Surveying Is The Bedrock Of Any Meaningful And Sustainable Development – Oyegbola

Surv. Akinloye Oyegbola, FNIS is the 20th president of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors and former secretary-general of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria. In this interview with Makinde Oluwarotimi, he speaks on the nature of the surveying profession, its challenges among other things.
Can you please tell us about the NIS?
The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) is the umbrella institution of all surveyors in Nigeria, be it the private sector, government or academia. The institution started as an association in 1934, which puts it among the oldest professional bodies in the country. Then, it was operating under the name, Licensed Surveyors Association with the nationalist, Sir Herbert Macaulay as the leader and in 1960, its name was changed to Land Surveyors Association of Nigeria, under the leadership of Late Surv. C.T. Olumide. In 1960, at the conference in Enugu, the present name of the Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) was adopted and Surv. C.T. Olumide was elected as the first president of the NIS. So, my being the 20th president, takes its count from the 1960 election and not the 1934 foundation year. I studied Surveying Engineering in Bulgaria and returned in 1983 with a second degree M.sc. I have lectured for six years on full time and 23 years on part time basis (gratis) at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Nigeria. I lectured for 23 years on part time basis free of charge because, apart from lecturing, I always liked to impart knowledge into my students about life which would definitely be useful to them outside the four walls of the institution and I did not want to be asked to leave the job by the authorities because of issues like lack of funds. I stopped lecturing when I became the deputy president of NIS in 2014.
The institution has, among its goals and objectives, to represent generally, the views of surveyors in Nigeria and the profession as a whole. It also has among its objectives to see to the welfare of members of the institution; to see to the integrity of the profession and enhance its status and to try as much as possible to provide and support different media for training of surveyors, maintaining high standard in the practice of the profession and to see to it that the interaction with the government is cordial so as to be able to advise on legislative matters that may concern the profession. The institution also tries to maintain cordiality among members and between its members and other surveyors in other parts of the world. The institution is a member of the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) which is the umbrella association of all government recognised professional bodies in Nigeria.
 
Can you tell us about the challenges being faced by the Survey Profession in Nigeria?
One major challenge of the profession is its peculiarity which is that it doesn’t advertise itself and because of that, people know very little of what surveying and mapping are all about because it is primarily a service profession. For instance, nobody tells a toddler who a doctor or a nurse is because as one, he or she had to run away from injection because of the awareness of who a nurse or a doctor is. So, he or she will grow up to know that there is a profession called Medicine or Nursing. So, when we see edifices, we ask ourselves of the architect that drew its plan, nobody will even ask who the structural engineer is that made it stand. That is the peculiarity to it. It is the beauty and aesthetics that we see and we are interested and looking for the architect, maybe, somewhere down the line, it may be the architect that will start looking for the structural engineer that will make it stand, that’s the peculiarity. When we see a bridge that is standing and allowing vehicles to go and the beauty of it is appreciated, then we see it as an engineering masterpiece, like the third mainland bridge. But nobody asks who made the columns stand the way they did to carry those beams and slabs. It’s the surveyor, you don’t construct a road without a surveyor. Even when you conceived that you wanted to construct a road, who brought those two settlements you want to link to your table for your design? It is the surveyor that had done the preliminary work by preparing that plan or map for you. So, whatever you do in form of alignment was because you had seen where rivers, mountains are and the nature of the terrain between the two settlements that you are interested in, that is what really made the alignment easy for you. Also, if it was the surveyor that brought those two settlements to your table, he is the same person that will take that paper and now go to establish those things you have put on paper on the ground. And by the time you do your pavement design and you want to maintain particular heights here and there, some thicknesses and the rest, it’s still the surveyor that has to be on the site to make sure that there is strict adherence to the design. So, while the engineer could be off and on at the construction site, the surveyor cannot be, he needs to be there permanently to see to it that those heights are being maintained and so on. Surveying is the bedrock of any meaningful and sustainable development, be it engineering, seismic exploration, exploitation of the minerals, whether solid minerals or crude oil, the surveyors are there right at the seismic level because, at the end of the day, you can’t guide yourself, how do you know where to discover the large quantity? Surveying is about positions and positioning. So, you have surveying in all facets of the economy but people know very little about it because he does these things quietly.
 
Can you tell us about your plans and goals for the institution?
One major aspect is publicity, awareness drives and enlightenment programs that will let people know what surveyors have done in the past, what they are doing and what they will continue to do. You can’t do without them, only that they are silent performers, what they do is not obvious but there can’t be any construction done without surveying. Recently, I made a press release concerning the erroneous bombing of an IDP camp, people may not know that the person that did the bombing must have been using a map prepared by a surveyor but it was not updated. Who would have guided him? When you are moving from one point to the other, it is only the surveyor that can guide you, whether you are on the water, or in the air, even when you are going into weightlessness, because we studied astronomy so that we can guide up there too. So, the map that he used for that trip was not updated because he couldn’t have been airborne without a map, and no one else prepares maps except the surveyor, especially when you are flying, it is a different ball game from moving on the ground (road). When flying, you can only be guided by the person who has studied the earth, its forces and its immediate environment. So, the map you prepare for someone who wants to fly is different from the one you will prepare for someone who wants to navigate on the waters and no other person can prepare those maps except the surveyor who has and will continue to study the earth so that he can represent it very well for those who want to move around on it. So, obviously, he would have travelled with a map prepared by a surveyor, but if he had updated it at the rate at which it was supposed to have been done, then he would have had the IDP camp on the map that he used. So, he couldn’t have bombed it if it was on the map already. That is what we are talking about, that we don’t have enough of these maps. The maps are in three categories, the small scale, medium and the large scale maps. Even the small scale maps that can cover a very large area at a time, have not covered the whole of Nigeria, talk less of the medium or large scale. The large scale maps are the ones we use for construction and the rest of them. So, you can see how unmapped Nigeria is and it’s always said that the most mapped countries are the most developed ones, and that’s why the U.N recommended that countries should be spending two percent of their annual budget on mapping because that is part of the cost of a sustainable development. Even the ones that are being done, are not well coordinated to give the maximum result at the level of utilisation. Now, because of the level of advancement in technology, everyone now is a mapper. And, what they don’t realise is that there is a difference between a line drawn under technical drawing and the one drawn by an artist. People produce maps now and they are lines drawn by artists, you can never reproduce them. A line drawn by an artist can never be reproduced by the same artist but a technically drawn line, will be reproduced a hundred or a million times with its properties. This is because a line drawn by an artist, at every point, has its radius of curvature and for that reason, he can never get that particular line again. If he draws another, it is a different line, the same thing with a curve, if an artist draws a curve, he can never draw another one like that but he can draw a different curve. But if I want to draw a curve, I only need to give myself the radius with which I want to draw the curve and you can tell me how long you want it, and I will reproduce it a million times because it has its radius, it has its properties. So, maps with lines drawn by artists, even though they look okay, you can’t measure anything on them accurately. You can’t be sure of the distance it is talking about; you can’t fly with it or navigate on the sea with such, because you will get lost.
Also, our aim is to continue to ensure harmony and understanding among the different organs of the institution. For example, when I became president, I had to visit 80 percent of our branches in the country. I took the administration to them, allowed them to ask questions so as to diffuse any wrong orientation and concepts they already had, and at the end, we were able to make them understand why NIS needs to be there, that it is not just for subscription payment and this has helped increase their level of participation.
 
How do we ensure unity and close working relationship among all the professional bodies in Nigeria?
The Association of Professional Bodies in Nigeria is thriving in that area. It has been able to bring the leadership of these professional bodies together. Some years ago, when I was the secretary general, there was a misunderstanding between ICAN and the Chartered Institute of Taxation over taxation, but the issue was properly handled. Also, in the past, if I can recall, attendance at board meetings used to be just a few presidents but now, we have nearly a full house in attendance which shows that, over the years, its leadership has tried to let the leadership of the professional bodies see the impact that the body can make, though, there is still room for improvement.
 
 
Source: Features

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