‘Nigeria needs 14,000 architects to meet housing demand’

Aliyu

Aliyu

The Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), is the only body recognised by law to regulate the practice and field of architecture in Nigeria; having direct control over those in practice and oversight functions on all the tertiary institutions in the country, grooming future architects through classroom training. To some, the body has not been living up to its responsibilities, and that has given rise to infiltration into the industry by their foreign counterparts and quacks, who have been said to be having field day, without much restraints. But, the man, sitting atop the Council, Malam Mohammad Aliyu, in this recent chat with Emmanuel Badejo of The Guardian, debunks some of the allegations, and explained the council’s efforts to improve the filed of architecture in Nigeria. 

ARCON to a layman could mean anything.  What does this body stand for and what are its responsibilities? I thank you for the opportunity granted ARCON to clarify what the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) stands for, and its responsibilities to the Nigerian populace. We would like to start from a historical perspective to give full meaning to this question.

The Council was instituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria under General Yakubu Gowon on 3rd July, 1969 through Decree No 10 of 1969.

This Decree has gone through a series of amendments, culminating in the current Architects (Registration, Etc) Act Chapter A19 The Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Principally, the Act empowers ARCON to regulate the training of Architects and the practice of Architecture in all aspects and all ramifications in Nigeria.

It approves the course programmes in institutions and conducts visitations to all the schools of architecture to confirm adherence to approved course programmes – granting them accreditation or otherwise. ARCON approves architecture qualifications and Institutions (nationally and internationally) and conducts a professional jury for the final year class of each of the postgraduate stages – B.Sc. (arch) / M.Sc. (arch) – to ensure that students qualifying for these degrees are registrable by ARCON, in accordance with the provisions of the ARCON Act.

The students who are successful at the professional jury (MSc level) are registered under the Provisional Stage II and, following a two year pupilage period, become eligible to sit for the professional practice competence examination.

If successful, they may then be given full registration and licensed by the Council to produce architectural building plans and practice Architecture in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Some claim to be architects, while others say they are not.

Who then, according to the law establishing the profession of architecture can be addressed as architect? Section 1 of the Architects (Registration, Etc) Act Chapter A19 The Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 (formerly Decree No 10 of 1969 as amended) is clear on this.

It states that “Subject to the provisions of this Act, a person shall not prepare or take full responsibility for the erection or commissioning of architectural building plans or practise or carry on business (other than that having relevance to ship construction, or landscape or golf-links) under any name, style or title containing the word “architect” unless he is a Nigerian citizen and registered under this Act.”.

The key words here are “Nigerian citizens”, “fully registered” and “architectural building plans” In other words, you must be a Nigerian citizen and at the same time fully registered under this Act before you are allowed to produce architectural building plans/implementation for approval purposes in Nigeria. Only those who comply with this law can be called architects.

What is the relationship between architects and draughtsmen and what roles do each of the group play? All professions involved in service delivery utilise different strata of personnel to provide such services in a manner that meets the expectations of the society they serve.

The Architecture family is not different. Let us break it down this way. In the family of Architecture, holders of the M. Sc. Arch and its equivalent from an accredited University are at the apex, followed by the HND Architecture holders as architectural technologists, while the architectural technicians are principally referred to as draughtsmen.

You can get further details concerning the various categories enumerated from the Scheme of Service of the Federation of Nigeria, currently in operation nationwide.

In the process of realising the dreams of the client/investor, the architect would require the services of a coterie of others. In Nigeria, the extant regulation recognises the architect as the professional at the apex of the architecture family, periodically assisted by the Architectural Technologist and then by the architectural technician.

The scheme of service approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria recognises the draughtsmen as Architectural Technicians. There are those who accuse ARCON of being a toothless bull dog.

How then has the body been rising up to its responsibilities? That would be an unkind comment. Let us begin by saying that the discerning man knows what to do in the process of putting up a befitting structure, either for himself or for the general use of the public.

He would not go to the roadside to procure the service of a quack because he knows that his safety and that of the public is paramount to him, before giving consideration to the huge investment and capital outlay of such project.

It is in this context that we would approach this question. ARCON is aware that these accusations came about because, just like in all other professions, all shades of persons parade themselves as architects without being registered.

Many Nigerians have lost their lives through the patronage of quack doctors and the  use of sub-standard drugs. The profession of architecture is not isolated from this general malaise.

To reverse this negative trend, we must constantly remind ourselves of the adverse effect of our actions through education. ARCON is quite aware that education is a continuous process.

The investing public needs to be reminded that whilst exercising their prerogative of choice they should also consider the cost-benefit analysis of not using the services of qualified Architects in achieving their dreams.

For ARCON, this discussion should focus on educating the general public on the need to use the services of the Architect because our dreams are best served by doing so. We remember that the eminent lawyer, Mr. Gani Fawehimi of blessed memory would not embark on any project without first asking for the current Register of Architects and Architectural Firms to guide him in his decision making.

The Council would like to use this medium to advise the investing public to cross check, with the Council, the status of any person or firm they wish to employ for the design of their buildings.

The Council is also partnering with relevant agencies of Government to ensure that building plans are designed by licensed Architects to reduce to the barest minimum the issue of quacks masquerading as Architects.

The vehicle to drive this is the ARCON Project Registration Number (APRN). How do ARCON regulate tertiary institutions teaching architecture? Let us begin by saying that the relationship between the nation’s tertiary institutions having the study of Architecture as one of its courses and the Council is cordial and symbiotic.

We are mindful of the fact that they are established by their extant laws just like the Council but both must work together for the greater good of the nation which expends the lean financial resources on both.

Mind you that these tertiary institutions where architecture and architectural technology are taught, have their primary regulators as either the National Universities Commission (NUC) or the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) respectively.

These two bodies regulate the academic content of each sphere while the ARCON’s role is to monitor and ensure adherence to the professional content of course of the training of architects in these schools.

This is the reason why the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria makes pronouncement on a regular basis on the ‘status’ of such schools after paying the required accreditation visits.

The accreditation visitation is usually conducted every three years with compliance visit annually. ARCON, working with accredited schools keeps itself informed of the nature of the instruction given to persons attending approved courses of training by sending professional jurors to the final year class of each of the stages [B.Sc.(arch)/M.Sc. (arch)], final examinations of each school.

The professional jury is a way of keeping abreast with the level of preparedness and quality of those graduating each year. The professional jury is to evaluate the professional content of each work of students being certificated and presented to the industry (general public). This is the concluding part of the student’s training.

Failure to present the final year class of each of the stages [B.Sc.(arch)/M.Sc. (arch)] for the professional jury for assessment and evaluation, to ascertain the level of assimilation of architecture course in each student and in accordance with the provision of the ARCON Act definitely denies such student the opportunity of completing the course of training as only students who are successful at the jury are registrable by ARCON.

To cap it all, from the statistics available to ARCON, the country requires a minimum of 20,000 fully registered architects to service the developmental needs of the country. As at today, we have about 6,000 fully registered architects servicing the national needs.

This is the reason why we have made proposal to the National Universities Commission to have faculties, schools or colleges of Architecture in our universities as provided for in the Act establishing the ARCON.

This document is before the NUC and we believe that a definite positive pronouncement would be made on this very soon. There have been complaints or ineptitude or compromise among ARCON officials such that petitions against some architectural firms are not investigated and no discipline meted to any found to have breached the code of practice.

What do you say to this? That is far from the truth. There is no known case of ARCON officials engaging in either conniving or condoning any nefarious activity.

With all sense of humility, our businesses are always conducted in the open and would therefore challenge any Nigerian to show proof in this regard. ARCON’s thought on this issue is very simple: We strongly believe that most Nigerians who, in the first instance procured the services of a quack to offer architectural services would be the first to say this.

That was why we mentioned earlier that late Mr. Gani Fawehimi (Esq) would first ask of the Council for the current Registers of architects and architectural firms before embarking on any project. Most Nigerians would not do this. Rather they would procure the services of persons not registered with the Council and expects the Council to go after such persons when they later observe misdemeanour.

We would conclude by saying that the best form of abating any crime in our society is to ensure that criminal activities are sniffed out before they are even hatched.

We, therefore, advise all Nigerians to tow late Gani Fawehimi’s style because any member whose services have been engaged and he reneges on same would be heavily sanctioned by ARCON, if reported. How many firms are you presently investigating and what next? As a follow up to your earlier question, I would want Nigerians to understand that ironically a good number of cases under investigation and prosecution relate to non-architects claiming to be architects and this is indicative of where the larger problem lies.

Whilst I cannot assume that all architects are perfect in their sense of professionalism the far greater problem we have found in the field relates to the activities of quacks and interlopers who masquerade as professional architects. The introduction of APRN will go a long way to reduce this occurrence.

The known cases that fall within this realm are i) between an Ambassador and our member and ii) a case of supplanting between two architects involved in the Asaba Airport Project. We have concluded our findings and representations made to the Chief Justice of the Federation to ensure that the tribunal as required by law is empanelled.

Once that is done, the tribunal would swing into action. Despite complaints of breach of practices and corruption among Nigerian architects, it is unknown that no architectural firm in Nigeria has been prosecuted in recent times, why? ARCON observes that this question falls under the realm of conjecture and assumptions.

There is no known registered Architectural Firm or Architect who falls within this category. None to our knowledge except the cases mentioned earlier on, which actions are inconclusive until appropriate pronouncements are made in line with the existing law and the rule of law.

Let us also say here that ARCON has always instituted civil cases against individuals and firms that have contravened the law setting up the profession where we found that justice needs to be served.

For example, we had to pursue the civil angle to a case involving a firm (Multi-Projects Limited) whose principals were involved in the use of a deceased architect’s seal in the procurement of building approval plans. Mind you the criminal angle was not even touched by the Nigeria Police, the appropriate authority, which investigated this case.

But in all such cases, we were always bugged down by a plethora and mundane issues in our law courts. Equally ARCON is currently involved in a case against one Mr. Samuel Arowolo, a staff of Julius Berger, and the Commissioner of Police [CHARGE No. N/35/2013 (LAGOS)].

This criminal proceeding before the Lagos State Chief Magistrate Court Ebute Metta is on a four count charge of forging ARCON Seal no F/229 and COREN seal No R6376. ARCON is one of the two complainants in the case.

Trial has commenced since 2013. So the wheel of justice grinds slowly and as such ARCON cannot force the arm of our courts because we are not learned gentlemen in the first case. That is how justice works.

It is a common knowledge that governments at all levels including blue chip companies often prefer foreign architects to local counterparts.  What is ARCON doing to correct this anomaly? That is the sad commentary in our national ethos. Point to any aspect of our lives where this is not happening.

The Lawyers, Medical Doctors, Engineers and all of us are crying because of our penchant to idolise what is foreign. Let me say that the Nigerian Architect can hold his own anywhere he finds himself. Remember that the first registered architects in this country were trained in United Kingdom, USA, Russia, and Germany.

These people would not have graduated from these schools without proper certification by the appropriate authorities in these countries. We are proud to have produced the first architect in Africa.

The likes of Alex Ekwueme, Fola – Alade, Musa Waziri, Aduku, and Balogun have their projects doting the landscape of this country. Nevertheless, the law establishing the Council does not totally preclude foreign architects and architectural firms from practising in Nigeria. But such practices would first be observed based on reciprocity and within the ambit of best international practices.

Any foreign architect wishing to practise in Nigeria must go into collaboration with a local one, which is what is in operation everywhere. Those institutions and individual who go out of their way to flout this aspect of our law do so for pecuniary reasons forgetting the incalculable damages done to the economy of our dear country. Look at the countless job losses arising from foreign incursion into the building industry.

If the Government of the day were to address the issue of unemployment, I believe that the building industry, which is vibrant can help sustain this drive. I also believe that other ancillary professions would gain enormously from this vibrancy if resources are properly harnessed.

In addressing this issue, the Council has put in place the ARCON Project Registration Number (APRN) where building projects are assigned specific number with a view to identifying who and who is responsible for the design of a building project.

The relevant government agencies are currently being sensitised to see this as our contribution to remedying this anomaly. What machinery has the council put in place to ensure that all projects, particularly on-going and yet to take off, in the country have the newly introduced ARCON Projects Registration Number and when will this take effect? The benefits accruable from the APRN are legion ranging from combating the scourge of building failure and collapse through the elimination of quackery; ensure that only fully registered and financially current architects prepare, produce and submit designs for planning/implementation approval and receive such approvals when they are given; ensure that the fully registered professional architects who submit architectural building plans for approval/implementation are also responsible for the supervision of their designs and enable the compilation of statistical data, which is an essential ingredient of national planning and development.

Of course, this would entail the mandatory strict compliance with ARCON’s requirements for all practising architects. You know that all things, at inception, are always resisted before their final acceptance for various reasons. The ARCON Projects Registration Number (APRN) has already taken off in the Federal Capital Territory.

The attention of all other states has been drawn to this noble objective of the Council. Since this was conceived at the twilight of the last administration, the ARCON would further revive this policy with the nascent administration in place.

Not too long ago, the Association of Consultants of Architects of Nigeria (ACAN) gave projects specification and such that can be given to foreign colleagues; they also gave scale of fees.

Aliyu1What is the position of ARCON on this? A little bit of education would be necessary here. Members of The Association of Consultants of Architects of Nigeria (ACAN) are registered members of ARCON. ARCON is the regulatory arm of the profession. You cannot be a member of ACAN without first registering with ARCON and not all registered member of ARCON are registered with ACAN.

As the name connotes, ACAN is an association while ARCON is a body corporate set up by law to make pronouncements on practice of architecture and remuneration in Nigeria.

That is as far as the relationship could go. The Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ACAN) cannot give project specifications that foreign architects can be involved in. This is unknown to the Council. The only body that can legislate who practise in Nigeria is ARCON and not ACAN. For emphasise, any architect or architectural firm registered by ARCON is eligible to handle project of any magnitude.

On the issue of Scale of Fees, ARCON is the body established by the Architects (Registration, Etc) Act Chapter A19 The Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 formerly Decree No. 10 of 1969 as amended, to regulate the training of architects and practice of architecture and is empowered to determine the remuneration for service rendered therefore, ACAN lacks the locus standi to play such a role.

The ARCON in conjunction with The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) have in place the remuneration for practising architects and architectural firms in Nigeria.

The subsisting document governing the practice and remuneration of Architects and Architectural Firms is The Conditions of Engagement, Charges and Consultancy agreement for the Professional Architectural and Project Manager Services 2nd Edition- 29th August, 2013. Building collapse has become a major problem in the country.

What measures are you putting in place to stem the tide? The issue of collapse of buildings is a national phenomenon, which needs to be addressed in its entirety. Building collapse is traceable to several factors: poor design, inappropriate development approval, poor workmanship, use of sub-standard local and imported building materials amongst others.

The issue of standard is of paramount importance, because once there is standard, the relevant factors can be controlled. That is why the Government has put in place the National Building and Safety Code to complement its efforts in addressing the issue of standards. What is however required is for the states to domesticate this Code and enforce it.

Also for proper and effective development control, the Urban and Regional Planning Act considers development control a multi-disciplinary issue, hence the departmentalisation of the approval process into Architecture, Engineering and Planning.

We advocate full compliance with the provisions of this Act to the letter, to save us from building failures. Of course, the various arm of government responsible for developmental control are short staffed and do not possess the requisite manpower to meet this obligation.

Despite this seeming problem, we would advise the citizenry to report weak and dilapidating building to relevant government agencies before any harm is done. On our own part, we have tried to put in place the inspectorate arm with the active participation of our members in the states of the Federation.

As a corollary to the above, the burden of finding sufficient funds for this exercise has been a problem because we have been poorly funded or not funded at all in the past years. This is a herculean task peculiar to the regulatory bodies in the building industry.



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