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Iyortyer, Nigerian woman of history in quantity

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Iyortyer, NIQS President

Iyortyer, NIQS President

In the quantity surveying profession, MRS. MERCY TORKWASE IYORTYER is a woman of many firsts. She was the first female Quantity Surveyor in the Northern Region of Nigeria, the first female chairperson of a chapter in NIQS (FCT Chapter), the Pioneer and Founding Chairperson of the Women Association of Quantity Surveyors (WAQSN), the first woman to represent the institute on the Council of the African Association of Quantity Surveyors, and first woman to be elected into the position of the Deputy President of the NIQS unopposed. Recently, she capped it all as the first female President after 46 years of the Institute’s existence. In this interview, she tells her story to HAPPINESS OTOKHINE.

MRS. Mercy Torkwase Iyortyer was born into the renowned family of Mr. Timothy Yuwa (MON) from Benue State, Nigeria. She demonstrated hard work, intelligence and commitment from her early years in life starting from primary school; when she was chosen to tutor lower classes even as a student herself.

Her outstanding performance in Girls’ High School, Gindiri, Plateau State resulted in her coming out with a Division 1 and many other academic awards. Her leadership skills were harnessed as she was selected Class Captain, House Prefect, and President of Fellowship of Christian Students and eventually became the Head Girl of the school.

She also actively participated in various extracurricular activities such as hockey, volley Ball, netball, track and field events and drama in her secondary school days.
Mrs. Iyortyer moved onto the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and graduated in 1979 with a B.Sc in Quantity Surveying (Second Class Upper Division) despite the fact she gave birth to her first child during her final examination period.

Iyortyer during her inauguration as the NIQS President

Iyortyer during her inauguration as the NIQS President

Mrs. Iyortyer moved onto the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and graduated in 1979 with a B.Sc in Quantity Surveying (Second Class Upper Division) despite the fact she gave birth to her first child during her final examination period.

Iyortyer then proceeded to University College London (UCL), UK in 1983 where she obtained an M.Sc in Architecture (Building Economics and Management). She continually strived for self-development and obtained a Certificate in International Project Management (IPMA) in 2005 and a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management from Pan Africa University, Lagos Business School in 2010.

She has set records in many spheres of her life and can be rightly described as a “Woman of History”. She was the first female Quantity Surveyor in the Northern Region of Nigeria, the first female chairperson of a chapter in NIQS (FCT Chapter), the Pioneer and Founding Chairperson of the Women Association of Quantity Surveyors (WAQSN), the first woman to represent the Institute on the Council of the African Association of Quantity Surveyors, a lady who was elected into the position of the Deputy President of the NIQS unopposed; this being the first time ever that such a position was contested as unopposed.

How does it feel to be the first female president of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS)?

I feel humbled. I thank God and I thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to serve my Institute as the 1st Female President after 46 years of the Institute’s existence and after 22 Male Presidents.

How would you describe the journey to get there?

Nothing good comes easy. I worked my way to the pinnacle of the profession. My record of hard work, passion and commitment to the profession as well as my efforts to develop other colleagues have been gratefully recognized and rewarded. I played various roles at chapter, national and international levels until I got to this position.

What challenges do you foresee for your tenure considering that the built profession is a male dominated field?

Hopefully no challenge will be insurmountable. For a male-dominated profession like ours, the females always find themselves few among men and the trend usually continues throughout their career life. So working in a male dominated field is not strange to me. The challenge usually encountered is that of juggling work with family. However, if you organize yourself well, you can successfully combine the two without compromising any. I am lucky that I have a husband, Dr. Philip Iyortyer, an architect who is very understanding and who is also a professional in the built environment. My five children are all grown up and I have two grand children. I have ample time to devote to the profession.

Where do you intend to take quantity surveying as a profession and the Institute, which you head to?

I intend to take it to greater recognition as a profession that will give industry players value for their work and money. With the advent of globalization concept, the world we live and operate in is now knowledge driven. What we know and the value we add are the significant factors that drive the demand and service we offer to our clients. Our ability to stand out in the services we provide determines our success among our competitors. In line with the change mantra of the Buhari Administration, the diversification of the economy and provision of infrastructure will be private sector driven. Hence, there is strong indication of robust opportunities for the built-environment and specifically for construction cost experts; especially in infrastructure development projects with an increase in private finance of such projects. Thus we must build the expertise to compete in the emerging market. So, like I said before, I intend to take the profession of quantity surveying and the NIQS to greater recognition to be relevant in the global playing field.

How do you plan to achieve that?

I believe it can be achieved by building capacity in areas that will give us such recognition. I plan to create opportunities for exposure and to increase our participation in national and international programmes. We have re-positioned our secretariat to provide more efficient services to members in readiness for these plans to be successfully executed.

As a people, we must strive to harness new ideas and technology to remake our profession and serve the society better. We must be prepared to respond to the threats and challenges confronting our profession appropriately as they unfold in a timely manner. Indeed, our journey will not be complete until we make the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors to achieve Global Best Practice and Standards. With the awareness that this journey will not end after my two-year tenure, we must continuously strive to choose visionary leaders that will sustain and build on past achievements.

Are you in any way looking at how you can encourage more female presence in the profession?

Yes indeed.  I have ensured female representation in all programmes and committees of the Institute. We are giving support to the women wing of the Institute in developing mentorship programs and undertaking career talks to girls in schools. For the first time last month we had the 1st female Professor of Quantity Surveying, Prof Mrs. Babalola of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. Together with my other female colleagues, we will continue to encourage and inspire other women to greater heights.
What influenced your choice of quantity surveying as a profession? Did your parents have any influence on your choice of career?
My choice was influenced by my love for the numeric sciences, especially anything to do with calculations. My parents had nothing to do with my choice of career. My dad actually wanted me to study human medicine but I had more interest in quantity surveying.

Iyortyer and family during her inauguration as NIQS President

Iyortyer and family during her inauguration as NIQS President

How do you intend to help quantity surveying as a profession gain more prominence among other built professions such as architects, estate surveyors and valuers and engineers?

We all have different competencies and should complement each other rather than compete for dominance. Everyone has a role to play different from the other.  Quantity surveyors offer total cost and procurement management of capital projects from inception to commissioning and all we need to do is to perform this role credibly and then we will gain more prominence. Most clients are anxious about cost more than any other consideration.

Are you satisfied with the present level of private – public partnerships? Why?

There is always room for improvement. We are a mono economic state with the main source of revenue dwindling by the day. Government does not have enough financial resources to undertake major infrastructural projects. Remember a deficit budget is what is being proposed at the moment.  PPP provides a good option for achieving projects without the government pumping so much of its money into it and therefore it should be encouraged. However, we must strive to get its planning and implementation right.

What makes quantity surveying as a profession stand out among others?

We have actually been witnessing resources at all levels dwindling, and meeting up with responsibilities is posing a big challenge.  It is imperative that private sector and governments at all levels engage Quantity Surveyors to ensure value for money for their projects.  Project planning, estimating, monitoring and control, project management, contract administration, alternative dispute resolution etc are all areas that we apply to achieve this value.

NIQS has been lobbying for the composition and inauguration of the National Council on Public Procurement as stipulated in the Act. Will the exclusion of quantity surveyors from the proposed membership of the council pose challenges to the body?

Indeed NIQS should have been the number one profession to be on the Council for Public Procurement being the Procurement and Cost Experts. Its exclusion will pose a challenge with grave consequences for the nation. However, we are optimistic that NIQS will be included this time around.

There have been some concerns on the acts of impunity by politicians and government officials in the procurement process, especially during bid evaluations to favour particular bidders. Why has your institute not shown opposition to these fraudulent activities? Do these activities compromise quality delivery, enhance disputes and excessive cost and time overruns on projects?
One of the major reasons for this is political and government influence on the procurement system resulting in cost overruns, project abandonment and corruption. We have not kept quiet. We have been condemning these acts. Both NIQS and our Regulatory Body, QSRBN have organized various workshops on corruption and the need for a sound and transparent procurement process to draw attention to it. We recently visited the EFCC in an effort to show our concern and we are ready to sanction any of our members found wanting in this regard.

In the budget submitted by Buhari Administration, do you think there would be opportunities for the built-environment and specifically for construction cost experts; especially in infrastructure development projects?
Hopefully, with the increase in Capital Expenditure allocation to 30% the highest in a long period, we should be optimistic about opportunities. We look forward to government engaging indigenous consultants and contractors in project delivery. This is the only way local capacity can be developed using our own money. We commend government efforts in its plans to develop skilled competencies through building vocational schools.

As you know, the awareness and understanding of quantity surveying services remain at low ebb in the public arena.  How do you intend to increase awareness?

This is what we are doing now. Public-spirited programmes are being organized. We are also ready to collaborate and to support government in their fight against corruption. As a council, we will make media to key into our programmes and events, respond and participate in government policies that affect construction and impinge on our services as well as network with national and international organizations to expand partnership and collaborations. Personal marketing is made difficult by lack of awareness and understanding. The Institute has a responsibility to increase this awareness.



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