‘We will use local materials to build affordable houses’
The President of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), FESTUS ADIBE NJOKU, said practitioners need identity to actualise the dream of affordable housing. In an interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he promised to change the face of the profession and make the institute contribute to the development of the country.
The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) has experienced phenomenal growth in membership, activities, stature and influence both at national and international levels. As the 27th President of the institute what are your plans?
I will concentrate on two areas because the third one is not a legacy.
I inherited the institute when there were serious political related problems, so in resolving it, I will not call that an achievement, because that is part of my responsibility as the president.
My plans are, to give architects in Nigeria an identity and help in building affordable housing for Nigerians.
In the first instance, a lot of people do not know what we are doing. The question is, how do we show what we are doing?
The Nigerian Institute of Architects has land allocated to it in Abuja and this property is yet to be developed. If we develop the place, it will become Nigerian Architectural Village.
Such village will give an identity to practitioners. The moment we design the structure, our outlook will change from the mental picture people have about us.
It will be my priority to help in actualizing this dream. My tenure may not be able to complete the project, but we will start somewhere.
Within the Architectural village we will have models for housing projects.
What is the institute doing to ensure that houses are affordable?
We have been talking about affordable housing for long. In 2017, the theme of our programme was affordable housing.
You will ask, what is affordable housing? In western countries, government build for the people, but here in Nigeria, it is not so.
People struggle to build their own houses, with little or no support from government.
As we all know, shelter is among the three major basic needs of man, and we are working to see how we can make it available.
In villages, one of the qualifications of man is to have a house of his own. In time past, every married man must have his mud house and that was not very expensive then.
Our administration wants to see how we can use our local materials to make buildings that will be affordable yet be of standard.
We know sand, rod and cement may be the basic cost items and we can use our local materials.
We have already started that. We have a committee that will look into the use of our local materials to build houses that are affordable yet of quality.
I can assure you that by second quarter of 2019, we want to have a Nigerian affordable house, which will not be as expensive as what we have today.
To actualise this, we will collaborate with universities in each of the geographical zones and departments of architecture in universities will be the driving force in areas of research and materials to actualize this project.
One of the annual programmes, of NIA is “Archibuilt,” which brings to the fore trends, technologies, systems, and policy issues that impact the building industry and respond to everyday living.
This intervention, intended to generate the framework for sustainable solutions. I can tell you that by the time we move into our own villages, people will see the Nigerian version of affordable housing championed by this body.
How has architects contributed to Nigeria’s economic development?
The Nigerian Institute of Architects has been in existence in Nigeria since 1960. Whenever a building takes place, an architect is in charge.
We have paid our dues in Nigeria, but unfortunately, our government has not recognized our capabilities.
Most of these posh houses you see in all parts of Nigeria are the works of Nigerian Architects.
But of late, some organization seek for the services of foreign architects from places such as South Africa, Spain, China and they will tell you, these Architects design and build with their own money.
They forget that when you give such business to a foreign consultant, he does his job and takes his money away from the economy.
These people forget that economy has a multiplier effect. When you encourage your own people, it will impact on the economy positively and these practices are not tolerated in foreign countries.
When government talks of local content, we make government understand that the Nigerian Institute of Architects has professionals that can meet international standards.
And any professional coming to practice here, the international law guiding the practice of architecture put up by the International Union of Architects, which governs practitioners all over the world, says for anyone to practice his profession in a foreign country, such a person must practice under a citizen of that country.
But here in Nigeria, our politicians will just sign away resources that should help the economy.
No one consults us, when doing all these and when we complain, it will look as if we are against government projects. Ordinarily, we should work in consonant with the international ethics and standards.
How has it been like leading the institute in the past six month?
It has been a hot seat. We had challenges before now, our registration of new architects; young professionals need to pass their exams.
There are issues between the regulatory body, Architects Registration Council Of Nigeria (ARCON) and Nigerian Institute of Architects, and the immediate past president of this body.
There was some disagreement that voided the recognition of those who have passed the exam of the institute.
These are areas; we want to harmonise. It’s really giving us setback, instead of kicking off. We have to make sure these challenges are solved.
What programmes do NIA have for younger and prospective architects?
The Nigerian Institute of Architects is a professional body. It is not something one would say this is how I want to do it.
That is why part of the conditions is to have two years tutelage under a senior practitioner and who is fully registered.
This will help in preparing the young professional to pass through the rudiments of the profession and also help the young practitioner to prepare for the professional examinations.
Some of them would not want to spend these whole two years because they are in a hurry. My word for them is to be patient and diligent.
There is a lot to gain when you are doing your tutelage under a professional. When you qualify and get registered, then you can do whatever you like.
Moreso, within the confines of the laws guiding the practice of architecture in Nigeria, integrity, intellectual capability to know the modern trends and to adhere to them is sacrosanct.
Even when you are registered, the profession has a way of disciplining wayward members.
What is your philosophy about life?
Whatever I have achieved today in life comes from God. In any situation you find yourself, seek God’s face and he will show you the light.
I know when I will keep quiet; I know when to venture out. I look up to God for guidance and to supply all my needs and God has not failed me.