Estate surveyors have been underutilised by policymakers in national development. In this interview with Tunde Alao, Victor Adekunle Alonge, a fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, explains the efforts the institution has been making to ensure that policymakers tap from the expertise of the practitioners to achieve the purpose. Excerpts:
You were recently appointed as the chairman planning committee for NIESV’s next year national conference holding in Ibadan, Oyo State. Why the need for the committee?
The committee was set up to raise the standard of our annual conference. This conference has to meet international standard; it has to be on the same level with conferences organised by other international bodies. That is the primary purpose for the committee. In terms of the technical component of the conference, in terms of the organisation, it has to match international standard. What I intend to achieve along with other distinguished members of the committee is to ensure that we have a conference of high standard.
There have been so many conferences and position papers in the past but there is little or no implementation; how do you intend to ensure the outcome of this conference is implemented?
One key reason professional bodies like ours organise conference is to bring out our role in the polity. It is to also look at issues within our profession that impact on the quality of our national growth and development. If we are able to come up with workable and implementable proposal, I think we would be able to change the current approach to just organising conferences as one of those things. As a professional body, we have the key to national development. We now need to look at the way our conferences are structured such that our recommendations and resolutions are what we can drive on our own, bringing out the attractiveness of those resolutions. Those in government are not robot. I still believe that if they see superior arguments, which clearly show the path and how their job will be made easier, they will listen and embrace it.
Your profession qualifies estate surveyors and valuers as land economists but the country does not have land data. What is NIESV’s response to the call by the Minister Power, Works and Housing on this issue?
Agreed. Information, data about land and property is absolutely key to any nation’s economic development. Where you don’t have information and reliable data, sufficient information about your industry, you cannot expect development because where there is no clear information; everything you are doing will be based on guesswork. The board of ESVARBON was already working on that before the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola charged the board to help in that regard. We know that with accurate data and information, there will be transparency, accountability and integrity. The way it is going to be done should be private sector-led. The institution tried to establish a data bank about four years ago, though we were able to do it just once. Information is dynamic and therefore, you need to have a system that allows for the dynamic nature of data to be incorporated into your framework, otherwise, you will just be wasting time. It must be private sector-led. As we speak, the board and the institution are engaged in working out the modality. And I am sure that will be the best way forward for the country and us. Thankfully, we have some organisations that are involved in property data collection, analysis and interpretation like Agusto. For now, we don’t have those data and that is making investment guide more difficult.
There have been calls for professional indemnity insurance for practitioners. What additional value will that be to realtors?
This has huge benefits to individual practitioner and the economy. It is a form of insurance policy against negligence by professionals; negligence in the way we carry out valuation exercise. For instance, if you instruct me to carry out a valuation for you and I negligently carried out the valuation and instead of reporting N20m, I reported N10m. And you went ahead and sold the property for N10m. That means you have lost. What professional indemnity insurance does is to actually be an insurance cover. That means, if you can establish a case of negligence in my valuation report, you can sue me and claim on that policy. In another way, say you want to buy a property and you engage me to value the property and in my report I said the property is worth N500m and I eventually bought the property for that price and only to find out later that the property is only worth N250m. Again, I have been negligent and you can sue me. With the adoption of professional indemnity insurance, the clients will have confidence and also security of their investment. To individual professionals, the policy makes you to be sure of what you are doing because it is not going to be business as usual. Before you push out a valuation, you must be sure of what you have done. With this policy, my colleagues and other professionals will now deliver their services with more caution, care and sound mind. Also, registered and practicing estate surveyors and valuers in Nigeria, with this policy on, will have greater access to be on the boards of various financial institutions. There will no longer be discrimination. This is obtainable in the United Kingdom. To the client, it assures him or her that if the professionals mess up his or her job, he or she can claim on the policy to reclaim his or her losses unlike now that if you lose money, you don’t have a protection. And to the economy, valuation actually provides financial stability because the economy works on price movement, price determination and information. Any dislocation of pricing within the economic system can cause problem, as you have seen from the United States mortgage system that threw the whole world into a mess. And because of the benefits of this policy, the mutual understanding between our clients and us, the professionals, will be boosted and fast-tracked. The Board is serious on this and I will be surprised if we don’t have this policy before the end of this year.
So many high net worth properties located within Marina and its environs in Lagos State are underutilised due to increasing vacancy rate in that axis. Why this?
One clear reason is the economic down turn; and again, infrastructure in terms of transportation. I think most of the buildings have been there for some time and are not flexible. The issue with Marina is economy. Then, relocation of the capital from Lagos to Abuja is another factor. If it were in a developed nation, a place like Marina would have been subjected to continuous regeneration. Government policies would have been targeted at helping owners to improve their property and encouraging the people to redevelop their properties. Unfortunately, all these are not there. That has made the location less attractive to business. But, the neglect of Marina as a business district, has led to the urbanisation of places like Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Lekki and Ikeja GRA.