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Passage of facility management bill will enhance standards, says Adebayo

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Adebayo

Mr. Segun Adebayo is the president, International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Nigeria chapter. He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the proposed facility management bill and why the Federal Government should engage professionals in managing public infrastructure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted negatively on global business. What were the specific impacts on the Facility Management (FM) sector in Nigeria and how were you able to navigate the challenges?
Like every other business interest, COVID-19 pandemic equally has its impact on the FM sector in Nigeria, although the severity of the impact is debatable because at the height of the pandemic when the nation experienced total lockdown, the integrated services of facility managers were still required by Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCMG), pharmaceuticals, health sectors among others to ensure their continuous operations while sectors that operated skeletal offices also required our services but at a reduced pace.

The challenges faced by all also vary among the industry players, however, most operators applied the principle of “Business Continuity and Emergency Preparedness”, one of the core competence of facility management practice and adopted same to overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

International Facility Management Association (IFMA), Nigeria chapter also during the period commenced a strategic advocacy through our monthly series of knowledge sharing session, where we virtually had conversations around sustainability, value of FM during and after the pandemic.

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Experts have lamented lack of policy enforcement in the industry that will entrench the culture of maintenance in the country. Can this initiative reduce infrastructure decay?
I think we are getting to the point where the entrenchment will become part of our life. Although, it may be at a slow pace, but surely we’re getting there, especially with the establishment of a department by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing that is responsible for management and maintenance of all public buildings. That action is a sign of gradual progression that will translate to an element of light at the end of the tunnel for facility management in Nigeria.

Beyond the establishment of the department, other key actions have also been adopted as a way of reducing infrastructure decay, which is for the users of the infrastructure irrespective of our interest to own those public infrastructure and assets. When you own your immediate space of the asset and ensure you speak to the abuse of the infrastructure, and then such infrastructure is protected. We have also been an advocate for the adoption of Strategic Operating Procedures (SOPs) by relevant agencies and institutions.

The facility management sector seems excluded from government’s project management. How do you make yourself relevant? 
We will continue to reach out to the authorities using every available communication platform to those that matter in government on the need to involve facility managers at the inception of every project. Recently IFMA, Nigeria reached out to some public institutions on our readiness to provide advisory professional support towards the sustainability of the facilities of such institutions. While we await their responses, the engagement will definitely continue until we get results, as this will be adding value to all and sundry.

Nigerian cities are transforming into smart cities and technology is revolutionising the way people do business. In what ways are facility managers adapting to this development?
One of the core competences of facility management is technology. The effective and efficient integration of facility management services in the built environment can be only achieved through technology. In fact, as proactive players, embracing technology for an impactful service delivery is not negotiable. Let me also mention here that, one of the series of our knowledge sharing session was dedicated to using technology as disruptive tools to achieve a sustainable development and growth of the industry. The pandemic has also fast-tracked the adoption of technology as a critical and strategic tool to achieve a responsive and transformative industry.

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Many of the nation’s assets worth several billions of naira are mired in waste and left to rot away. What advice is IFMA offering the Federal Government on this?
IFMA’s advice to the Federal Government was properly captured in our reaction to the collaborative initiative adopted by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lagos State Government and Bankers Committee on the revamp of National Theater, Iganmu. We did commend the Federal Government on this laudable initiative and further advised that such initiatives should be extended to other Federal Government’s properties. We equally offered to provide free “sustainability consulting” on the project and others in the nearest future.

Facility management industry has existed for over 21 years in Nigeria; yet, it seems not to be visible in the economy. What are the challenges and efforts to make the industry boost investment?
The visibility of facility management in relation to national economy should be discussed in proper perspective. This is so because IFMA, Nigeria chapter, has not only been in existence since 1997 but has also been adding value to nation building. Beyond our existence for almost 24 years, our impact through collaboration with relevant public institutions, organised private sector, academic institutions to deliver knowledge and capacity driven environment have also enhanced growth of the industry.

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While I also agree that every industry, like facility management has its peculiar challenges, the efforts of IFMA, Nigeria has been continuous engagement and strategic advocacy with all the stakeholders, industry practitioners and professionals towards the development of the facility management industry, thus creating the required economy in the built environment with attendant positive impact on the economy.

Our plan is to sustain the success of the immediate past leadership through the initiatives that will enhance and improve knowledge driven association through innovation and technology. We will also pay special attention to increased membership participation, membership engagement and membership growth.

We plan to deepen our relevance and impact through strategic alliances and collaboration with credible private institutions and relevant professional bodies. The collaboration with government institutions and agencies would aim towards developing fit for purpose policy to achieve a better operating environment.

The association is working on strategic review and revamping of the operation and deliverables of secretariat administration and management. This will be critical to the success of all our initiatives as an association.

We are positioned to deliver quality knowledge and capacity building to interested public and stakeholders, pay special attention to research and development towards the growth of the built environment, commence in earnest, mentorship development for the younger ones who have great potentials in facility management and give back to the society through our corporate social responsibility agenda.

The association has also commenced the implementation of the above initiatives from the secretariat following the engagement of a consultant to carry out a strategic review and evaluation of the secretariat functions and responsibilities.

In line with our commitment to deepen our relevance and impact through strategic alliances, we recently visited the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the University of Lagos, where we had conversation with academicians led by Professor Modupe Omirin, Head of Department, Estate Management. We will be working together towards critical intervention and sustainable plans around capacity and knowledge building. We are ready to collectively change the narratives in the facility management industry.

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Experts have harped on the need for professionalism in facility management. What has happened to the proposed bill to ensure standardisation of practice? What are salient points in the proposed law?
The need for professionalism in the practice of facility management cannot be over emphasised. The consequence of not being professional in delivery of services in the industry is dire and severe, hence everyone operating or practicing facility management must exhibit at all times the element of professionalism.

That’s why, at IFMA, Nigeria chapter, training and certifications are geared towards capacity building and competence of operators.  As regards the bill on FM, the House of Representatives of the eight Assembly did pass it but the Senate did not due to time and the exigency of work load. However, all the relevant practitioners in the industry are collectively working towards the passage of the bill by the ninth Assembly.

The bill will not only address the standardisation of practice but will also deal with issues of professional practice, regulation of industry players with its activities and the economic potentials of the industry, among others.

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COVID-19IFMASegun Adebayo
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