October 1, 2022

Dr. Akinsola Olufemi is the president, Nigerian Academy of Facility Managers (NAFM) and Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Builders in Maintenance and Facilities Management. He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the need to revitalise cooperative housing schemes and for government to carry out soil tests across the states as a measure to tame cases of structural failure in the country.
A major concern for industry stakeholders is the dilapidating state of infrastructure owned by the government and private individuals. Why is the attitude of Nigerians to infrastructure maintenance generally so poor?
It is due to our corruptive tendencies. If you look at most government organisations, money voted for maintenance is spent without recourse to carrying out the actual maintenance work. People sit down every weekend, share the money and the work they are expected to do is left undone. Sometime ago, there was a video of 1004 estate shown to Nigerians.
The Federal Government secretariat in lkoyi has been abandoned for several years. Although, there are legal issues on the secretariat, there is no ownership claim to it, but on the 1004 estate, there are people in charge of the maintenance.
It wasn’t as bad as it is when it was under the Federal Ministry, with maintenance unit handling it, but the problem is that money is voted for maintenance but wasn’t spent on maintenance. That is why in maintenance circle, we call maintenance ‘Cinderella’ because Cinderella is such a beautiful lady that is pretty and liked by everybody but no one is ready to marry her because of the cost of maintenance.
Most of the organisations know that maintenance is important, voted money for it but maintenance is not carried out. The money is either diverted to new developmental projects, just to add a new project to their names because what we do in maintenance isn’t seen as a new project. We try to keep the building functional in the way it was when it was constructed and so nobody sees you doing any thing new.
People divert more money into new projects than into maintenance and that is why we have series of our facilities getting dilapidated almost everyday.
Until now, there is no skill for maintenance work.
A research carried out several years ago said it is those into construction process and are getting older that diverted into maintenance sector when they could no longer stand the rigours of construction work.
There was no special sector for maintenance except adapted skills but now there is. We felt that when you have appropriate skills for appropriate work, there will be turn around, particularly when it comes to maintenance of facilities.
With rising inflation, accessing affordable housing by low-income earners has become a huge problem. What advice can you offer to improve supply for Nigerians?
We have been advocating housing corporations for a long time. When there is housing corporation, the burden of inflation will be greatly reduced. It is just like when you are sourcing for fund, when you get your money from cooperatives, the interest you pay on it is just about five per cent unlike banks where you pay close to 35 per cent.
In cooperatives, you pull resources together to buy things. My advice is that people should form cooperatives and they shouldn’t be for merchant goods alone but for housing. When you have housing cooperative with a building project, you can collect for instance 40 bags of cement, 50 tippers of sand; granite and they will deduct it from your salary.
With that, it brings down impact of inflation expected from buying those items from outside because cooperatives get their supply directly from quarry, manufacturers and factories and there is no third party.
If the third party can be eliminated, then the cost of materials will go down. Even The Guardian can have housing cooperative for their staff and if all organisations start housing cooperatives and liaise with manufacturers and suppliers of these goods directly and hold it in stock for staff that wants to buy, it will eliminate rising cost of raw materials. Revitalising housing cooperatives will boost supply, limit inflation’s impact on cost of goods.
The moment people outside see that the patronage is becoming less intensive, they will bring down their prices. When you set up housing cooperatives, you must also allow experts from various fields of the built environment to manage them.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed Executive Order 11 on maintenance of national public buildings. What are your views on this step and how far reaching do you think this will go in enhancing the life span of our assets?
Before Executive Order 11, maintenance was not a profession and they were not in the civil service. You cannot be employed as a maintenance officer, you can only be employed as an architect, builder, quantity surveyor and engineer to do maintenance work but now there is a new cadre in the civil service, which is facility maintenance cadre.
They can be employed from level eight and rise to directorate level like every other profession. Now you can have director of facility maintenance management.
So, in the civil service, it is now a profession that has been carved out, which means they are saddled with more facility maintenance work. This will help us a lot because the Federal government has kick-started the process/ cadre by employing people about 40 per cent to maintain Federal Government facilities such as Federal secretariat complexes. Government facilities will be the focus by this cadre of professionals.
So, when you have an expert treating an issue, there is tendency for that infrastructure to live longer.
In one of your recent advocacies, you called for mandatory soil tests in construction sites before building development. How can these benefits the sector?
More buildings will collapse because we focus on just an aspect of building collapse. If you see the recent buildings that collapsed in Lagos, some of them are existing structures and not new ones like the Ebute Metta incident. We focus on new developments and forget about old and existing structures and we continually load existing structures without recourse for re-evaluation.
When you say get approval before building a house, what it means is that let us see that what you are building is within the limit of design. The load is not exceeded.
When we were in school, most of soil tests used for designs were based on assumption.
They will tell you that Agege is 100 to 150 Kilonewton (kn) / square metres, Mushin 100 kn/ metres square, ldi-oro 80 to 100 kn/per metres square, Ajah 50kn/per metres square, and when you get to Okokomaiko and others, it is lower. These are assumptions based on past historical soil tests done.
However, people don’t do soil tests, they just build. I told you individual owners do 80 to 95 per cent of building constructed and they don’t have money to invite a geotechnical surveyor or engineer to do their soil tests. As long as we are still building based on assumptions, we may not have leeway from building collapse.
One way out of it is that government in its magnanimity can carry out several soil tests across the state and make data available for structural engineers and designers. With that, we will stop building on assumption. That will help to reduce building collapse because if the architects’ design is based on factual data and not on assumptions, it will reduce the collapse of building.
Another thing is the foundations on which the test are carried out before construction. If the test is done during dry season, the result that you will get will be different from the one you did during raining season.
However, most people do their soil test during dry season and provide data to design and build. So, if the building can carry 100 kn/per square load during dry season, when it is raining season, when the water table level now meet the foundation, the capacity of the soil becomes half and so the 100kn standing on, is overloading. That is why many buildings will collapse during the raining season.
What lessons have facility managers learnt from post COVID- 19 pandemic era, as it relates to human health and safety, as well as ensuring building sustainability and resilience?
Nigerian Institution of Builders in Facility Management (NIBFM) and Nigerian Academy of Facility Managers (NAFM) came up with COVID-19 pandemic protocols in 2019/2020 and sent it to our parent body, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) as the protocols to be followed on construction sites so that people and property will be safe.
We have members across the world that linked up with a lot of research institutions in Dubai, United Kingdom and United States of America. We worked together with them to develop that protocol, which was signed by our former NIOB president, Kunle Awobodu. It was rolled out to all our members to observe in building sites.
We have software called builders practice software, which consist, health and safety plan and project management plan. In the health and safety project plan, Covid-19 protocols and guidelines were later incorporated so that when you are preparing health and safety plan, COVID-19 protocols and guidelines will also be included in the health and safety plan to be presented to the state government for approval. We work in tandem with latest development in the global system.
We started a process whereby you can work from home; the office space was reduced to accommodate just 50 per cent of the people and the remaining 50 per cent works from home. After working from home for one month, they will come to work and those who worked in the office, will work from home. This has been the practice till now, the same thing in the United States. It reduces physical contacts. When we observe the protocols alongside the rule of space, we will make it almost impossible for outbreak of pandemic.
The building industry has continued to witness dearth of skilled building construction artisans with a report indicating that it cost Nigeria over N9 billion in payment to ‘’expatriate’’ artisans in one year. How has impeded housing development and how can it be resolved?
The cost quoted could be right. Some of the so-called experts, are not experts. I once worked in a place with a policy whereby they will bring in butcher from ltaly, bring in a carpenter and put them on site. They will now hire a Nigerian engineer, tell him that these people are just decorative, you are to do this job and that if anything goes wrong on this site, you will be held responsible. They will pay the Nigerian engineer N22, 000 and the foreigner N400, 000.
The foreigners will have a quarter where they will live and are entitled to tickets to go to their country twice a year and they will be called expert. It happens in all construction companies. Yet, they will make jest of our economy and call our naira note, tissue paper.
The real experts in the construction sector are not up to 20 per cent of the people they’re paying huge money to.
I was in a workshop organised by National Office of Technology Transfer, they were to regulate the inflow of the so called experts to see that those that are not needed are not brought into the country because if you call yourself expert, you must be able to defend it.
The professional bodies also have responsibility, which is they should be involved in granting and recommending expatriate quota to the Federal Ministry of industry and immigration units. They should live up to expectation because the Federal Government may not know who is an expert but the professional body will know.
One of the objectives of NAFM is to provide a platform for builders and professionals with maintenance facilities management background to train and retrain would-be facilities managers and provides facility management consultancy for governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) including corporate organisations. How much of these objectives have been achieved since the academy came on board?
We came on board in 2017 and in 2018,we were presented to the National Council of the society for building for approval, which was ratified in 2019 at the yearly General Meeting of NIOB in Port Harcourt and since then, we have been pursuing the laudable objectives.
Training is the foremost objective of the academy because there are no undergraduate programmes for facility management anywhere in Nigeria.
Everybody who claims to have come into the profession of facility management is in the built environment and from another profession before and to qualify, they need to be retrained to practice as a facility manager.
That is why the certificate of building doesn’t qualify you as a facility manager neither does it qualify an architect, estate surveyor and valuer or whoever that has previously acquired any qualification or knowledge in building or in the built environment, he or she has to be retrained and certified.
The first you do when you apply to be a facility manager with us is that you sign an undertaken that no matter your level of education, you are ready to be retrained and we have being doing that for every three months, we organise a free training workshop online for our members. This has been tremendous.
We designed 13 modules of core competence areas in facility management and we have been taking it module by module, we are on the third module for this year and we still have about two other workshops or training programmes before the end of this year to possibly cover the fifth or sixth module. By next year, we will take another four module and it will be continuously.
When it comes to consultancy, as an institution, we assist our members in practice on ways to be well grounded in the practice of facility management. Some of our members are involved in the facility management of high-rise buildings of about 20-storey in Lagos.
For instance, when one of them wanted to start, he ran to us and we assisted in developing a proposal and areas of competences and services that he can provide for the people. By the time the management of the company saw what we proposed, they feel in love with the proposal and engaged him.
Just recently at our investiture in Abuja, we had a three-hour lecture series delivered by foremost experts in facility management and had managed high profile projects in the country.
Our members were involved in the review of Executive Order 11 that the President, Muhammadu Buhari just approved. When it was under preparation, it was sent to some of our members in University of Lagos, Council of Registered Builders in Nigeria and we were called together to come and make inputs and it was part of our contributions to facility management development in Nigeria.
In the construction skill sector, three members of our institution were selected and nominated as facility management consultants by the Federal Government of Nigeria including myself.
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