Sir Nweke Umezuruike is the Chairman, Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON). It is an agency of the Federal Government that regulates and control the practice of estate surveying and valuation practice in Nigeria. In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, he spoke on the profession and how the board is fulfilling its mandate.
I lived for 43 years here in Lagos, even though the laws do not allow me to do anything here, to contest elections or anything else. But I am a Nigerian, having lived in Lagos for 43 years; I should be entitled to all the benefits. My first degree was at University of Nigeria, Nsukka, precisely Enugu campus, that is where estate management department is domiciled. My law degree is from University of London. I also went to the law school before I was called to the bar. I am also married with children.
What actually informed your choice to be an estate surveyor?
I must confess to you that when I went into the University to read estate management, I don’t know what estate management was all about. The name estate management fascinated me. That was at a time right Dr Michael Okpara, the premier of the Eastern region was establishing estates; namely farm and rubber estates. Then, I said to myself, well I could become the manager of any of these estates. I could not wish for any thing better. It was when I went through the estate management programme of the university that I realised that estate management goes far beyond the management of rubber estates or palm estates and things like that.
So, that made it more interesting to me because I am sure that you know that in estate surveying and valuation, there is urban valuation and rural estate valuation, which encompasses life itself. By the time, every human being takes care of his rural and urban property needs, his life is made. The rural property needs take care of agriculture, forestry, mining and things like that. So by the time every human being takes care of all these things, his life is made. On the urban side, you take care of transportation and residential needs and things like that, you don’t have any problem again. So, a valuer is a property manager of a nation.
I understand you are also a lawyer. Why do you decide to combine law with estate surveying and valuation?
Yes, you are right. I am also a lawyer but first and foremost, I am an estate surveyor and valuer. I was actually the second surveyor to also qualify as a lawyer but the different is that I am the first surveyor and valuer that qualified as a lawyer and remained in the estate surveying practice. The first chartered surveyor to do that left estate surveying and went into full legal practice.
Are you fulfilled with the choice that you made?
Of course, I am. That is why I remained because I have a choice. If, I have not been fully satisfied in estate surveying and valuation, I would have been into legal practice. But I am not considering that at all because I am satisfied with estate surveyor and valuation.
How do you assess the practice of estate surveying and valuation in Nigeria?
Well, we have not been able to serve the public in all the areas we have to because of our number. Today, we are about 5,000 registered persons serving a population of about 198 million. You can work out the ratio of surveyors to the population. So, we still need to keep expanding the registered persons so that we can serve Nigeria adequately. Today, we are not yet serving in all areas we ought to because the number is not matching with the population.
What are your challenges as the chairman of ESVARBON?
Number one challenge is that we don’t find users of estate surveyors’ services coming to the board lay a complaint. We hear people grumbling here and there, people who have suffered something or the other at the hands of registered persons. But for them to come out, we are not seeing them. It is very difficult when you don’t have complains but you hear people complaining. So we are asking the general public to please come to us because we are not just having the teeth, we also want to use the teeth. We want to bite. Unless people who might have suffered at the hands of practitioners come out to complain, there is nothing we can do. So when people suffer, we want them to take us along and watch us take action to correct any estate surveyor that is on the wrong side of the law.
How has your chairmanship been able to tackle that challenge?
Well, what we have done since complains are not coming from members of the public is that the law empowers us to take up matters where infractions have come to the knowledge of the board. Currently, a number of issues are being handled by the investigative panel. As soon as they complete the investigations and establish a prima facia case, then they will come to the disciplinary tribunal, which is under my chairmanship.
How many cases have you handled since inauguration of the tribunal?
We are still at the investigation stage. The investigation panel is still working.
Quackery and foreign incursion had always remained an issue. What measures are the board taking to tackle these issues?
It is still related to the one we talked about but I assured you that when we notice quacks, we certainly report them to the police because we are not the police. If any body is breaking the law who is not a registered person, we report that person to the police and follow it up and make sure the person is called to order or punished appropriately.
In the area of foreign incursion, how is it being handled?
The board is always working to make sure that foreigners do not come here to practice illegally. If there is need for foreigners to come in here to work either in partnership with registered persons or on their own, they will be cleared on the basis of producing evidence that they have qualifications with countries where we have a reciprocal arrangement. They must prove to the board that they have jobs here for a temporary period. Yes of course, we normally allow them to practice but a situation where somebody just comes in from whichever country without evidence, we will not allow that to happen and we have never allowed it to happen.
The housing shortage is still alarming, what do you consider as the antidote to the nation’s housing deficits?
The greatest problem of housing in this country is that it is on cash and carry basis. Nobody can satisfy the housing needs of the people if housing is on cash and carry basis. There must be mortgage financing and arrangement, which will enable people to own their houses and pay for a long period of 20 to 30 years. So, until that is put in place we cannot make a head way. We continue saying that there are a large pool of funds all over the place, which is just lying idle. Such funds should be put into productive use to fund mortgage. Until we fully embrace mortgage financing, we cannot solve the housing shortage in the country.
There has been uproars over discrepancies in valuation, for instance AMCON recently raised that issues, what options are your proffering to solve that?
AMCON problem is not that of discrepancies in valuation. The problem is that after valuation, they want the houses they have seized to be sold in one day. Here is AMCON desiring to sell and at the other hand, you have the EFCC waiting for people who buy properties to go and hold them. You can’t expect people to buy your houses when you are waiting to arrest them. It can’t work out. So that problem is not arising because of discrepancies in valuations but because of discrepancies in the system, we don’t have people who are interested to invest in real estate. AMCON wants to sell houses, EFCC is waiting to catch people who buy houses. It can’t work out.
Beyond the issuance of adhesive stamps to registered practitioners, what are other ways to improve valuation practice in the country?
I am sure, you are aware that we have measures in place to enable practitioners to go for compulsory professional developments. We use such methods to update our members in all areas of our practice. Practitioners, who have not done a certain minimum number of professional training must have their licences renewed. A lot of them are aware of that. The persons must take steps to make sure that their licences can be renewed.
Source: Naija Hope Team