Quantity surveyors in aid of Nigeria’s infrastructure
IN his book “New Aspects of Quantity Surveying Practice” (Rutledge, 2012) Duncan Cartlidge recounts that writing in 1979, the eminent British Quantity Surveyors Arthur J. and Christopher Willis, described new fields of quantity surveying to include “heavy engineering, coal mining and working-abroad.” This illustrated the severe limitation of the services rendered 36 years ago by quantity surveyors even in one of the largest and most advanced economies in the world.
Until the mid-1980s, Quantity Surveying was defined completely by the production of bills of quantities and final accounts even in developed European and American economies. The diversification of Quantity Surveying practices in the United Kingdom followed changes in procurement practices in both the private and public sectors. These include new methods of supply chain management and competitive tendering in major firms and the adoption of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) by the Government to build new hospitals, schools, prisons and other public buildings. Our profession in Nigeria is not very far from where it was in Europe and America 30 years ago despite the enormous strides the profession has taken.
Numerous factors have played different parts in the underdevelopment of the Quantity Surveying profession in Nigeria but the biggest hindrance could be attributed to the current state of affairs in the Nigerian economy rather than the commitment of institutions training quantity surveyors or that of Quantity Surveying professionals. Regardless of the issues bedeviling the profession, Quantity Surveying is witnessing a decent level of growth in Nigeria, which has seen its services to be required in other major sectors in addition to the dominant construction sector.
The constantly changing environment has thus necessitated professionals to continuously upgrade their competences by developing new skills and specialisation to meet the present and possibly future work demands in the industry. In appreciating the deficiencies of the profession in Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) has established a training institute for professionals within their field known as the Nigerian Quantity Surveyors Academy (NQSA).
The constitution of the NIQS 2011 as amended empowers the NQSA to come up with measures to address the problems and challenges as well as take proactive actions in promoting the fortunes of the profession in Nigeria. The primary logic guiding this whole endeavour is the strong belief that the best strategy for the Quantity Surveying industry to thrive in Nigeria is through the continuous infusion of fresh ideas, knowledge and expertise. The NQSA would therefore operate as an institution devoted to fill the skill gap through the provision of advanced and specialised knowledge to all quantity surveying professionals in Nigeria.
This has opened up the opportunity to bridge the gap between the Quantity Surveying practice in Nigeria and other major economies of the world. With one of the NQSA’s core objective being creating synergy with foreign contemporaries that will expose industry professionals in Nigeria to cutting edge research and breakthroughs emanating from the global Quantity Surveying industry. Being a training institute whose masterminds strive to understand the complexities of the Quantity Surveying profession and society at large, the graduands of NQSA will be put through rigorous preparatory process that builds their competence in areas beyond the traditional core of the profession.
Although the Academy can only cater for people with foundational qualification(s) in Quantity Surveying and related disciplines, when fully operational, NQSA gives a large scope of prospective trainees which include Quantity Surveyors that are in the process of undergoing professional examinations related to their profession most of whom could be assisted through specifically prepared learning aids and study packs, practising Quantity Surveyors who desire to upgrade their competence in the traditional areas of practice and/or in any new area that is within the offerings of the NQSA, practitioners in other related professions and disciplines who require the knowledge and skills being offered by the NQSA in order to upgrade their own professional competences.
The establishment of the NQSA, however, is only the first step, though a major one, in realising our collective dreams for our profession and in making us play the critical role we envisage in the country’s economy. As a result of the level of development of our political party system and the patterns in which it interacts with and drives economic policy, the knowledge and skills that we develop and impact through the NQSA will simultaneously have to be enlisted in policy advocacy within the country.
This advocacy will promote widespread adoption of new procurement policies in the country. With the drastic fall in global prices of oil, Nigeria must begin to take Public-Private Partnerships more seriously. The country’s need for infrastructure remains acute while our capacity to finance it has drastically diminished. In acquiring the skills to work on PPPs, we must also learn to use the knowledge about PPPs to call for and justify PPPs as a procurement method that Nigeria must adopt.
This is but only one of the many areas where our foray into new areas of knowledge must be simultaneously deployed towards policy advocacy as well as professional practice. If we do this successfully, “working abroad” will not be one of the areas which the skills the NQSA will impact will be applied to. Indeed, we would be helping to stem the outflow of skilled Nigerians to seek opportunities inferior to their qualifications thereby driving positive changes within the nations’ economy.
• Alufohai is the Chairman of the Nigerian Quantity Surveyors Academy