Mr. Emma Okas Wike is currently the second vice president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, the founding as well as the principal partner of the firm of Emma Wike & Partners. In this interview with EMMANUEL BADEJO, he bares his mind on sundry issues that affect real estate in Nigeria. EXCERPT:
How can real estate sector in Nigeria receive a boost in 2018?
The government should provide the enabling environment for the real estate sector to do well. I don’t support the view that government should go into direct construction of houses but it should encourage the private sector to take on that while it creates enabling environment. The government should always meet and consult with the professionals for advice. The government at all levels should embark on valuing their assets with the purpose of payment of tax. The government should diversify from oil and gas to other sectors of the economy. I am convinced that if we diversify, it will boost the economy enormously.
Don’t you think call for a Valuer-General in Nigeria will further worsen government’s bottlenecks in real estate matter?
The issue of a Valuer-General in Nigeria has long been overdue. The coordination of all valuation tasks in Nigeria is still porous, and the appointment of a competent Valuer-General will reduce this gap. Take for instance; we have an office known as Surveyor-General in Nigeria. This office takes care of all land matters in Nigeria. The same way, if there is a Valuer-General, the office will help the country with the issue of land and real estate issues. This is much more needed, as the world has become a global village. With this office in place, the challenges with information on all real estate matters would have been significantly addressed.
Also, the usual acrimony that trails compensation would be better handled. This will help investment and invariably, the nation’s economy. This office will also take on data generation and management. The Valuer-General will again play key roles in government’s policies on housing and real estate.
Do you support unbundling the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing?
Government should separate the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. We have since been calling for this and I think President Muhammadu Buhari should consider this as a matter of urgency. Lumping them together is not good for the nation. This may have also been responsible for snail pace at which this government is moving. There is no way we can get good results if this ministry remains as one.
Two bills that affect your profession are before the National Assembly. One, is on facility management and other is on valuation. What is your stand on these bills?
Fortunately, I was among the delegate that went for Council for Facility Management in Nigeria. Our position is that, facility management is a multidisciplinary profession and we are not claiming that we possess the sole right to it. What we are saying is that there is a law in existence that created the Estate Surveying and Registration Board of Nigeria and that law empowers estate surveyors and valuers to coordinate the facility management job even if experts in other fields intend to undertake such role.
In essence, there should not be another regulatory body for that purpose, as ESVARBON, which is backed by law, is still in place. Therefore, creating another regulatory body is tantamount to duplicating the role of Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board. Secondly, bringing in another regulatory body is a way of relieving estate surveyors and valuers of their statutory and constitutional duties. Facility management is part of our roles, though we know and agree that some engineers, architects and other professionals may come in, but a qualified and registered estate surveyors and valuers should coordinate that sector. We have already made our position known and we are happy that the committee listened to us. All over the world, there is no body that regulates facility management other than estate surveyors and valuers.
On the issue of the bill on valuation, being pursued by COREN, we have been on this matter for a very long time. Luckily, for us one of our members had taken the matter to court and we won. The court then said that it is only the estate surveyors and valuers that have the legal and professional competence to place value on anything to be valued. For them to reopen this agitation is simply a step not in right direction. If they were not satisfied with the verdict of the court, they should have appealed, though I am not a lawyer, I think, the time within which to appeal has elapsed. Bringing same issue through the back is not acceptable. We are countering this request and we shall continue to do that until we see that right thing is done on this matter.
The engineers cannot come now and be seeking to become valuers through the back door, prying into other people’s profession. That is unconstitutional, unethical and unacceptable. I know that very, very soon, we shall be sending our counter motion against this.
What is happening to the Greater Port Harcourt City project?
It is moving on very well, though the state of the economy has in way affected the project. Notwithstanding, our Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has resolved to ensure that the project goes on. I can tell you that recently we signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with two investors and I know that within the first quarter 2018, they will move to site.
Presently, we have commenced the spare parts and mechanic market project. This is an ultra modern market that the Governor has graciously approved to develop and sell. The investors have already taken over the site and started clearing it. One of the benefits of the project is that it will create employment opportunities. In fact, as we speak, the host communities are already benefiting. It will also generate revenue to both the government and the investors. The government has provided the land, which is our own equity contribution to the project, while the investors will bring financial and developmental expertise. I know that in the next two or three months, physical construction would commence. I am aware that some of the materials to be used for the initial construction will be imported, while they intend to establish a factory here where the other materials would be done. What we are suffering from now has to do with raw materials. Once this is sorted out, they will build the factory here in Nigeria.
In addition, we are aware that there is another company that has shown interest to build about 2,000 housing units in Rivers State within the next one year. The Governor has been able to give the company a waver with a view of stimulating and encouraging this initiative. Some individuals have also bought land and they are to build within the Greater Port-Harcourt City project.
Certainly, the lifespan of this project will outlive the administration of Governor Wike. What has the government put in place to ensure this project does not suffer the fate of project abandonment?
In Rivers state, the Governor has introduced a new dimension by not abandoning the projects he inherited from his predecessor. While he was campaigning, he made a promise that any project that affects and benefits the lives of the people would be completed. I want to believe that since he has started this, whoever will succeed him will tow the same line. The Governor believes that government is a continuum and that, he has demonstrated in many ways.
Two, there is a law that has been vetoed by the Governor to protect this investment. Also, there is an agreement between the government and the investors. With what we have on ground, it will be difficult for anybody to discontinue such project. So, far there is a legal framework on ground; there is a contract on ground. All the arms of government are aware of the project, so, there is nothing to be afraid of.
In what ways have you contributed to boosting estate surveying and valuation in Nigeria?
Right from the time I was the assistant publicity secretary of the institute, I have been encouraging the young surveyors. I discovered that some of the candidates usually have challenges with their election as estate surveyors and valuers, not because they are not brilliant but due to stage fright and fear. So, before the election, I engage in a lot of counseling to boost their confidence level before the panel.
This has been helping out. So, I have taken it upon myself to encourage the younger professionals. As the chairman of Rivers State of NIESV, I had a policy that discouraged any of the younger professionals to remain on probation for three years. I have also been teaching our colleagues on professional conduct and ethics because I believe in correction instead of punitive measures.
Finally, I have also tried as much as possible to engage in advocacy. This I did as the chairman, Rivers State chapter of the Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. It paid us off, to the extent that our relationship has greatly been impacted so much that the government takes us into confidence when it comes to housing and real estate issues. If God gives me the opportunity, I shall do more in the nearest future.