‘Government should develop hinterland to reduce flood losses’
MR. AKOMOLAFE ADEMOLA is the Lagos State branch chairman, Association of Private Practising Surveyors of Nigeria (APPSN). In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he spoke on the surveying practice, the need for amendment of the surveyors’ act and sundry issues.
There is on-going amendment of the Lagos Survey Laws, why the review if the law? What are the aspects that need critical attention?
A law as old as 20 years needs complete overhaul. So it is not a matter of looking at a specific section but the generality of the law. I will not pick a particular section, just to say the entire law needs a complete overhaul. Exactly, we have looked at the entire document and have made our own input and have forwarded it, for our submission to be included.
Any specific section?
The entire law. The one that we made specific comment is this aspect of discipline. Apart from that fact that we have our own internal discipline because the issue of discipline is very critical, there is that section mooted by the House of Assembly on setting up of surveyors’ disciplinary committee but we have a regulatory body, which is Surveyors Council of Nigeria (SURCON), which is in charge of surveying in all its ramifications. And they have a disciplinary procedure. So, anything that has to do with discipline has to go through the council. We made that recommendation that the issue of discipline should be handled by the regulatory body.
Are the surveying laws at the national level in tandem with the states or are there differences?
We are a federation. We have the state and the federal but where there are conflicts between the state and the federal, the federal takes prominence. There is no much conflict. Like I said, the issue of the regulatory body should handle discipline.
Is there disagreement between practitioners and SURCON as seen in other professions? How are they being resolved?
As practitioners, we look at SURCON as the one regulating us. We are to follow the law. We have good relationship with our regulatory body.
Hydrographic surveying seems to be exclusive for expatriates in Nigeria. How can the trend be reversed?
We are into hydrographic surveying that is surveying on water. You have a lot of developments going on in the ports and a lot of coastal areas. Surveyors are there. We are visibly there. They are the ones doing the work. So in the construction of ports, you cannot do without the surveyors. Our members are visible there?
Many states in Nigeria are experiencing flooding and erosion presently with no solution in sight. What do you think government can do to solve these and avert future occurrence?
Surveying is the bedrock of any meaningful development. At the inception, during construction, they are there after construction. He who fails to plan, plans to fail. So, for any meaningful development, you need geospatial data , that is the surveying data for accurate planning. So in a situation, where you don’t involve the surveyors, you are not likely to get a good result. Look at the former Lagos Bar Beach, you can see the character of filling that was done there to bring in an estate. Now they cut off flooding. You will never experience it, that is to say, it was well planned. The simply advise to government is that they should move people away from flood prone areas and develop the hinterland to reduce all those losses.
But government has sometimes tried to do that. For instance, in Lagos, people are asked to leave that zone and later they come back. Is that the solution?
The permanent solution is for those at flood prone areas to leave that area. It is the fact and truth because Lagos was two metres above sea level. It means that in some places water will never go below sea level. Most of the places, where you have this problem, they do not have approvals.
How is the current economy situation affecting surveying profession and surveyors?
We are part of the society and we cannot say we are not feeling the brunt and impact, it is really affecting us. All our equipment are imported and they are dollarised. What is the exchange rate now? Average of N360 per dollar. So it is negatively affecting us.
The Federal Government just increased VAT to 7.5per cent from five per cent. What are the likely impacts of this policy on surveyors, consumers of surveyors’ services and housing provision? Are you going to increase your fees?
Well a point of correction, there was no increment but review of our charges. The last we did it was 2007 before the last time, it was 10 years interval. The issue of VAT is something that affects everybody across board, all practitioners all people in Nigeria including you. We are not different, we will feel the impact. We will definitely pay when it come to effect. We are taking it as part of our own contribution to the economy. We only pray that the proceed will be utilise judiciously . I don’t think it is too bad in increasing the VAT. In some places, they pay as high as 10 per cent , or 15 per cent, it is a government policy.
Some surveyors have been accused of colluding with land grabbers to perpetrate all kinds of atrocities in States, what’s your association doing to inculcate ethics in the profession?
We have disciplinary procedures and as surveyors our regulatorybody takes it very seriously. There are laid down regulations and procedures on acquiring of lands. In as much as people are complying with the laid down rules and procedures, there is no problem. When you acquire the land and given papers, you are given the necessary procedures but you find a situation where people are circumventing the regulation. People try to save cost but government is doing the needful. Government should do monitoring.
Why are surveyors not seen to be involved in many ongoing Federal Government projects like the railways, road and others?
Like I said, surveyors are supposed to be at the beginning of a project, during the construction and after completion. When you must have completed the whole thing, they must have done what we call built- survey. After constructing the road abnitio, you lay the pipes, the surveyors supposed to be brought in to carry out the survey and produce the utility map showing the relationship between the road and other utilities as the pipeline and submit same to the appropriate authority to the office of surveyor-general. So if there is any development coming in around that area, they can get the drawings, they will determine if they have any existing infrastructure on that axis. So the failure is on the part of government. I will not move there and say let me do it free, I need to be consulted to do it. They know and the laws are there.
In the northeast, the issue of boundary demarcation has resulted to security challenges. How will surveyors be useful in solving boundary problems in the country?
The problem in the northeast was not as a result of boundary issues and I don’t see how it would have solved the problem.
The surveying practice has been on the low ebb unlike what was witnessed in Hebert Macaulay era. What is responsible for this?
That is not true. The practice is more visible now because we have many surveyors that are visible unlike that colonial era where Macaulay was the only visible surveyor. So there is no comparison at all in terms of visibility and works done.
What is the effect on your charges to your clients?
One thing about us as a country is that we are not ready for a change. We want to remain in the same position. Change is ievitable. We are talking of 2.5 per cent and we are now looking at it as if it is a new thing to come. Look at that margin from 5 to 2.5 per cent , what does it translate to. The effect may not immediate. Definitely, there will be effect.