Charles Ebiai is Managing Partner of Charles Ebiai Associates, a real estate firm and member of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV). He laments in this interview with Viewpoint Housing News that Nigerians are losing much as a result of perennial floods mainly because people who do not know anything about construction occupy decision making positions…
Viewpoint: The rains have come again and daily, we hear stories of property washed away by floods. Has this bothered you as a professional in the real estate?
Ebiai:You see, when it comes to talking about floods in this country, over the last two years, because of climate change, we’ve seen flooding in different parts of the country. Year in year out, we see it happening in Kogi State — Lokoja which is a major hub where people travel. It also happens in Delta State, in Asaba, it affects a lot of houses. In Adamawa [State], it happens. In FCT [Federal Capital Territory] and most parts of Lagos.
This is because over time, government has not really taken infrastructure seriously. We all thought that Abuja being a very new capital, this kind of things are taken care of. In those days, we used to say there’re few planned cities and Abuja was one.
But again, when people in government want to take ideas, they say there’s no money in the country and because of that they don’t look at the infrastructure need of the people. What happens is at the end of the day, satellite towns aren’t properly planned. So issues like flooding come in.
Ordinarily, by rule, you’re not supposed to put up structures in an area when you don’t have the basic amenities like roads. If you build before the road comes, the problem is you might have the building being above the road level or the road level going above the building foundation. In such a case, when there’s rain, there must be flood.
Again, we’ll not blame government alone for such flaw. It has to do with us as a people too. As a people, how do we dispose our refuse? A lot us leave the areas that have been allotted us for our housing need and want to add more by building things that are not necessary. That in itself, gives us a lot of problems.
Democracy has helped us because if you listen, we’ve been talking so much about infrastructure. This government is doing infrastructure that are new. But looking back, how do we take care of infrastructure that is old and was not planned for? We have no choice but to do some urban renewal plans which will help to take away these things.
Viewpoint: As a valuer, have you thought about the quantum of losses suffered by Nigerians as a result of seasonal flooding? Can you put value to what Nigerians have lost?
Ebiai:The losses are colossal. If you talk of what Nigerians have lost…you have to do a complete intense…the value is just too much. It will be difficult to say a particular figure…but for we as valuers, what we do when we see flood situation…it’s a lot of value that is lost.
If we say the housing stock is low, it means the GDP is affected; which also means the country is tilted toward a very poor situation because the citizens are not properly housed.
Here, we’re talking about a deficit in housing and on the other hand, because of flood, we’re losing the few we would have added to the stock. This is a thing everybody should be concerned about. But in terms of value, trillions [of naira] have been lost.
But our basic problem is how can we find close to a permanent solution because it costs government money any time there’s flood anywhere. They have to think of rehabilitation and how to assist people to be able get homes back.
Viewpoint: You mentioned lack of infrastructure as cause of flooding…
Ebiai:Yes. The Development Control should not look at only [main city areas]. They should go outside the towns and make it more effective there.
Viewpoint: Why is it difficult for us to have professionals in the built environment to take positions of policy-making so appropriate decisions are taken on housing?
Ebiai:You see, you don’t just put yourself in the different ministries, departments and agencies. It’s the people in politics who appoint. If you have people in politics, you have more numbers and you turn to satisfy the people.
That’s why I say it’s time that people see that professionals might make the difference. You don’t need to put somebody who does not know anything about construction ahead…Sometimes they say it’s for administrative purpose. But then if a professional is telling you something wrongly, you end up not being able to know except you have to go and read. We need to put the right persons in places like that.
Viewpoint: Even in Abuja we do see pools on the road when it rains. Motorists dabble in puddles. How can this be tackled?
Ebiai:Proper sanitation. In those days we used to come out, even in our villages, before market days, we did a lot of cleaning. But now, we’re in cities. We don’t bother ourselves. That in itself is affecting a lot of things.