• Monday, July 15, 2024
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We will assist the Federal Government achieve its $1trn GDP target – NIESV President

We will assist the Federal Government achieve its $1trn GDP target – NIESV President

Johnbull Amayaevbo has been the President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) since July 2022, when he was elected as the 25th president of the institution. He possesses over three decades of experience as an estate surveyor and valuer. In this interview with BusinessDay’s John Osadolor, Gift Onyidinefu, and Gift Wada, Amayaevbo brings insight into the operations of the industry and the challenges facing it. Notably, he emphasised the opportunities within estate surveying, particularly in contributing to Nigeria’s economic development.

Read also: Nigerians urged to leverage real estate as store of wealth

What are the highlights of the Real Estate Market Report 2021–2023?

The Real Estate Market Report 2021–2023 is for all stakeholders: the government, real estate investors, and everyone who loves real estate. It’s a huge document that gets updated every six months. The document contains a budget analysis of all states and its effect on housing. It is a well-known fact that housing is a major challenge in Nigeria, despite the revenue we make from oil. It’s amazing how we still face these challenges that other oil-producing nations don’t have.

We have been trying, in our capacity, to see how we can help. We have had a conference where we invited the former Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama. We put him on a private jet to Ilorin to speak on a global theme: asset valuation as a tool against corruption in the Nigerian space.”

It’s amazing how so many federal government agencies try to sell off our properties and assets very cheaply. You see an asset worth two billion naira being sold for 300 million naira. So, we used that conference to educate Nigerians and the government on the need for proper valuation of assets.

The House Committee on Public Assets recently challenged the federal government’s claim that Nigeria has 18 trillion dollars’ worth of assets. Nigeria has hundreds of trillions of dollars’ worth of assets. Think of the former Federal Secretariat in Lagos and our embassies. Nigeria has lots of assets, even in the diaspora. Our water bodies are also huge assets that have been neglected for a long time.

Read also: Reforming Nigeria real estate market using the Dubai model

The law establishing the Financial Reporting Council since 2011 or so said they should have the Directorate of Valuation Standards. All these years, they have not established it, but when I came in as president, I took it upon myself to visit several times to inquire what the problem was. I was told funding was the challenge, but today I’m excited to let you know that the directorate has been established through the effort of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors. The law allows them to access grants and donations, so we were able to put down millions of naira to establish it.

The past and current executive secretaries were so happy. The current Executive Secretary even promised to come to our conference in Benin City. As a professional body, we believe in adding value, not just taking. Hence the recognition we enjoy now. I can tell you that those in the National Assembly today know who the Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers are because of the value we bring to the table, but I would like to plead with the government to not just listen to their surveyors who work for governments at all levels; they should listen to the independent professionals who will tell them the truth.

So if we do CPDs regularly, like every month, in all the states, training our members and equipping them, it’s then safe to say that we are contributing to the capacity and wealth of the nation to ensure the best services are provided.

Every time the government asked us to perform a task, we delivered, but one major problem we have in Nigeria is implementation. I’m so passionate about the profession, and my people can attest to the last six months of my administration.

What are the challenges and opportunities in the system, and how has your institution taken advantage of them?

There are several challenges: the economy is biting hard, and the exchange rate is terrible. I was just watching a WhatsApp video yesterday, and the exchange rate has been alarming since February 12th. We are import-dependent. We import everything from China and across the globe. We have the resources and the human capacity. Nigeria has the most brilliant people in the world, but unfortunately, harnessing that brilliance is hard. We are suffering. One major challenge we have in this sector is the Land Use Act. The Act was enacted on March 25, 1978; up until now, no changes or amendments have been made because it’s enshrined in the constitution. And you know how difficult it is to amend anything in the constitution; it is as difficult as passing a camel through the eye of a needle.

So, yes, there are clauses that are very relevant, but you will agree with me that after about 46 years, in a dynamic world, things have changed. The constitution has entrusted the land into the hands of the state governments.

We have in years past witnessed how the state government punished the federal government with land because of the power granted to them by the Constitution. These have stifled development because they have been weaponized to witch-hunt development. That’s a major challenge. Hence, we have scheduled an event at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre where we will discuss “Land Administration and Management.” We have invited stakeholders to the event to ensure the government gets proper information on how the Land Use Act affects the sector and the economy at large. Some clauses in the Land Use Act must be amended. It’s a lot of work, but we have to go through it because it affects everyone in the country.

These are challenges, but the good thing is that real estate in Nigeria has great potential. We have the market and seasoned professionals like estate surveyors, engineers, architects, and quantity surveyors, among others. Nigerians are gradually realising the need to work with these professionals, especially after having their fingers burned in the past. We urge the government to listen to the institution because we are ready to assist the government.

Read also: CEO Harmony Gardens and Estate Development Limited: Leading the Way in Real Estate Excellence in Nigeria

Where do you see this institution in the future?

We are growing stronger and stronger, and I have carried out so many initiatives within my period of stay. When I came in, we had four points on the agenda: capacity building, research and development, members’ welfare, and rebranding the institution. I assumed office in July 2022, but today we have had engagements with over 30 agencies by way of courtesy visits and visitations. We let them know who we are and what we can contribute to the economy. We have signed an MOU with Lagos Business School, and we have jointly done our first building summit, and we are doing another one this year and next year. These are new initiatives I and my team brought on board.

The Lagos Business School was so happy about our collaboration. The Lagos state governor sent his state secretary to the government to represent him. We have laid down a good template and made significant contributions such that even when I cease being the president, I will be a member of the council for at least two years. This structure ensures sustainability and accountability in the operations. I believe that my incoming president will do more because I have raised the standard and members are now demanding more. Two months ago, I asked the council to set up a transition committee, which has never been done. The future is very bright for the institution, and we are going to grow stronger. The awareness of our members is higher, and membership is growing.

What steps have you taken to ensure collaboration with the government?

When I came on board, I searched out key agencies that are major stakeholders in housing. I wrote to the ministry, agencies, and the FCT—I mean all of them. Unfortunately, many did not respond. But we will keep knocking. He is a new minister and can be forgiven because he just came into office. Hopefully, we will keep talking, especially about the Land Use Act, until a change is implemented. Moreover, we fixed the theme of our conference before President Tinubu presented his budget, stating his pursuit of a one trillion dollar GDP, but guess what? Our conference that had been fixed a month before is on “Nigeria’s Trillion Dollar GDP Dream: Harnessing the Wealth of Our Land.” We, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, believe that if the wealth of our land is properly harnessed, that dream will become a reality within less than a year.

We have already put together international and local speakers to discuss how asset valuation can help in harnessing the wealth of our land. We have speakers from China coming to speak, and we have local speakers too. We are doing everything within our power to get the authorities to listen to us. I have written a letter to the FCT minister, but again, they are just coming in; they have too many things in their hands. I have also written to my supervisory minister this week, but we will keep talking to the press. Real estate and infrastructure are major catalysts when you want to solve economic problems all over the world.

Read also: Real estate operators worry as data drought dampens investment

What are your thoughts on the FCT Minister’s move to restore the Abuja Masters Plan?

We, as a professional body, support the minister 100 percent. Remember, El-rufai did it, and it brought sanity to the territory. But for some years now, the plan has been bastardised and distorted, and now Abuja is suffering from floods. It ought not to be so. The initiative to bring back sanity to the Federal Capital Territory is great, but my only advice to him is to approach. He has summoned professionals to help deliver reports for the initiative, and I hope he will implement it properly using the report. In anything you do, approach matters; you look before you leap. Abuja, as a federal capital territory, is different from any other state where one can have 100 percent control. He meant well, and he is doing his best. The bastardization of Abuja has gone on for years now. That’s why you see properties and settlements growing up where they are not meant to be and devaluing other properties. It has a way of affecting the economy. The minister needs to consult well and take his time before issuing policy statements.

How does technology adoption in real estate management, changes in the market, and the current economic situation affect estate valuers?

I’m happy to inform you that my professional colleagues are embracing technology in all areas of real estate and in all services we provide. Technology is important in terms of market and investment; hence, we devoted a major panel session to technology during the summit we held in collaboration with Lagos Business School. Without technology, we are nowhere; whether in development, designs, management of facilities, or even conceptualising ideas, technology has to be embedded. So, I’m happy that our members have embraced technology. It is good for the profession and the country at large because it is cost-effective and one can get better results with technology. Artificial intelligence is such a good tool for us. I attended a world summit in Taiwan in 2022, where the discussion was centred on technology and the efficiency it brings. Subsequently, we have embedded technology as part of capacity-building for our members.

You will agree with me that property development has slowed down due to the economy. The real estate market is shrinking. How many people can afford to buy a hundred million properties now? When do they have family and children’s education to think of? How many companies can pay salaries regularly? The current situation has greatly affected the economy, and the real estate market is within the economy, and those who practise it are also in the same economy. So negatively, it has affected the supply into the market and the demand too. We are just urging the government to review its policies and not be stuck with them. The government has made some pronouncements that have affected the country negatively. Those policies need to be reviewed. One policy I have never subscribed to for a day is the cash transfer as a way of cushioning poverty. I would rather the trillions of naira be used to establish a capital project or infrastructure that the community will benefit from. The government should learn to leave some of these responsibilities to private investors—I mean, PPP—and let the private people do it. All over the world, it’s been proven that private ownership is better than government ownership.

What does the future hold for NIESV in the next 5–10 years?

I know our membership is going to increase rapidly, not just membership, but quality as well. Our council is changing things, and the trends so far show that the council makes decisions that affect the capacity development of our members and the welfare of our members. For instance, when I came on board, I engaged NAICOM. When I came into the office, I paid a courtesy visit to NAICOM, and I told them the importance of insurance in real estate. After about a year, NAICOM held a conference on “Insuring Buildings and Buildings under Construction.” I can tell you that the only professionals trained to carry out property valuation are the estate surveyors, and I’m happy because Tony Elumelu, who also spoke at the conference, acknowledged us and the role we play even in the insurance, telecommunications, and aviation industries.

There’s no sector or ministry where our services are not required. We have a stake in anything that has to do with property. When I visited the Financial Reporting Council, it was evident that we have not been reporting our assets in the oceans. The assets in the forest, diaspora, and blue economy tend to be neglected. Those water bodies are national assets, and we are the professionals responsible for placing value on them. We value wells and canals, among others.

People now know the potential of studying these sectors. The profession is growing, and the demand and accountability from members are increasing. This will help propel the profession. The profession, like any other profession, has bad eggs, but I’m grateful that our predecessors laid a very good foundation for us. We have a regulatory body, a tribunal, that deals with people. Unfortunately, people have not been making a lot of complaints due to a lack of awareness. However, I have tried to sensitise people about us and what we do. Our membership will increase, there will be increased activities from us, and I can assure you that my administration has set a high standard, hence the demand from the next president will be higher.

Read also: Meet Austyn David Nwaora and find out why he is a unique real estate personality

What are the biggest challenges you are facing now in your profession?

One of our biggest challenges is human management. When I look at the president of Nigeria, I see a huge responsibility on his shoulders. Having to cater for the different needs of citizens across the country is such a difficult task. On the part of the surveyor, our biggest challenge is the need for government recognition. The government makes decisions that we should have a stake in without informing the estate surveyors. They claim we are too expensive, even though they have not discussed it with us. Our people have been contracted by the government for projects since the past administration, and they have not yet been paid. A good example is the Ministry of Works; they still owe our members.

The Federal Ministry of Justice had also asked our members to carry out valuations but didn’t pay them. We have a government that doesn’t even regard or use our services. They prefer using non-professionals. The governors are not even apologetic about it. For me, it’s like saying, “I don’t need a doctor, and I will do it myself.” Or “I don’t need a lawyer; I will go to court and defend myself.” But I can tell you that the private industries, the banks, the manufacturing companies, and the telecommunication companies are all using our services. Banks and multinationals declare assets on their balance sheets.

How did they carry out the valuation of their assets? Some do holistic work; others just do a half-job and give a figure. Asset valuation is a global anti-corruption tool. In Nigeria, many people record huge figures on their balance sheets that are deceptive. Agencies like the Financial Reporting Council and the Central Bank should come in. There’s now a need for a certificate of valuation or valuation reports.