‘Boundaries of most states are not demarcated’
YOMI BOBADOYE is the National President, Association of Private Practising Surveyors of Nigeria (APPSN). In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he spoke on the relevance of surveying in planning and national development as well as its challenges.
How would you rate the modern surveying practice vis-à-vis Herbert Macaulay’s era?
During Herbert Macaulay’s era, the equipment and method were based on available technology then but now, the advancement of technology has changed the mode of practice, both in theory and practice. Surveying is now easier to handle because of the smart equipment in use. It has taken away the rigours of Herbert Macaulay era.
What do you consider as the major challenge to surveying practice in Nigeria?
Our major challenge is that we have not developed enough to understand the need for surveying. If you take away cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja, all the other cities or states have not taken it seriously. In the Northern part of the country, we are still selling surveying to the government and people as many people cannot do without surveying. When they build roads, houses and other things without survey services, their areas are not planned and if you have an area that is not planned you’re asking for chaos. An unplanned area is not livable.
Surveying is said to be at the root of development in any country. Are your members doing enough to drive the practice in the country?
Yes, I agree with you that surveying is at the root of planning and development. You know that development and planning go together. Nigerian surveyors have been up to date. You find out that in surveying government is not asking for foreign partners or foreign personnel. All the surveys that have been carried out in Nigeria have been carried out by Nigerian surveyors, not only that, you see that some of our surveyors have been hired out to countries like the Gambia, Zambia, where the federal government has sent our surveyors to head their organisations, meaning that our surveyors are doing enough. Nigerian surveyors are carrying out all the major developments in this country; so, I think that they are doing enough.
Do you think that adequate attention has been given to surveying and mapping in Nigeria?
This is one of our challenges. Surveying has not been accorded the right priority it deserves. During the colonial era, surveyors were ranked higher above most other professions because of the need to demarcate the country to parcels and regions. But our present governments have not done enough because surveying does not appear tangible to them. Our politicians want to show things that are tangible like big houses, bridges and others; they don’t pay enough attention to planning. As I said surveying and planning go hand in hand, you need surveying services to plan an environment, be it road, be it construction, and be it housing estate or what have you? You need surveying but because it is not tangible or something that can be shown to an illiterate community, you find out that surveying services are needed in developed communities, whereby people can appreciate intangible things like planning. So this is why enough attention is not being given to surveying practice in Nigeria.
What role do you think ASPPN plays in improving surveying practice in Nigeria?
We should be advocating for good practice of surveying, that is to say, we all know and accept that before you can have good planning be it city, even in agriculture, mining, road construction in transportation and rail, we all need the services of surveying. This is why we’re advocating, cooperating with, and soliciting the support of our colleagues in government to continue to advise government to do a lot of surveying. For example, the boundaries of many of our states are in paper but not on the ground. Most of the states’ boundaries are not demarcated and this is not good enough. We should be able to know the boundaries of the states both on the ground and on the paper in order to forestall land and boundary disputes, which is not good for any community because of the consequences. So our members are advising government to do the needful.
Are you satisfied with government’s investment in the mapping and surveying as it is now?
We are not satisfied with the situation as far as surveying practice is concerned in Nigeria, particularly in the areas of surveying and mapping. Most of our maps presently are outdated. Most of them were produced in the 60s. The township maps are also out of date because the rate of planning does not meet up the rate of physical development in towns like Ibadan and Ilorin. In all these cities, you hardly can find an up to date maps, which should not be. Most surveyors in practice are usually underemployed; we can do more. We have enough carrying capacity to do more but due to lack of patronage, particularly the Federal, State and the local governments, we’re not able to do much.
What will you then be expecting from governments?
We are advocating that, one, planning is very important in every area of development, particularly physical development, if you see a road that is well built, take for example, Lagos- Ibadan Expressway, you find out that curves are smooth and that the surfaces of the road are smooth, those are the areas where surveying can be experienced. You find out those that are of uneven surface or that the curves are not gradual, means that either surveying is not present or competent surveyors are not employed into it.
Quackery has been a major challenge to surveying profession. What roles is the association and other institutions playing in the fight against it?
Quackery is common in all professions. They called it fake. Somebody who is not supposed to do a work he is doing is either a quack or a fake person. In surveying too, we have the ethics committee of our profession both at the national and the state levels. The work of the ethics committee is to call those that are doing what they are not supposed to do to order. That is if you are a fake surveyor, if you are caught, you will be dealt with and handed over to the police. Even if you are a practitioner and you commit some misdemeanor, the ethics committee will deal with you to ensure that surveyors do the right thing. We also advise people when they find somebody that parade himself as a surveyor, if they are not sure, they can call our association or surveyor- general of the state to find out the about that person, that is whether he is competent to do what he claimed he can do. Through the cooperation of the practitioners and the public, we will be able to reduce the effect of quackery in our society, and the quicker we are able to do that the better for all of us.
The recent review of professional fees for surveyors generated a lot of heat. Don’t you think that the fees are on the high side considering the present economic situation in Nigeria?
The fees appear high to the people because they don’t quite understand the fact that surveyors do so many things. Many people don’t understand the consultancy aspects of surveying. Surveyors also deploy very expensive equipment that are imported. So when you add the cost of equipment to the cost unlike other professions like engineering, the cost of their equipment is outside their own cost. But in our own case, we add the equipment’s cost into our services, and then people feel that we charged a lot. But I don’t think the charge is on the high side as our sister professions in the built environment are making more money than us with little efforts.
There is also the issue of fake survey plans. How can it be curtailed?
This can be curtailed by the offices of the surveyor-general because every survey works is for a purpose. If you carried out a survey, you should be able to find out the status of the survey. So, if some body carried out a survey for you, don’t just keep it at home find out the purpose of the survey. Go to the office of the surveyor- general and find out if the area is under acquisition or not. By so doing you will be able to find out because the office of surveyor-general or any surveyor should be able to identify the survey plan by mere sighting of it. So do not just go anywhere to do survey plan, if you want the cheapest service, you are more likely to get a substandard service. Always go for a reputable surveyor, a reputable surveyor will not give you a fake plan but when some one wants the cheapest, then you are likely to go to the wrong hands. My advice is that you should check the status of the survey plan that is given to you.
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