouring for.

If power is regular and we don’t need big generators, cost will reduce…

The cost of construction in Nigeria is still very high. However, it is the issues in the industry that is affecting the cost. If the industry is focused on reforms, obviously the construction cost will come down.

   In Nigeria, apart from cement, virtually every material is imported and the cost of construction is determined by the cost of materials outside the country. It is also affected by the cost of transportation. If the shipping country decides to raise their shipping rate, it affects importation to the country.

   Hotels in Nigeria are the most expensive all over the world. Yes, if you are in the US, you probably have only one generator, if you must even have. But in Nigeria, you must have at least three big sized generators. One of them is working full time and the other is on standby 24/7 and the third is a spare.



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