IN pursuit of standardisation and reform necessary in the Nigerian construction industry for the benefit of all and sundry, Chuks Omeife, President, Nigerian Institute of Building, recently led a delegation of past and present industry operators on a trip to Singapore and Malaysia where mass housing is made easy for citizenry. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard Business, Omeife revealed that same thing can be done in Nigeria with workable policies in place. Excerpts:
Recently you led a delegation of Nigerian Institute of Building to Malaysia and Singapore, why such trip to the two countries?
The Nigerian Institute of Building recently went on a study tour of the Construction Industry in Malaysia and Singapore to appraise new technologies in housing and infrastructural development. The purpose of the study was to carry out a detailed study of the construction industry existing regulatory agencies and their operational framework and other laws that impact on the industry and to see how the issue of mass housing is being handled and executed.
The delegation was over 50 participants who are members of the Institute, some developers and some individuals sponsored by corporate organizations involved in the built environment. The trip was jointly packaged by the Nigerian Investment and Promotion Council (NIPC) and the FCT-Abuja chapter of the Institute. Amongst members of the Institute in the contingent was the immediate past president of the Institute Bldr. D.D. Jambol, the Chairman of FCT Chapter of the Institute Bldr. Musa Yakubu and the Chapter Secretary Bldr. Abalaka and many others.
The visit was initiated in line with the Instituteâ€™s 5 year strategic plan which sets out as one of its objectives to seek and engage in international collaboration so as to bring in best global practice that will impact on the Nigerian Construction Industry bearing in mind that Nigerian Construction industry is part of the global Construction Industry and as such there must be cross fertilization of ideas, technology and knowledge exchange to grow the local industry to meet global standard.
Are the challenges of mass housing in FCT, Abuja and other places in the country, the same with Malaysia and Singapore?
The issue of mass housing was one of the major objectives amongst many others why the trip was embarked upon. The two countries visited, Singapore and Malaysia have done very well in this area by providing housing for majority of their citizens by putting in place effective and working regulatory framework that covers construction methodology for fast housing delivery,quality and robust housing mortgage for their people. Despite the low population and limited land mass it was instructive that Singapore with no natural resources to their advantage provides housing for 95% of the population and also Malaysia over 80%.
It was in view of the above that the Institute felt that a study tour of this countries was necessary to see, study and learn on how they have done it especially their regulatory agencies and operational framework for the construction industry that makes it possible.
What particular government agencies did you visit in the two countries?
Amongst the agencies visited in Malaysia were Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), Master Builders Association, National Housing Authority, The WESTPOINT Harbour port- one of the largest sea port in the world etc. In Singapore, we visited, The Chartered Institute of Building, (CIB), Singapore, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), Singapore Institute of Building, (SIB), Institute of Engineers Singapore (IES), Marina Bay Sands â€“ the world biggest outstanding project and a lot more.
What lessons did you and the delegation learn from the trip and how can it be implemented into the Nigerian system?
The trip was very educative and lots of lesson learnt. The interaction with professional associations and regulatory agencies was very resourceful. They made us realise that they have a free hand with government â€˜support to put in place various regulations and policies that will continue to sanitise the Industry to make it vibrant, professionalised and efficient in service delivery. There was observed and confirmed unity of purpose amongst the professionals in the built environment in these places unlike in Nigeria. Their governments are willing and ready to fund and encourage best practice while supporting export of professional services based on business prospectus with financial backing anywhere in the world.
What are the major policy differences in these countries as compared to Nigeria?
Comparatively, the Nigerian construction industry has more institutional professional regulation but inadequate government regulatory agencies to manage the different aspects of the Industry. Obviously there is the absence of leading government entity with a regulatory and developmental focus that promotes construction industry delivery capability as well as promote the transformation of the industry to deliver to global standard of performance.
The Construction Industry Development board oversees, the regulation of all institutional professional associations and their regulatory bodies, the growth of the Industry including the growth of the local stakeholders especially the local contractors, encouraging best industry practice, setting benchmarks for standard and quality, health and safety, skill requirements and initiating continuous development programmes for professionals, artisans and craftsmen etc. This is the one major aspect missing in the Nigerian set up and much more than anything is the insincerity of purpose and dishonesty by government regulators, professional players and non encouragement of local contractors.
How about local professional and contracting firms participation?
In both countries visited, majority of their works are carried out by local contractors whose growth in terms of capacity and capability can be seen to be encouraged through deliberate policies by their government.
This policy which has been put in place so many years ago and its implementation strictly enforced has caused a major impact on the construction industry where the technological development and innovation had been driven by the people due to long years of involvement, practice and empowerment. The unity of purpose and co-operation amongst the built environment professionals and stakeholders in both countries visited was very inspiring and encouraging.
The contingent also visited the umbrella body of major developers in Malaysia and the Housing Development Board of Singapore to understudy the framework for housing delivery. What was most instructive in those interaction was the distinct and availability of robust mortgage system without which the whole housing delivery process would have been compromised.