‘FG should cede office buildings in Lagos to state government’
BOLARINDE PATUNOLA-AJAYI is the President, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Principal Partner of J. Ajayi Patunola and Company. In this interview with Property and Environment Editor, CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM, he argued that public office holders must attach a valuation report to ensure transparency in asset declation. He also spoke on the invasion of the professional arena by foreign firms, estate agency practice and other housing industry – related matters.
There is this concern on the disparity in valuation reports by estate surveyors on a particular property, which confirms that your members are not adopting global best practices. What are you doing to harmonize models and methodology for valuation?
The practice of valuation of properties all over the world including Nigeria is subjected to standard practice. You cannot be given the license to value unless you meet both local and international standards; these standards are also regulated with ethics and lay down procedures. When two estate surveyors and valuers carry out the same valuation of the same property, at the same period of time and for the same purpose, the difference in value should not be too wide.
In a case where there is much disparity in value, our Institution always frowns at it. One of the major reasons for disparity in value is the source of data, when the data given by clients or sourced in the course of the exercise is defective, the value will be defective, we have put together a standard instruction book called “Green Book” which will be launched very soon to strengthen standard of our practice. Furthermore, we devoted many days to Mandatory Continuous Professional Development of our members to ensure that emerging standards and regulation are embraced by members. We do not spare any members who contravened our standard. We discipline our members not only with respect to valuation but in all other areas of our practice. Our institution is a member of International Valuation Standard Organizations like IVSC (International Valuation Standard Committee) and we are even represented on the Board.
Presently, we are also working on local data, which will serve as a source of information to our members.
One of the biggest challenges facing NIESV is accelerating the registration of new entrants into the noble profession to meet with the rapidly growing population. Which measures are you adopting to increase membership?
The most important issue is the level of competence of registered members. There is the minimum standard set for professional competence before a new member can be elected. We are very conscious in this aspect, thus, the slow pace of increasing the numbers. We want to ensure adherence to the standard so as to avoid producing half-backed professionals.
We have also seen the problem of limited number of qualified estate surveyors and valuers serving the huge population of Nigerians. In the light of this, we have decided to take the bull by the horn in this administration to implement our constitutional proposal for the establishment of the post graduate school, the Nigeria College of Estate Management and Valuation, which will train graduates for a specific period of time and get them registered. This college will ensure that the standard of the newly registered surveyors are as required and at the same time, will be able to handle more members. The school will also be an avenue for old members to attend courses to update their knowledge to prepare for better services every year, because it may become a condition for annual renewal of practicing license.
After more than two decades the federal capital moved to Abuja, several office structures are wasting away in Lagos. Now that recession has set in, don’t you think these property are goldmine for the federal government. What should be done?
There are professional opinions, which may be at variance with political decision. Professional advice had been given on several occasions concerning the properties, which some Government’s MDAs vacated in Lagos. The Lagos State government decided to be erecting new complexes for his staff indicating that there is shortage of accommodation; the wasting office buildings of the Federal Government in Lagos could be ceded to them, not necessary for monetary value, but as the father of all. We have economic recession, and therefore should not be sourcing for buyers for the properties now. There are others, which are residential buildings. My advice is that the Federal Government should release them for developers to turn them around to bring long-term revenue to the Federal Government. Members of my profession will be ready to work with the government to attract developers to these properties, which are majorly for redevelopment.
The institution has been clamouring for valuation of assets that would be declared by public office holders at the Code of Conduct Bureau. Why do think this is necessary? What is the outcome of your meetings with the Bureau?
Asset declaration is an exercise to show what a public office holder had at the beginning of the tenure of his service, and the tune the assets will be revisited during or at the end of the service. The essence of declaration is to ensure transparency and that no assets are wrongly acquired by the office holder. As an institution whose profession is determination of monetary value of property, producing ordinary list is not enough, it is necessary to attach a valuation report that will describe the properties, attach the photograph and state the value as at the date of the valuation, we are still meeting with the Bureau.
There has been the invasion of Nigeria by established foreign big time real estate’s companies, which is imparting on the fortune of local practices. How is the institution strategizing and ensuring members establish mega practice firms to meet needs of today’s property market?
The invasion of the professional arena, not only in estate surveyor and valuation now is a serious menace that is militating against the growth of the practice in Nigeria. There are local standard organizations, like Standard Organization of Nigeria, Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria, Bureau of Public Procurement, etc, who should come to the rescue of all professionals. There are laws to be fulfilled by them; there are local content to observe, and local standard to meet. They must ensure that foreign firms comply with the laws of Nigeria.
In the profession of estate surveying and valuation, we have started to encourage our members to come together and form mega firms and consortia, so that we can have the team that can handle any job of any size to international standard. We have also started to embark on capacity building of our members at the various divisions of our practice. This will naturally endow us a good place in the assessment of our clients, and the Government Organizations should also ensure that the foreign firms comply with the law of the land, and collaborate with indigenous firms where the law says so.
For several years, the issue of fraud in estate agency practice has been on front burner, especially with tenants and prospective buyers being duped. What are you doing to regulate the estate agency practice?
Presently, we are working with the Lagos state Real Estate Transaction Department to ensure that record of all Estate Agents in Lagos State are taken for control, and enforcement. It will then be difficult for just anybody to call himself or herself an estate agent. We also intend to replicate this in all states of the federation and Abuja.