The Chief Executive Officer of Samak Properties and Development Company Limited and former National Publicity Secretary, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, Sam Akanbi, in this interview with DAMILOLA AINA, shares his thoughts on plans by the Federal Government to sell some public assets and other issues in the real estate industry.
As a valuer, what do you make of the Federal Government’s plan to sell some public assets to raise revenue?
I am of the school of thought that does not believe in the sales of public assets. However, given current realities, those assets should be sold but they should be sold transparently. It must involve professionals and international best practices must be adopted. The experience in the past has not really been a good story. NEPA is a good example to discourage the sale of such strategic national assets. Now, aside from the erratic power supply, the charges are so high. We are now made to pay for darkness. Such assets should not be handed over to a private investor whose ultimate aim is profit, who won’t consider some other factors.
I also believe government should not sell all of its assets but select properties that are not being properly managed and dispose of them because once it is sold, you are handing them over to private investors. Every private investor aims to make a profit. Therefore, at the end of the day, the government will be dependent on the private sector to boost the economy. If the government must sell any of its assets, it must be to get the best possible result and value from such when run by private companies.
Secondly, the proceeds from such sold assets must be properly accounted for and used or deployed to another project of better importance to citizens and not like other instances where the money developed wings. There should be sincerity on part of the government and the proceeds must be used to develop infrastructure for the benefit of humanity.
As a stakeholder, how do you view the profession of estate surveying and valuation in Nigeria?
It is a very lucrative profession. And a very key profession that contributes to the economic development of any nation. As a stakeholder in governance, it helps the government in its economic planning through project appraisals. We measure the cost-benefit analysis of any project to be embarked upon by the government. Also, we do this in terms of compensation. If the government is going to insure anything, it must be valued. Estate surveyors and valuers are very key partners both in public and private organisations.
For you to be an estate surveyor and valuer, you must be a graduate of the school of estate management in any accredited higher institution of learning. And you must have gone through tutelage under a qualified estate surveyor before you can apply to the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, write the qualifying professional examinations and thesis, and face the professional panel for an interview before you can be inducted. Once you are inducted, you become an associate of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
What is your take on non-professionals taking up valuation roles?
It is an encroachment on our profession. It is only a professional that is legally empowered to deal with anything that got with the measurement of value. There are laws that guide the profession and the Estate Surveyors and Valuation Registration Board of Nigeria Act makes it compulsory that valuation must be made on any government property before it can be sold or compensation paid on a property. This means it is only a licensed valuer that can conduct the valuation exercise.
In recent times, we have scale-up our advocacy drive. We are creating a lot of awareness and public enlightenment. The result of that is quite encouraging as people are coming to appreciate the importance of the profession. Although there are still areas of clash with some sister professional bodies. I am aware that it is being discussed, using the platform of APBN to resolve them.
There is speculation that politicians are selling off their landed properties to fund their campaigns. How true is this?
During this time of politicking, there is an upscale level of sales because many want to sell to gather money to be able to fund their election. We call this period the buyers’ market. There are many sellers of the property but few buyers, so they have no option which is why you see distressed sales.
Some of them (politicians) buy property in anticipation of selling during an election. They know the problem of inflation. The money you keep in the bank today will have less value than money invested in real estate or forex. They know the value of properties will always appreciate. It is a time when truly politicians sell their properties to raise money.
Some of them use cronies because they know registered surveyors won’t help them. There is no politician in Nigeria today that will tell you he is selling his property openly, none of them. They use a proxy because, in the first instance, they don’t use their name to buy the properties.
The national building code has been under consideration for years. Some say the bill cannot solve the current challenges facing the housing sector. What is your view on this?
That is not the major challenge of housing development in Nigeria. Housing development challenges in Nigeria are numerous. But if we want to talk about the legal framework, the major impediment to Housing development is the Land use Act. The Act made the land acquisition a big problem. And until the Law is removed or reviewed, that challenge will always be there. The Act recognises the ownership of the land by the people but gives the power to hold in trust to the governor of a state.
In other words, the people don’t have access to land until they go to the government and that is why it is said that before land can be said to be your own, you need the government to approve it by issuing a Certificate of Ownership, or Governors Consent, a process that can be likened to a donkey going a needle’s hole in many states. Acquisition of land is very difficult and it is a problem of the Land Use Act
Talking about building code, is a set of guidelines that guide the development of buildings and projects. The issue of setbacks between the major roads and building lines are the things embedded in the code. It also stipulates the specifications of a house, detailing the different sizes of a proposed building.
The building code is all about something that will give us safety, functionality and sustainable development. But all of these boil down to the availability of land.
The government should not be the sole proprietor of the land. Everyone should have access to land.
Why do you think land in a certain area is more expensive than another? It is the making of the government and other economic forces. It is not God’s work. The land is everywhere and equal. Infrastructure like roads, water, and electricity in certain areas are restricted.
In life, people want to stay where they have the convenience and necessities of life. But because there are no available lands, people are ready to go to where they can get access to cheap land. That is the major problem.
The reason you find that the National assembly has not approved or passed those laws is because of the calibre of people living in those types of expensive houses.
Look at the Petroleum industrial Act. It took many years before the National Assembly passed it because they were not interested in it until the current government came and said this law must be passed They have passed it even though it has not been fully implemented. It depends on the interest of the government and until the people choose the right leaders who will get to the office and do their bidding, we will not get it right.
What is your assessment of the implementation of Executive Order 11 signed by the president for the maintenance and management of public infrastructure?
It is a very good initiative, but the government can only implement it by involving professionals. Our major problem is bad maintenance culture. You don’t leave a property for 10 years without renovation, turnaround maintenance, and a yearly facelift.
Local professionals must be involved right from the project conceptualisation to actual implementation. And they must be involved in maintenance for infrastructure to be well maintained. For example, Nigerians are now involved in the construction of ongoing rail lines across the country. This is commendable. It will encourage our people to be involved in the maintenance of our public infrastructure. It will also give us a sense of ownership. When you are in charge of a property, you will do everything within your power to protect it. Once it is in your mindset that this is not government property but your own, you will take care of it. So, immediate local communities where projects are located must be given a sense of ownership.
In what ways can surveyors contribute to fighting insecurity?
No segment of society is not involved in security but I will narrow it to the area where estate surveyors and valuers can help curb insecurity. First, criminals live in houses, rent offices or warehouses, where they keep their equipment. So, if we evaluate prospective tenants through the know your customer scheme, we will be able to alert security operatives about criminals and their activities.
What is the future of estate valuation in Nigeria?
It is very bright. As long as the land is still in existence, this profession will always be lucrative. It is lucrative because the people and government have realised the importance of having a valuer that will give the true value to their properties. Nobody will be happy selling his property below the true value or buying above the value. So, it is very necessary to be informed and armed with information on the true value of one’s property.