A tested qualified quantity surveyor and chartered project manager who has proven his mettle in the construction industry. Dafe Charles U. Erikefe, FNIQS, Principal Partner, Chavan Associates, in this exclusive interview speaks on the issues affecting the profession. By Festus Oseji
Speak on your professional background and why you chose to study quantity surveying?
I never knew about quantity surveying until when a family friend late Mr. Greg Onoise came back from Canada, precisely in 1975. Then after my school certificate examination, he requested to hear from me what I wanted to study in the university. My desire then was to go to the then College of Education, Abraka to study Mathematics and physics, but when he looked at my result he asked me to do quantity surveying, and to further assist me based on his suggestion he directed me to go to Auchi polytechnic to see a friends of his who is a lecturer at the school and I went, that was how I ended up studying quantity surveying as a profession. And there is no regret of any sort about the profession.
Give us an overview of your company activities since inception?
We have been in business for over 30 years. It’s been a glorious experience in this profession and it will surprise you to know that quantity surveying is a profession ordained by God; as it is stated in the bible book of Luke 14 verse 28, which says “For which of you, intending to build a tower or structure, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient fund to finish it?” So quantity surveying is a noble profession.
I started practicing as a pupilage quantity surveyor with the then Ministry of Works Bendel State, not until Delta State was created and I moved to Asaba, and of course I could have just remained as a regimental professional who really do not know much about the profession in terms of practice. But in 1994 I retired from the ministry and set up my own firm called Chavan Associates, and since then I have been the Principal Partner of the firm and the success story is there for us to see. And I thank God for His wisdom, because if I had remained a civil servant, I wouldn’t have known much about quantity surveying compared to the experience I have gathered today in the profession.
Enumerate projects done over the years by your firm?
We have done numerous projects over the years such as the DDPA housing estate in Asaba, Jedo and the modern market in Ughelli, Delta State.
We did quite some jobs in Akure, Ondo State like the International Event and Cultural Centre called “The Dome”, the Federal Housing Estate for Federal Mortgage Bank and Other notable projects done by us include the Nigeria Law School in projects in Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. Most recently we also got the Distance Learning Institute (DLI) building project at the University of Lagos, in which over 80 quantity surveying firms participated in the project bidding and we are proud to be among the selected firms for the job. Here at Chavan Associates we have done lots of projects and there are some that are ongoing projects in one of the state in the Niger delta region.
Among the list of these projects which is so dear to you?
Well, one of the projects that we could say that is so dear to us is the Nigerian Law School project in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State; it was a tasking commission because of the security challenges in the area. As we all know that zone is a very difficult terrain to work in, and to the glory of God we were not cowed and today we can beat our chest to say we delivered it successfully. So to large extent we could say the Nigerian Law School Yenagoa project is one of the projects we are proud of amongst others.
How has your company been able to maintain the environmental equilibrium over the years with the number and kinds of projects it has delivered?
Well, Chavan Associates is a company established by the almighty God, because when people say there is a casting down we say there is a lifting up and that is the background on which our success story lies. Because here we do not operate on earthly economy but rather in Zion economy, and to large extent that has helped us scale through the difficult times. God has been guarding us, brought business to us and has also helped us to ensure we deliver the jobs as at when due.
How do you intend to sustain and improve on this momentum in project delivery?
Here, we are a product of several meetings and our drive has always been to attempt to get things done right at the first time. Our principle of getting it right at the first time has put us ahead of others and also makes us quite successful. We always insist on getting it right at the first time, because there is no second chance to prove your capability and capacity, other than the first instance. So we ensure we get things done right at the first time and to actualize that feet we have invested massively with our resources in that regards, making sure all necessary state of the art software, equipment and manpower training for our staff are carried out regularly to remain abreast with the current trend in the profession both within and internationally as well. We are proud of our activities and operations, we personalize our activities with our clients and we are proud about it.
What are the major challenges facing quantity surveyors and the construction industry?
Well, some of the major challenges facing the profession is lack of awareness by clients; most clients do not know what the role of quantity surveyor is in the built environment chain.
Quantity surveying profession is young when compared with other built environment profession in Nigeria, but notwithstanding they are the people that should be the first person to be contacted by clients or an investor that wants to do infrastructural development or building a house as the case may be; but reverse is the case in Nigeria.
So we need to create awareness among the public, make them to know that we are cost expert in the built environment, the quantity surveyors are the people who has the ball, but the client do not know that we have the ball. For example, in a football pitch it’s the man with the ball that gets attacked, so the clients need to realize this and draw closer to the qualified quantity surveyors at all time for every projects he/she tend to build.
Other challenges facing the profession is quackery, which have been eliminated to a large extent, but more still need to be done because the issue of quackery in the industry generally cannot be under mentioned in this country. People claim to be quantity surveyor whereas they do not have the basic and professional training to practice quantity surveying. A client that wants a good job knows where to get the qualified quantity surveyor in this country and this report you are doing is part of the awareness we need in this industry to inform the public, even the government to always utilize the quantity surveyor in project cost.
Construction and engineering sector is the highest employer of labour all over the world; how do you think it can be developed in Nigeria?
Nigeria is a blessed country with so many potential for growth, it has human and material resources and if well managed would have multiply effects on all facet of growth. If it’s in agriculture the nation can feed many nations of the world once it resources are properly harnessed.
The construction industry as we all known has the potential to shoulder the unemployment challenges facing this country today. This sector remains the only sector used all over the world to measure the economy growth of any nation and Nigeria should not be exception. The government as a matter of urgency should award contracts because it’s the construction industry that has the capacity and capability to employ different types of professions namely; architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, estate surveyors and valuers, town planners, doctors, lawyers, artisans, carpenter, tillers, market women, driver etc. so if the government want to inject the system, they should use the construction industry.
Are you comfortable with the government policies on procurement, contract concessioning and the implementation method?
The government policy on procurement is fantastic. The procurement policy stipulates how, what and when contracts should be done. They insist that the various professions in the built environment should be involved and follow the due process of contract bidding and execution.
Outside all that, what I personally was not comfortable with is the awarding of most contracts to foreigners. All over the world government regulates awarding of projects to outsiders, but in Nigeria reverse is the case. Here we are not in doubt of competent professionals, therefore the government should leverage on the qualified, experienced and competent professionals that are here to handle some of the projects in our country.
Corporate Social Responsibility
As part of our corporate social responsibility, we do offer free lectures in our area of study at the University of Lagos, Lagos State polytechnic and other Institutions of higher learning in the country. We as a matter of facts do not default in paying our tax regularly and we are not unmindful of our immediate environment where our offices are situated, we ensure things are working for the benefit of other people around us.
Do you think the construction industry is well developed in Nigeria?
Well, Nigeria is developing nation, and the facts its developing means that so many things are still growing, the economy, the various industry and sectors are all developing. For us as a nation to be termed developed we must ensure infrastructures like roads, affordable houses, water, electricity etc are provided across the country. They should be sub-urban development, the villages should have access roads, and criminal activities should be curtailed to a large extent as well. So as a nation we have not reached 50% of development at all, but I believe we have the capacity to attain any level of development, if only we have the will power to do so.
The last biennial conference of Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) was with the theme “Politics, Policies and National Development, the Role of Professionals”, what is your take on this?
You see, the best way to solve a problem is not to run away from it. Initially, we felt professionals don’t have to be involved in politics, but now we have realized that it was wrong to think in that line. Because if professionals don’t participate in politics, they leave it to others who dish out all kinds of laws and policies that will govern all the citizens in which the professionals belongs as well. My advice is that quantity surveyors should not shy away from politics. The belief that politics is a dirty game can be corrected by the professionals once they get involved in politics and the presence of a built environment professional in any committees for policy making will surly influence some decisions.
The first female professor of quantity surveyor in Nigeria and indeed Africa has emerged; what does this mean to you as a quantity surveyor?
Well, it is a welcome development and we are proud to have the first female professor of quantity surveying in Africa as a Nigerian. We all knew Prof. (Mrs.) Babalola as a hardworking woman and an academician of repute. We are happy and congratulate her for this milestone achievement in the profession.