The new president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. ROWLAND ABONTA plans to create enabling environment for business development and job opportunities for members. He spoke on the issue of quackery and other real estate sector matters.

As controversy trails the Lagos land use charge, estate surveyors are being blamed for using the market value to assess property, which may impoverish residents. Don’t your institution have laid down rules on how to approach such valuation?
The first policy made by the government had no input from estate surveyors. As a matter of fact, estate surveyors as advocates of the public and also national group with responsibility knows that they ought to make contributions before the law was enacted. We protested to the government in writing just as the public outcry was going on. Of course, we got positive response from government. I can beat my chest to say, contributions of the estate surveyors and valuers, particularly, the Lagos State branch, have helped in great deal in the policy change we have noticed about the land use charge.

On the market value, there are two sides to market value, the real property market has what is called sales value, hitherto that was called capital value, and also annual value or rental value of property, which describes the two transactions that take place in property market. It is either you’re selling a property or you’re leasing a property as a tenant. So, when estate surveyors talk about market value as a basis, it is directly referring to the annual value or rental value. The land use charge is an annual charge and cannot be based on the entire sales value of the property.

As the 23rd President, what is your vision and plan for the institution?
My vision is to bring about re-engineering and reforms of the structures, system and processes of the institution for the repositioning of NIESV to fully achieve its’ set goals and objectives as a professional association including membership empowerment and establishment of high reputable ethics as well as standards in professional practice and conduct.
The first action plan is to make the profession known to every Nigerian. We realized that less than 50per cent of the Nigerian populace don’t know who is an estate surveyor and valuer and functions/services in the economy including the educated elites, even when we have existed as a profession for about 50 years now. We’re the leading professionals in the real estate sector.

Our advocacy programme will be re-engineered to cover all segments of our society including all major external stakeholders and the ordinary citizens. To this effect, a National Advocacy Committee will be set up with a robust mandate, which will include industry and community based programmes to create a positive image for the profession.
In the world over, real estate sector is the main stay of every national economy. A lot of things are done without due consideration to professional implications and value added. We will work hard to ensure that at every point in time, we guide the government properly on policy issues in the real estate sector.

Of course, we also looking inwards to build capacity of our members through training to improve the quality of services rendered to benchmark it with other international practitioners in the real estate sector.
We also considering the young generation of estate surveyors because as of today, we have less than 5, 000 registered estate surveyors and valuers, servicing over 180 million Nigerians. Because of that gap in the profession, we have seen all manners of people encroaching, taking over the jobs of estate surveyors and valuers.

They cause a lot of harm and damages, which people now attributes to the professionals. We want to increase our profession with quality membership and ensure that we drive quacks away from practicing our profession.
We’re also looking at repositioning the institution. The major source of funding for the institution has been limited to membership dues, levies, contributions through benevolence and other charges. This has brought so much burden on members.

My Administration will diversify the revenue base of the institution through aggressive investment policy to be driven by the reactivated NIESV Ventures. We’re entering property development as an aspect of our profession. We will change the face of development in Nigeria with the new vision we’re executing. We have four other plots in Abuja apart from the Gudu Plot being developed and these are idle capitals, which will be turned into active investments for the Institution through joint venture or partnership arrangements. We must apply our wealth creation skills used for our clients to the benefit of the institution. My focus will be to ensure that the National Secretariat moves from a rented office to our permanent secretariat “NIESV House” in Abuja during our tenure.

The institution has not resolved the controversy surrounding plant and equipment valuation by engineers. How do you tackle the issue and others disputes.
It is matter that has been on for a long time, but the best approach or solution lies with the extant laws. ESVARBON law is the only that has empowered estate surveyors and valuers to practice. It is the only law that has the mandate to register estate surveyors and valuers. The Nigerian Society of Engineers has their own law, which gave them backing for the activities of construction and other engineering activities. It is absurd that estate surveyors and valuers will leave their spheres of influences and what the law has given them and may now want to go into medical profession to do surgery. These are part of developmental issues that you have in developing countries. People are concerned with what they gain rather than competence and delivering quality services. But the laws are clear; we have engaged the engineers, and necessary government agencies to ensure that this misunderstanding will not continue. The Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) has intervened. There are also celebrated cases where it has been properly documented that estate surveyors and valuers are the only professionals in Nigeria that is entitled to valuation of all manners of assets and for whatever purposes. There is no confusion about it. Whosoever want to take that part will become a total stranger in the profession and in our parlance we regard such persons as a quacks. Nigerians should resist allowing none professionals doing professional jobs.

There will also be restitutions to our profession of all jobs/works opportunities meant for us that have been hijacked by non- members and interest groups. My administration will live no stone unturned until what rightly belongs to us as a profession are returned fully. The end has come for non-estate surveyors and valuers holding appointments as Directors of Land, Estate or Valuation in MDAs or members of other professions being awarded valuation assignments and other related professional services meant for Estate Surveyor & Valuers, as we will engage such MDAs.

The FIRS Valuation Contracts to non-estate firms, which have continued unabated must be reversed and stopped through every legal means available and those behind the illegal act brought to book. The case between NIESV and Code of Conduct Bureau which was dismissed on jurisdiction issues will be revisited after getting proper legal advice. What the institution rightfully seeks for is a court declaration or government policy “that all declaration of assets by public officers should be backed by a Valuation Certificate Prepared by a registered estate surveyor and valuer. If the government is serious in fighting corruption, this will stem the corrupt practices of anticipatory Assets declaration by Public officers when they assume office. This fact will be drummed home to the government and people of Nigeria as well as international community/organizations through intensive advocacy.

Nigeria Land administration system has been faulty, how do government reform the land tenure system. Do you believe on the call for the establishment of a National Land Commission? If yes, how do the commission function?
We as a professional body actually made that proposition. The land commission has become a serious requirement because of the challenges and issues in land administration and allocations in Nigeria. Of course, the prominent law we are operating in our nation today is the Land Use Act, we as a professional body has also realised that since the Act was enacted, no regulation such as policies and guidelines, has been made concerning the implementation of the Act. We believe that the commission when established would be charged with such responsibility and headed by an estate surveyor and valuer. In addition to the commission, we’re also advocating for a Valuer General of Nigeria. I earlier underscored the importance of the profession in national development. For such a profession, there is no representation as chief operating officer in government. What we have gotten in the past has been Director of Lands. Our intention is that valuation issues with some other professionals coming into it will be regulated by that Valuer General Office, which will also determine values for all assets in Nigeria. This is key requirement for financial transactions. People who want to invest in projects want the value of such investments as it stands before getting into it.

Recently, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) blamed your members for its inability to dispose of a stockpile of assets because of inadequate valuation. What is your take on this?
Actually, we have started discussions with AMCON. Let me make it clear that valuation is not a static thing; it changes with the trend in the economy. It is far fetched that our economy went through recession. That recession brought about devaluation of certain values that was established before then. It also brought about a serious clog in the property market. So, if valuation was done five years ago, based on the vibrancy of the economy then, now we want sell during recession, there will be a problem. For me, we’re trying to come out of recession. So, if AMCON used values done some years back, and they brought the property to the market, if the property didn’t meet up the market price, it requires them to do a revaluation based on current data and indices. I also would want to say that is not the case in all situations. In going forward, the institution is offering partnership as a corporate entity to AMCON and other federal and state agencies involved in valuation. When the institution enters into partnership with them, we will become a regulator to each member they give jobs, there will be a clearinghouse and direct supervision of members to avoid this kind of situation recurring itself. So, there is a better working relationship we working out with AMCON and other institutions. Under my watch, I can assure you that we will make sure the right things are done. We will maintain professional ethics and standards.

• The Guardian