Professionals Disagree On Causes  Of Infrastructure Decay | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Professionals Disagree On Causes  Of Infrastructure Decay

Posted: Oct 25, 2016 at 2:11 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Nkasiobi Oluikpe


Lagos – That infrastructural availability and functionality play a pivotal role in the socio-economic development and wellbeing of a nation is an understatement.
It has been identified globally, that for any economy to grow there must be adequate and functional infrastructures on ground from which every other sector of that economy will take root.
However, over the decades, Nigeria has allowed its available infrastructure collapse before its watchful eyes.  Meanwhile, year in year out, huge amounts of money are allocated for the construction of new infrastructures without provision for the maintenance or repairs of old ones.
Like one politician told this reporter, it is more praise worthy to commission new structures, than to repair or maintain old ones. The Nigerian populace, he said, would still give credit to the previous regime that built that old existing facility than recognise the incumbent one who is paying huge amounts to keep it in good shape.
Maintenance has been identified as the bane of infrastructure development in Nigeria. Usually no mechanism is put in place to ensure the maintenance of old existing structures. This has led to the total collapse of some of the public basic amenities in the country, ranging from roads, buildings, schools, hospitals, railways, refineries.
In advanced economies, it is easy to see buildings that are between 100 and 200 years of age. Even their roads only undergo repairs and sometimes rehabilitation, but not total collapse.
With the present economic recession in the country, and government’s efforts at diversifying the economy, one of the factors identified by the private investors, as hindering such drive is the absence of infrastructures.
According to them, there is so much pressure on the existing ones, leading to their collapse, while new ones are not to being constructed.
The Programme Director, International Facility Managers Association (IFMA), Abuja chapter, Collins Osayamwen mentioned that the inability of builders such as engineers, builders and architects to work together with facility managers, who maintain the facilities, have contributed immensely to infrastructural decay in the country.
While some professionals in the built environment agree with this view, others disagree, stating that the bulk of the blame should be placed at the foot of poor maintenance culture.

Supporting the view of Osayamwen, the immediate past president of Real Estate Developers Association (REDAN), Bode Afolayan who placed the blame on the table of engineers, whom he said most of the time, do not design structures to be sustainable.
He narrated that some contractors constructed streetlights on a particular road. When the bulbs went dead and it was time to replace them, it was discovered that the poles carrying the streetlights could not carry the ladder for the technicians to climb and replace the bulbs because they weren’t steel poles but fake Chinese poles.

“They had to hire trucks to lift the technicians up to replace the bulbs. Now how much is the cost of hiring a truck. Ordinarily, it is expected that they fix steel poles that you can just bring a ladder, rest it on the poles and climb on to the lamp holders and fix the bulbs. That makes it easier.
“If you need to hire trucks to reach out to the lamp holders, they charge you nothing less than N60,000 to N100,000 per day while you want to fix a bulb of less than N5,000 or N6,000. A bulb is about N1,500.
“There should be sustainability in the sense that maintenance has to be cost effective and it has to be easy to maintain. And the programme of maintenance must be explicit because they are just bringing in a facility manager to come and maintain everything in infrastructure development when you have not actually designed it in such a way and manner that maintenance will be easy.
“If we continue to build our infrastructures in the way and manner that it will cost so much money to maintain them, it is obvious that they will remain in a very bad shape”, Afolayan said.
He explained further that there should be a connect between the facility managers and engineers who are expected to design infrastructures that will stand the test of time, be cost effective and simple to maintain.
However, Kitoye Ibare, former Lagos State chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA) refutes this point by saying that engineers and architects design infrastructures based on the brief provided by the ministry of works while builders build to drawings and specifications provided.
He said that it now behooves on the ministry to maintain the infrastructures based on adequate facilities management plan. “It is not about engineers or architects. They work on the brief handed to them by the clients. If you give me a wrong brief, I will design to that brief.
“I am sorry to say that because of all the political uncertainties that we are experiencing in the country, we have just been rolling from one administration to the other. In that process we have neglected the critical ministries that need to be properly organised and funded, where you need to set down proper engineering procedures for writing briefs and supervising the designs forwarded to the ministry. It will then be passed on to the facility manager, who also must be up to the task. That is the complexity of the whole thing; we are so backward in all these systems that we almost have to start all over from the drawing board”, he said.
On his part, the national president of Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN), Alhaji Mohammed Adamu stated that it should be understood that at the commissioning and handing over of a project, the contract with professionals in the built environment is terminated as their services are usually not retained by the clients. So, there is no how they can remain on the jobs when their services are not retained.
“I think it now behooves on the facilities manager to now bring out the relevant problems of the structure and inform the relevant professionals on what is going on’, he said.
This he said, does not imply engineers and architects should do shabby jobs and run away. Where it happens, he remarked, the client should sue the engineer or builder for professional negligence.
Also, the immediate past Lagos State chapter chairman of NIA, Ladi Lewis, remarked that it is more of planning for maintenance than working together with the relevant bodies.
“We don’t plan for the maintenance cost of projects, repairs and life span of infrastructures. People build roads and buildings and forget they are like human bodies that need to be maintained. Budgets need to be made for maintenance of projects and it should be followed strictly. As like humans, when starved, they will fall sick and die.
“The cost of developing and building infrastructures needs to be married with the cost of lifetime maintenance”, Lewis said
Also collaborating Lewis’ views is Debo Adejana, Managing Director of Realty Point Limited who explained that once an infrastructure is built, Nigerians seldom think of how it can be sustained.
“We are not usually ready to pay what it will takes to engage well qualified hands as facility managers. Experienced and well qualified facility practitioners usually work hand in hand with all professionals within the built industry when engaged to manage a property”, he said.
Fayomi Ogun, Ogun State chapter chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Building (NIoB), insisted that building maintenance, now modified and referred to as facility management begins at the conception of a project. Hence, he stated that at the conception stage of an infrastructural project, it is very important to emphasise maintenance methodologies, technologies and approaches that will ensure prolonged life span of the proposed building or infrastructure.
“Thus, the inputs of the relevant professionals (builders, engineers, architects and facility managers) must be availed at the inception to predetermine the build-ability and maintainability of the proposed building. A professional builder (registered by the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria) is trained and empowered to develop these referred contract documents i.e build-ability report and maintainability report.
“In actual sense, a builder with relevant experience in building maintenance should be engaged for such services. He is in the best position to handle facility management jobs”, he said.