In this interview, MR. JOSEPH OLUSEGUN AJANLEKOKO, the President, Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE),an umbrella body for all the surveying professions in the Commonwealth countries bares his mind on the Construction Bank project, and issues relating to the construction industry



Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE) was founded in 1969, as an organisation of professional institutions in the disciplines of surveying and land Economy from Commonwealth countries. What part has the CASLE played in Nigeria to grow the professionals?

CASLE has membership in about 32 Commonwealth countries across the world. One of its major objectives and which the surveying professionals in Nigeria have benefitted from is fostering appropriate standards of education as well as helping to develop appropriate professional techniques and practices that are attuned to national needs and global standards. So often, workshops and seminars are held to attain this goal. One was held in April last year.There is one in the pipeline for August this year. There will also be a big event in Tanzania in August 2017 too.

Few years back, you championed the establishment of a financial institution that would provide funding for construction industry, then known as Construction Bank. What has become of this venture?
The Construction Bank project is still very much on. There have of course, been some set of new rules put in place by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that we are working on to meet their requirements. But the good thing is that we are in discussion with new foreign investors who are keen to be our partners in this venture.

I cannot over emphasize that the key to the rapid growth and development of this country lies in the wholesome embracing of this bank. For any nation to develop rapidly it needs a long term, cheap, low interest fund to stimulate its growth that is what Construction Bank will bring to the table when it commences operations.
CASLE and other groups recently urged governments to embark on legislative and regulatory reform to deliver a sustainable urban future. Which kind of reform do you want? How will the new agenda help the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)?
CASLE along with other Commonwealth built environment professional organisation is indeed keen to see a change in sustainable urban development. What does this entail – It means the need for reform of market mechanisms to achieve environmental goals and achievement of a balance with social and economic considerations. This reform includes the following: A change in the quality of growth; conservation and minimization of the depletion of non – renewable resources; merging of economic decisions with those on the environment for example allocation of green spaces and strong consideration of the needs of future generations.
In summary, sustainable urban cities reformation should be healthy, providing housing and employment opportunities and meet environmental standards. In short the sustainable urban reformation requires responsible growth and development strategies that are broader in vision. This is the case now for our major cities in Nigeria. A new regional roadmap and strategy is now required for Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Enugu to mention a few, if the new agenda of the sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is to be achieved. The welfare and the wellbeing of cities dwellers are absolutely important. We must key into sustaining the law of nature and not bastardise them.

Experts believe that Nigeria Construction industry is bleeding but yet holds the ace to the solution to the nation’s recession. What measures should be taken in the construction sector to resurrect the economy?
The Construction industry globally has been known to be the barometer of a nation’s development growth. It is therefore not out of place to expect that the key to getting out of the wood for the country lies in a vibrant and healthy construction industry. Government must make a concerted effort to pump in money into the construction industry to stimulate economic activity. This will have a multiplier effect on the economic activity of other sectors and would thus upscale employment and the integration of modern technologies in the economy.

Nigeria construction cost is ranked as highest in the world. What can be done to bring down the high rate of construction in the country?
There is no empirical data to suggest or indicate that the construction cost in Nigeria is the highest in the world. But it is safe and true to say that cost of construction in Nigeria ranks among the highest in the world. Some of the causes are: High interest rate , inaccessibility to cheap affordable funds, lack of skilled manpower, marked dependence on imported construction materials, lack of dependant on imported construction materials. And also of great concern is the endemic high corruption in the industry.
The way out lies in creating a good enabling environment that can warehouse cheap, faster and economic design – Our taste must match our pocket. Due process must not just be in place but must be seen to be operational. Don’t leave out professionals in the execution and planning of capital projects. And finally, infuse affordable, loanable, cheap and long-term fund into the system.
Like in some other sectors, corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the nation’s construction industry that several projects fail few weeks after delivery. How do we check corruption in the industry?
Earlier, I did mention that corruption is one of the canker worms that has eroded and distorted true construction cost. Sadly too, it is the same in the other sectors of our economy. The pathway to checking this menace is to institute an open transparency through open competitive tendering both to the design concept and the construction stage. This will enable you to get the best buy. We must also introduce public ombudsman whose duties will be to monitor and supervise construction works, funding and expenditure.

But overall, the solution lies in attitudinal change. A retrace of our value system and what life style is been fed to the youths and the general public by the people in governance. A new culture of integrity nobility and honesty will pave way for the re – orientation of the new Nigeria. A key ingredient in this is the sustainable economic development that will guarantee a lower cost of living, employment possibilities and establishment of new job possibilities in the country.

Culled from The Guardian