My Life as an Estate Surveyor, Valuer by Odudu
WILLIAM ORUKA ODUDU is the Chairman of the Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria (ESVARBON). Known for his corporate leadership, Odudu holds strong views on estate management, the housing industry and its effects on societal growth. The renowned fellow of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and Fellow â€“ Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) who founded the first Estate Surveying office in 1976 in Kwara State, by name Odudu and Company, spoke to The Guardian's BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA on several issues affecting the profession, his life, family, amongst others.
Growing up years
MY father was a mobile trader and mother was a housewife, they have nothing to do with my choice of profession.
Although, they were disciplinarians, my elder brother, the late Chief Power Michael Odudu, was actually the strict one, who brought us up. We were punished for any misbehavior in school or outside the school, especially in my early years in secondary school. If you falter or failed any subject, he would really give you a cane. You would actually see blood so that you would be careful when you went back to school. In fact that happened to me once and only once in my first term in secondary school and I never failed again because when I remembered the pain, the time it took me to get relief, I have to sit down to really work. He was very strict.
Career in Estate Management
Again, my plan after I left school in 1964 was to do law but before taking up law, I decided to do a course, which would assist me. Remember, I attended St Malachy's Grammar School, Sapele in present Delta State between 1959-1964. Before then, I was at St. Patrickâ€™s Catholic School, Sapele between 1950-1958.
When I decided to go abroad to study, my application was to go to the University of London to do Economics but I could not get admission immediately to do Economics. Estate management happened to be in the same faculty with Economics in England. I decided to do it. It was very strange. I never heard of it before and I did not know how the course was. I had to make a personal decision to go for the programme. It was not even the programme I planned to do or heard of, even before I left Nigeria for England. But when I saw that it was in the faculty of Economics, I decided to direct my attention to it. So, it was not planned. The plan was that after finishing the first degree programme, I would now register to study law but, because of my enthusiasm, I truncated my studies in law to study Masters in Estate Management. After that, there was huge demand for my profession then, because at the time I qualified, there were less than seven qualified Estate Surveyors and Valuers in the whole of the country that had a degree in Estate Management and it was a hot cake. Once you had it, the government wanted you, the university wanted you and the local government wants you. So, I had to do a Masters and immediately, I got a job.
I was working with the Sheffield Corporation Estate Department in England, where I got practical on the job training. From there, I made it to Greater London Local Government, the largest local government then in the United Kingdom with over 220 estate surveyors in the same department. It was a pride to be able to work there. Having worked there for a short while, there was so much demand for our services. All the states in Nigeria wanted surveyors, the universities, where they are offering programmes in estate surveying wanted surveyors. So, I had a job to come back to University of Ife to lecture, I had a job to come to Kwara to work with the Land Department, I had a job in many states of the Federation but I opted to go to Kwara to work in the ministry.
Having started there, I felt I would still contribute towards the education of the younger ones. With the permission of the government, I was taking a full programme in University of Ife. Then, there was no person to lecture Applied Valuation. So, I had to lecture Applied Valuation in University of Ife for 10 years to bring up others, who would take over from me between 1974 -1984 before I gave up lecturing.
I was also lecturing in other Polytechnics where they did not have lecturers. I just go and lecture, in order to bring up the younger ones. But today, we have a lot of people that have done Estate Management now. In Ife alone where I lectured, we have produced over 60 Professors. Eventually in all the institutions in Nigeria, you have my ex-students, people I lectured. In Coventry University, they are six, in University of Lagos, you have six, in Akure, the Head of Department and lecturers there are my former students. Some of them have gone abroad to practice. So, that is what we did for 13 years, we were bringing up these people. So, for 17 years, I will be the chairman of the Education Examination Board of the Institution. I started the Professional Examination from the scratch to finish. For many years, I was the Chairman of that committee. Today, you have thousands that have been produced through internal examination, those who do not go to university at all. They can do their professional examination or those who fell by the way side and want to do the course, we have examinations for them, they can become professionals. Many of them we brought up have been practicing today and are doing very well.
Any regrets for leaving Law?
No, I donâ€™t have regrets at all. In fact, one of my daughters is a qualified lawyer today. I have my children, who are doing other programmes. What I lost in law, my children is doing it. My younger daughter is going to Cambridge to do law. I can say confidently that what I could not do, my children are doing it. What law lost, estate management gained.
Do you have children in Estate Management Profession?
I have one of my children, who is practicing in England, he is an Estate Surveyor and Valuer. I have my second daughter, who studied Estate Management but is working in the Ministry of Justice in London. She decided to go and work in the ministry but she studied Estate Management. I have one of my sons reading Estate Management in University of Lagos. I have one that finished last year; he studied Estate Management in Yaba College of Technology. There are some of them those other programmes, like town planning that want to do estate management. At least three of my children studied Estate Management.
Are you fulfilled?
Yes, I am fulfilled because starting from the scratch and getting to the position of the president of the institution is a great achievement and then to cap it all, being the chairman of the regulatory body of the profession, that is the highest you can go. I also have the singular honour of being the president of all the professional bodies of Nigeria (APBN) for two years, the association of professional bodies of Nigerians with membership of 27 professional bodies in Nigeria. I was the president of the body for two years and then to cap it all, I am the current chairman of board of trustees (APBN). There is nothing higher than that. There is no other thing I aspire to be again.
There are challenges especially in some aspects of the profession like valuation. In Nigeria, you donâ€™t have database on which you can do a reasoned and objective valuation. Most of it comes from experience not as we have in developed countries. In developed countries, where I practiced a number of years, you have a database, where you tap from not guess work. In Nigeria, most of the young surveyors are doing guess works. If you tell them to come and defend what they have done they cannot defend it but in developed countries, you have enough basis for arriving at an opinion or action in valuation. Then in Education, in Polytechnics and Universities where programmes in Estate management are offered, you have challenge. People are not prepared to go and teach, to impact knowledge because of this some years ago, I started a programme called train the trainer programme. Some of the lecturers are still in the analogue age, what I want to do is to bring them to the modern digital age. We have done this twice now. We did it in 2014 and last year and we are doing it come September this year. Whether you are a professor or assistant lecturer in the Polytechnic or in the University, we bring them together to teach them, so that they can go back and be better teachers. We have done that to improve the standard of teaching in our tertiary institutions. The Regulatory Board has taken it as one of the agendas for the period of the current board so that they must train the trainers. This is one of the things we are pursuing vigorously.
Benefits of ESVARBON
The board was set up by Decree No 27 of 1975, about 43 years ago to regulate the practice of estate surveying and valuation in all aspects and ramification throughout the length and breadth of Nigeria. That is apart from looking at the practice and the standards in order to upgrade it from time to time. For about 43 years, we have only been able to register 443 people in a population of over 170 million people. So one of the objectives of the current board is to increase substantially the number of people registered to practice the profession in the country. We are doing it and it is not easy because some members in the profession are parochial and myopic. They want to slow down instead of accelerating and we want to prevent that.
We want to increase the numbers because when you are talking of lawyers, you can see the numbers and the impacts in the society. When you are talking about accountants, before they used to have very few Chartered Accountants but now, you have thousands of Chartered Accountants. We want it to be the same way in the profession. It is not going to be easy but we have to start somewhere because there is so much to do in the profession. 4,000 people cannot handle them. If you talk of renting valuation alone, 4000 cannot handle it. If you talk of project valuation, 4000 people cannot handle it, so is capital gains valuation; the assessment of capital gains for the purpose of taxing people. 4000 cannot handle it. Then, there are compensation cases all over the country, land matters not to talk of Agency, Office Management and Facility Management and so on. So, we need more of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.
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Culled from The Guardian Newspaper, August 15, 2016