NIA President's Interview

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NAAS: Arc. IBRAHIM ABDULLAHI HARUNA. FNIA, PNIA, mni, Saturday, 19th November, 2012.


Good morning Sir! 
What is your vision for the NIA? And what is the students’ part of this vision?

My vision is to empower the Nigerian Architect to provide better service to the public. This is fundamental when one realizes the threat of foreign incursions into virtually every profession in Nigeria. We must first of all match if not beat the international standards to be able to protect our shores of another form of ‘colonization’. We can only achieve that through educating, training and re-training from the bottom right to the top of all members of the architectural family. From the students, to ensure the right curriculum and full delivery of course contents in school, up to practitioners through Continuous Professional Development Programs. To successfully achieve this, we need to overhaul our information delivery machinery as the transmission media for knowledge. That is why soon after inauguration, we embarked on restructuring of our Secretariat, both the staffing and the physical environment; set up strategic units like the Rapid Response Team; open up gates for contributions by all members in the spirit of inclusivity; gathering information on all members contacts so that everyone can be reached; promoting friendship and understanding through inclusiveness amongst architects and other professionals in the built-environment. This strategy will not only smoothen the process of educating our members, but also reduce menace of suspicions and internal wrangling mostly caused by lack of information. We believe if NIA can save its energy spent on inter and intra professional grumblings, such energy can best be invested in educating our members for greater performance. 

I am sure your question on the students’ part of the vision has been overtaken by what I have said above. However, we are not saying we know all what problems students encounter even though some of us are in the academics. That is why we are collecting contact data of all student leaders in all the Departments of Architecture in Nigeria as a data base for interactions.


The students have the perception of not being accommodated by the institute in their programs. What is your reaction to this and how do you intend to accommodate the students in your tenure?

This is all a product of poor information machinery and lack of adequate data base for contact. That is why we are investing in it. As far as we are concerned, every category of member is a member and is entitled to information and participation. We shall unsure all students register as student members right from Level 200; as Graduate Members from completion of B.Sc., and as Associate Members on completion of M.Sc. Each will participate at his or her level of membership as a member of the Nigerian Institute of Architects. To encourage this, we shall instruct all our Full Members to give priority to only registered members in the placement for industrial attachment and even employment. If you cannot show evidence that you are a Student Member of the NIA, you will not be considered for industrial attachment, because you do not belong to the large family. Let me affirm, students will be involved in all activities through their leadership, and we expect the leadership to transcend the information down the rank.

The last council being headed by Arc Tunji Bolu as the president introduced design competitions, geared towards improving the standard of architectural education. How do you intend to improve on this and should the students expect more?

This council is a continuation of the last council. We have even built on it by setting up a Committee under the leadership of Arc. Robert Unde, and they have now produced NIA Guideline for Architectural Competition which becomes a template for conducting and assessing not only students’, but also for live projects competition amongst licensed architects.

The major problem of architecture profession in Nigeria is unprofessional practice by quacks. How do you intend to partner with ARCON towards ameliorating this pressing issue?

Now who is a quack? A quack is a practitioner who has had some kind of architectural training, but not registered by NIA, and licensed to practice architecture as provided by the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria Act. (ARCON). From this definition, you can now see the sense in our vision to empower architects through education. By doing so, we will widen the quality gap between the works qualified professional and that of a quack. Once the difference is clear, the client will not have any reason to patronize a quack. We will also by doing so convert most of the quacks into licensed practitioners. Our target is anyone that has an architectural training that can be moulded to be able to offer quality and legitimate service clientele.

As the chairman of the BGM committee, you made us to know about your interest in the future of Architecture in Nigeria. What is your vision of the future of Architecture in Nigeria?

My vision is to see a clearly identifiable Nigerian architecture. When you look at our cities, you can hardly distinguish between buildings designed by foreigners from those designed by Nigerian architects. Yes someone may try to justify that from globalization point of view, but architecture is not strictly engineering solution, where two times two in Chinese is the same value as in Nigeria. Architecture is dangling between engineering and arts. We are leaning too much towards engineering. That is why we come up similar solutions internationally. I would like to see us shift grounds more towards arts in our design conceptualization because our arts (Nigerian Arts) is very distinct, and attracts international applaud. That way, we shall make our architecture distinctly unique. I believe we can achieve this through architectural competitions in both schools and practice. That is why we support competitions.

When you mention the future of architecture in Nigeria, the students/young architects are greatly involved. Hence, what is your advice to the students/young architects?

The case of the students in my view is even worst because my interactions with many schools of architecture through Accreditation visits reveals that they limit their creativity to the very local environment they live and study. Most of them come up with the same design solutions, usually covered with unjustifiably high pitched roof. With the same brief, each student should come up with a different scheme. Students must exercise the freedom of design thoughts far beyond the perception of the lecturer, and develop the mastery of defending their ideas no matter how vague they may seem. They must feel free to expose their youthful exuberance by exploring new forms that will give structural engineers great challenge, and add variety to the sky line.

What should we expect of your relationship with the students?

As a part-time lecturer, students are my companions, and collegues. I enjoy listening to the virgin ideas of those who come out of their shells. I wish to get them out of their shells so that we can share ideas intellectually. I believe no one has monopoly of knowledge, and in the college of experience, there is no graduate. It is only then that we can get every body’s contributions in making our professional body greater.

Where do you think NIA needed a change?

Membership out-reach in NIA is very poor, and in this era of IT, it should be easier to reach and get everybody involved. That is the panacea for greater participation of all members.

What do you expect to have become of NIA in the next 2 years?

A more vibrant professional institution with larger membership, commanding greater respect from other professions and the general public.