I’ll help quacks become professionals – NIA president

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Arc. Ibrahim Abdullahi Haruna, (mni) is President of Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA). He is the first architect to be nominated by NACCIMA to attend the Senior Executive Course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru. In this interview with ADAM ALQALI, he advocates the need for one platform for all professionals in the building sector.


Tell us more about the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA).

The Nigerian Institute of Architects was founded over 50 years ago. The founding fathers were then students of architecture in London and they were able to bring all student-architects together towards enhancing the environment. They returned to Nigeria 51 years ago to form the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA). Some of them are still alive including Arch Alex Ekweme, the second republic vice president of Nigeria. There is also Architect Frank Mbanefo. The institute started as a society bringing all architects together, coordinating the performance of the profession in terms of compliance with Nigeria’s code of conduct of the architectural profession.


How far has the institution gone in moving the architectural profession forward in Nigeria?

Well! The institute of architects has done a lot. So, we must give glory to our founding fathers including all those that led the institute from its founding to date. It started when there were very few schools of architecture with the one in then Nigerian College of Art and Science, Zaria being the first. It started in Ibadan before it was moved to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Now, if you look around you see many schools of architecture around with about 4,000 registered architects. We have put in place some standardized documentations, including a code of professional conduct, which every member has to abide by, to regulate the practice as well as remove rancor in the practice of architecture and put everybody in the right position to practice as professionals. We are also looking at the practice itself. Through the institute, Nigerian architects have come to terms with the modernity of architecture. I.e., the newest developments in the practice of architecture worldwide. NIA disseminates the information via seminars, workshops and colloquiums. I believe the institute has done a lot and has gone a long way in making the architectural profession in Nigeria better.


The architectural profession is suffering from the influx of quacks practicing in the profession. How do you hope to use your presidency to address this challenge?

Anybody you see patronizing quacks themselves need to be educated about the difference between a professional architect and a quack. So, what we want to do is try to enlighten our clients on the need to patronize registered and certified architects and not quacks. If they know, they would not invest and waste their resources in the hands of those that don’t know what they are doing. Buildings may look alike, superficially, but the difference I want to believe is clear. There is a difference between a building built by a professional as well as one built by someone that is not trained. We will try and educate the people very well and for the quacks which are usually people that have undergone some training in architecture, but are yet to fulfill the requirement to work as registered architects. We will try to encourage them to go and complete their training and become knowledgeable enough for certification and the attendant services. With that, they would attain exalted heights and become recognized cognate professionals.


There are complaints by professionals in the built-environment profession, including architecture that the federal government is patronizing the services of foreign professionals instead of indigenous ones. How do you see this argument?

I don’t think this is always the case with the federal government owned projects. Of course there are certain projects where the government either by omission or commission engages certain foreign companies in their designs and constructions. But I don’t think as a matter of policy, the government is giving preferences to foreign architects.

There are rules governing who will do so and so architectural projects, which are contained in the code of conduct of the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria, (ARCN); a federal government-funded agency to regulate the practice of architecture all over Nigeria.

So, I believe the Federal government is aware of that. Likewise the Public Procurement Department, which I believe would also not allow such things. Of course there are certain projects in Nigeria which construction were carried out under the guise of ‘design and build,’ and which were not handled by indigenous architects or those that are not statutorily qualified to practice in Nigeria. There are many such buildings including first phase of the federal secretariat amongst others. I believe the government, especially considering the present unemployment crisis in the country, will not continue to allow foreign companies to take projects which indigenous architects can handle.


Do you have plans for importing eco-architecture in the form of green buildings into Nigeria?

Green buildings are all about sustainability; working within the available natural resources to achieve what need to be achieved, in trying to avoid the build-up of carbon dioxide in the environment. Technically speaking, if you look at our tradition right from history, we are naturally inclined to green buildings. It is actually this so-called globalization that made us abandoned such building styles for western ones. The West has come to notice the un-sustainability of such buildings. As such, the entire world is now advocating for green buildings due to its sustainability. I think we are already there, especially if you look at our traditional buildings. Take for example a typical house in Kano or Zaria, you will find out that the building material which is largely laterite earth are all locally available and reusable. That is what sustainability or green building is all about.

Likewise, such buildings are suitable for our hot climate and many at times devoid of the need to use energy consuming air conditioning system. So, I think we are already there; all that we are doing is trying to revive the situation back to what we used to have in the past as our buildings. Sustainability is now the order of the day and hardly a year passes without workshops being organized to refresh our members’ memories about innovation in architecture.


You recently called for the need for a platform for all the stakeholders in the built-environment professions, including engineers, surveyors, and planners, so that you will be able to speak with one voice. How beneficial do you think that will be?

I am advocating that since all the professionals in the built environment professions have one focus as well as the same goals, bringing about a more descent, viable and conducive environment, we should work and move together in the interest of the nation. Achieving that is not really a herculean task as long as we understand what we are pursuing. We can have joint workshops, seminars, on which platform we can share ideas and move forward.


How do you plan to use your position as NIA President to move the architectural profession in Nigeria forward?

I plan to use my position as the President of Nigeria Institute of Architects to reposition the architectural profession in Nigeria, towards qualitative services to our clients. Yes, we will improve the quality of architectural services to clients. We would work towards repositioning ourselves towards service delivery that is comparable to what is obtained in the developed nations. We will make sure our accreditation is pursued vigorously, so that our various schools of architecture will be kept in tune with developments in  architecture the world over. We want to create platforms on which Nigerian architects will share ideas with other architects from all over the world. For example between the 13th and 18th of March, there is going to be a conference by the International Union of Architects in Morocco, to brainstorm on the practice of architecture. A good number of Nigerian architects will be there. I have personally been nominated to chair the conference’s vision and strategy committee. So, a lot of ideas would be exchanged, there is going to be education and re-education to move the architectural profession forward.