Housing Problem In Nigeria Is Hydra-Headed –Jagun | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Housing Problem In Nigeria Is Hydra-Headed –Jagun

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Posted: May 25, 2016 at 1:30 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Stephen Jagun, former Lagos State chapter chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) and Chief Executive Officer of Jagun Associates, in this interview with NKASIOBI OLUIKPE, spoke on the difference between the NIESV and estate agents, and other issues bothering on the practice. Excerpts:

 

Stephen Jagun, is the former Lagos State chapter chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers. In this interview, he speaks with NKASIOBI OLUIKPE on the difference between the NIESV and the estate agents and other issues bothering on the practice. Excerpts:

What does it take to become an estate surveyor and valuer?
You become and estate surveyor and valuer when you are elected by the Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). You would have studied estate management in a university or polytechnic that is approved and then undergone a tutelage for a minimum of two years within which you would have kept your records and do the required exams. You would have as well attended the required interviews.
Some people who did related courses in the built environment have waiver. For those who did not go to the university, it is longer because they have to pass one stage of exam to the next one. Invariably by the time they are through with all those stages, they will be as good as the one who went to the university.

Is there any significant difference between an estate agent and an estate surveyor and valuer?
There is a wide difference. The estate surveyor and valuer is the one that is having the legal backing of the law to carry out valuation assignment, he is the one recognized. He is a professional and has a name to protect; has an institution that will hit him back on line. Or even seize his licence if he does not fall into line or practice as prescribed by law. By virtue of his training and the prerequisites that made him a surveyor, he is grounded in real estate and as such, he is an authority.
A driver can be an agent, a security man can be an agent, jobless man or even the MD of a bank can claim to be an estate agent. There are also some who went and read estate management but did not complete the stages required for them to be duly certified. So, those ones are called informed estate agents.

There was a time the NIESV attempted regulating the estate agents. Is that regulation no longer working?
Because of the prevalence of estate agency and how much people attempt to bastardise it, the institution took it upon herself to set up a body that our members are part of, and set up a level of training and education. That is another body called Association of Registered Estate Agents of Nigeria. It’s a pilot project by the NIESV that tries to accommodate estate agents.
Some people who are not informed think both are one and the same. And when one errs, they will just say estate surveyors, without knowing the difference. In order to clear that defect, our leaders in their wisdom decided to absorb them and put them through some level of training. In this training, valuation is not involved, only estate agency.
The most popular one that people know is estate agency. There is feasibility appraisal, there is property development, valuation, plans and machinery valuation, property management, facility management etc. Since that is the one that is basically and majorly bastardised, we decided to take one at a time, and look for ways of resolving the matter. That is how that came about.

Are there regulatory measures to checkmate quackery among members?
Yes. The law empowers the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON) to regulate the practice and if people do not fall in line with the requirement, they can be reported, investigated and if found guilty will be dealt with in accordance with the level of offence committed. Both the institution and the board have disciplinary measures in place against anybody that errs.

What is the institution doing about the 10 per cent agency fees mentioned by the Minister of Power, Housing and Infrastructure?
10 per cent agency fee is not the problem. The housing problem is hydra headed. It is like government saying that five percent VAT is too small. They have a reason for trying to increase it because they want to shore up their revenue. That is another area where we can augment some things. If you know what surveyors go through to even earn that money. The money does not come every day. If I am going to lease a house at Egbeda for N150,000 and I am going to transport myself for four to five times to that place either by official or public transport, not even now that we have the fuel increase thing. If you calculate the amount and stress involved, the overhead and other things, you will discover that the 10 percent is nothing.

But you also realize that those low level houses are not rented by the NIESV but by estate agents?
I am an estate surveyor, there are some times when I work with some of these estate agents, it is like life impossible. Do you know that sometimes, when a house is N50,000, they can tell you that their fee is N30,000. So, why is the government not complaining about them and they are more in number.

That is because government believes that the big brothers (NIESV) are there to regulate them?
That is the difference between the two bodies, because the government does not recognize them, they are just having a field’s day. I have found myself in a situation where I have to conclude with some of my clients that we don’t have a house, and take them to these agents. When the house is N120,000 they will tell you their fee is N40,000. They will attempt to justify that by saying that they are eight that are going to share the money.
If you come to me that you want to rent a house, we will look for a house for you, but with those agents, you will register and pay. Every time you go there, you will pay administrative fee and when they take you to inspect a house, they will also collect money from you.. Sometimes, if care is not taken, they will want to collect money from me that is a professional. The government knows that this is happening and in most cases, that these are people causing these problems, and they are not saying anything about it. They work for them as party agents, they are their boys. And because they are not an organized body, who do you want to report them to. Most of the people who suffer in their hands are the low level people. These are the people who when they want to eject you, they can come and remove your door, window and other things. These people are the ones making life unbearable for clients.
The problem is not about the fee; they are the charges that the institution over time reviews, it is what has been approved for members to charge.

Can we get to the point where people will have an option of paying their rent in weekly or monthly arrears?
It is a matter of economics, demand and supply. When demand is much more than supply, it will push price up and push condition for supply to be up. So, having an option to be paying monthly or weekly is a far cry, though it already exists somehow in the form of what is called short letting. You pay for one month or two weeks, but if you calculate how much is paid weekly, it is three more times of how much the rent is yearly. This is because the risk involved in monthly tenancy is higher. If somebody moves to my house now that I have just renovated, spend three months there and gets away, if you want to take the place, you will want me to change things there. I may end up paying more than the three months you paid in repairing the place; two, the guy may be a criminal, use the place and move on and people will be pointing fingers on the house. It is the owner or the person managing the place that will be chased. Another issue with short letting is that you have to do random check on people involved. If I do random check for about two months and you spend four months there and move away. How long will another random check take.
Another issue with short letting is that the law itself is not helping matters. When somebody is in a house, he is paying monthly and the law says, I should give him one month notice to quit. After that one month what happens next. I have to go to court. You can be in court for three to four years.
The societies where these rents are collected weekly or monthly, the laws there are very effective. In England, the owner will just go and change the keys, and the law works. Even the tenant who is owing will know that he has no standing to go to anywhere, so he moves away gently. But here, the tenant knows that he is at fault and knows that the system is slow or corrupted or maybe because he knows he has contacts, or he is a military man, so he stays there. How do you even deliver the letter to him in the first place, when the security man at the gate has been instructed to shoot anybody that comes there. Are you going to throw the letter inside, and who will claim that he received the letter?
The arithmetic of monthly or weekly tenancy is a very laudable one but at the same time, we are not ripe for it.

What measures can be put in place to bridge the housing gap?
Government is focusing on the wrong thing. They want to provide housing, but the deficit is too high for them to bridge. You will discover that what they are doing is just scratching the surface. Out of the 17million deficit, they say they want to build 20,000. My take is that the money they want to use for that 20,000 units, they can use it to provide an enabling environment for people to build. Land Use Act is supposed to be at the purview of the governor, make it accessible. As I speak today, the cheapest land you can get from Lagos State government is N6million to N8million. How many low income people can afford that.
If access to land is easy and affordable, let them provide infrastructure. Most of the lands around Lagos-Ibadan, Lagos-Epe and Lagos-Badagry express roads, have been bought up. But most of the people who bought them need infrastructure. The cost of providing infrastructure is even higher than building the houses. The government is acting like individuals, they want to invest money and get it back immediately. If they provide infrastructure, they can get their money back in taxes within 10 to 15 years.
Instead of building houses that political associates will take up, it will pay all if they provide infrastructure which does not know who owns what but benefits all. As they open up new neighbourhoods, several other things that will multiply the economy will spring up within it.
Another thing is building materials. How many times has government promised us that cement is going to be N500. Now, cement has become a monopoly, only one individual is supplying it. And we keep saying that the man is the richest man in Africa, why don’t he reduce the cost of this product to us. Because he is in business to make profit, he has no social responsibility.
What are we doing to reduce the cost of construction? Have we encouraged research into cheaper means and mode of building? What have we done to research institutes that have to do with building? We have been building with cement, before now, our people were building with mud. What technology is at work that can take advantage of what we see available here? In America, most of their houses are wood. If you make minimal conditions available for people, they can stretch themselves a little. There are so many things that need to be reviewed in the Land Use Act. As a professional body, we have said that severally at every fora we have the opportunity.

Do you suggest the Land Use Act to be repealed or completely abrogated?
Land Use Act is an abnormally, it is giving so much power to a single individual and we have seen that power abused severally. If you belong to the wrong party, the governor can decide to revoke your C of O; the power is overriding public interest; if the governor does not like your face, he can decide to take over your land and pay you compensation that is not commensurate. All because the law says the land belongs to government.

Do you have any other advice to the government?
Most of the houses they build are prototype. In Nigeria some people have two to three wives and you give all of them three bedroom. One will overstretch his own house. If the man has his own land, he can decide on what to build on it. Even when all of them have one single wife, one may have one or two children while some may have up to six children. So, one style may not fit all. Some may want a bigger sitting room, while some may want ground space to sit down, subject to regulation; some might be religious and want where they can pray in their compound.
So, when you now build a same style fits all, they now start to readjust those buildings to suit their taste.
Secondly, when you want to build some of these things, same pattern in Kano may not fit in Lagos because of weather conditions and religious beliefs. You cannot take the same style to Port Harcourt or Bayelsa because of the nature of the ground. But if you provide infrastructure, the person knows what he wants to build and what he likes. When you now have all those prototype things, your neighbor may be responsible while the other one may not be responsible; give the facilities some few years, they will run down, because one wants to cooperate, while the other one does not. So, one style does not fit all.
So, they should provide infrastructure and put the regulations. Everybody who goes to the government will be handed down the minimum and maximum they can build. But when the minister says they are going to build houses, some of his friends will start calling him to say, remember me o. His party members will tell him, you know we are the ones there now, we cannot afford to suffer, remember, election is coming up again. He is a human being and will want to satisfy his constituency too.