EXCLUSIVE! Architects In Crisis As NIA, ARCON Registration War Gets Messier

(L) President, Nigerian Institute of Architects, Arc. Tonye Braide; (R) President, Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Arc. Umaru Aliyu
  • Hundreds Of Arhitects Denied License To Practice
  • As NIA Says ARCON Seeks To Usurp Its Powers
  • ‘I Cannot Be Intimidated By Allegations’ – ARCON President
  • Fashola Accused Of Complacency Over Feud

By ‘Dotun Akintomide

As the registration war between the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) and Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) continues, over who is qualified to carry out pre-registration evaluation for Architects in the country, Nigerian Architects have been thrown into a state of quandary forcing them to sit on a precipice following the issuance of two counter-directives by both bodies at the peak of the practice and regulation of architecture in the country.

Private investigation by the The New Diplomat reveals that the registration saga which borders on who has the statutory powers to evaluate and register would-be professional Architects in the country has been in the cooler for a while now, until a recent directive advertised in the Guardian Newspaper of Monday June 5, 2017, page 46 by ARCON asking Architects seeking license to practice as registered Architects in Nigeria to apply for a certain Architects Competence Programme (ACP 1.0), a directive seen by the Institute, as an affront and encroachment on its statutory functions and responsibilities as the body saddled with the evaluation of Architects in the country as part of registration and licensing process.

According to the ARCON directive in the advert signed by its Registrar, Arc. Umar Murnai, Thursday June 8, 2017 was announced as the closing date for all application entries, despite the fact that it was a mere 3-day pre-notice. It was further gathered that in its bid to quickly round-off the application process, ARCON also relaxed certain provisions like recommendation by licensed Architects which is a prerequisite in the registration of incoming Architects.  This, it was learnt caused confusion among interested applicants leading to only 8 persons applying for the said evaluation program, as many decided to stay aloof owing to the degradation of a otherwise serious process.

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In a rejoinder issued by the NIA and published in the Guardian Newspaper of Thursday June 8, 2017 which coincided with the application’s closing date for the said ACP 1.0 as announced by ARCON, the Institute (NIA) kicked at ARCON’s disregard of the Architects Registration Act CAP A19 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, which stipulates the roles to be played by both the Institute and the Council (ARCON) on matters pertaining to registration of Architects.

According to Section 7 (Registration of Architects), Sub-section 5c of the Law, a person shall be registered if he satisfies the Council (ARCON) “that he (applicant) has passed the Professional Practice Competence Examination conducted by the Institute (NIA).”

In the rejoinder jointly signed by the NIA President, Arc. Tonye Oliver Braide and the Honorary General Secretary, Arc. (Mrs.) Abimbola Ajayi, NIA condemned ARCON’s directive saying, “the contents of the advert are mischievous, misleading and a contravention of the provisions of the above cited condition in the Law.

Stating further, NIA noted that the ACP 1.0 was alien to the LFN 2004 Act CAP A19 saying it must have been ‘a smuggled insertion’.  It cautioned that since, “there has been no amendment of, or addendum to the ARCON ACT CAP A19 which recognises or legitimizes the stated insertion tagged ACP 1.0, ARCON should desist from this illegal act and its continuous disregard, infraction, abuse, flouting of the Architects Registration Act CAP A19 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria which is the very Law from which the Council (ARCON) derives its existence, powers and functions and which only the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria can amend.”

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But, amidst the skirmish, it remains an irony of some sorts that these two bodies at the apex of the Architectural Practice in the country have failed to reach a point of convergence in the interest of the nation. According to findings, NIA currently has over 350 fully registered members whom ARCON has refused to issue Practice Licences on grounds which some leading architects in the country believe were baseless and rather petty.  “This is at variance with the thrust of the present administration to mobilize our maximum professional capacity in the interest of national development,” says an architecture professional.

Sources allegedly revealed to The New Diplomat that the brewing crisis has its deep root in the staunch determination by the NIA Executives to get the Institute off the hook of ARCON’s overbearing influence which dates back to several years. “For 20 years, they made life difficult for members who wanted to register as licensed Architects through the imposition of several hurdles, bottlenecks and estoppels without regard to the national demand profile for Architects which resulted in a continuous paucity of professional capacity.  Nigeria, over those years, became the highway for incompetent and unprofessional practice and incursion of foreign Architects leading to massive capital flight and total denigration of installed capacity to develop local content.

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“Members had been compelled to unnecessary self-serving worship of certain cabal in ARCON who believe they own Architecture in Nigeria, but these current NIA executives emerged through an overwhelming endorsement at a General Assembly without seeking obeisance of this cabal, there was a deep resistance to stop the winds of change and remain in the retrogression of the past.

“We were informed that it has been a constitutionally backed practice for years that before any Architect can become registered by ARCON, he must have passed the Professional Practice Examinations conducted by the NIA. The name of the candidate was transmitted to ARCON, who upon receipt of the candidates’ direct application, placed him in the register of Architects and issues a Practice Licence.

“The procedure had always been a two-legged process, but due to lack of control on the segment which fell within NIA’s ambit, ARCON decided to renege on registering full members qualified through the Professional Practice Examinations and rather instituted an operating template alien to the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria,” says the source who preferred to remain anonymous because of the feisty nature of the ensuing issues.

Following sundry investigations into the reasons for the crisis, another source alleged that the over-reaching influence of the current President of ARCON, Arc. Umaru Aliyu who has refused to step down for the past 12 years, has continued to throw the Institute into chaos with his plans aimed at usurping the powers of NIA.

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He further said, the ARCON President, who has served four terms in office and was once a  President of NIA, has become hellbent in his plan to perpetuate himself in office.

“He has been serving as the ARCON President for the past 12 years. Ordinarily, he shouldn’t have spent more than 3 years according to the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, Chapter A19, but he has been maneuvering his way back into the system for years. And even though, he’s going to extend his tenure, he will need to tender a letter from the Honorable Minister overseeing the Ministry of Works and Housing to that effect, but since that time, we have not seen any letter from him and he has perfected his ways through about 6 Ministers that have served in that Ministry without being called to order. He has continued to hold on to that position with sheer impunity.”

“This same man has been in the Admissions Committee and Education Board of the institute (NIA) for more than 2 decades, but when the current NIA administration dropped him from the Committees, he retaliated by failing to allow ARCON register all those who sat for the September 2016 NIAPPE and March 2017  NIAPPE, claiming he does not recognize the NIA Education Board and that it was not properly constituted, despite being a member of the same board before now; and he is a current member of the NIA Council who was present at the meetings where the Education Board was constituted and reports on proceedings of examinations were presented and approved,” he alleged.

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Further findings show that registration bottlenecks which have characterized Architects’ registration process in the country mostly contributed to the NIA being only able to register just 4000 Architects in the country since 57 years of its creation, a largely dismissal figure for a nation with a population of over 180 million people and a housing deficit well over 20 million units.

“But the current executives in 18 months of their assumption of office registered close to 500 new members fully. Having noticed this, the ARCON President in trying to mitigate against this salient milestone, decided to do everything in parallel with NIA, and conducted 45 minutes objective tests to superintend over NIA’s 12-hour Professional Practice Examinations.  Anybody not bowing to this 45-minute test was considered not qualified to practice Architecture in Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is pertinent to note that the test conducted by ARCON cannot be found anywhere in the ARCON Law Cap A19 LFN and neither have the test been gazetted by the Federal Government. This action therefore could be considered nebulous, out of merit and with the intent to truncate the propulsion of a progressive government towards meeting its objectives and promises to the Nigerian people,” he added.

While referring to the Guardian Newspaper of Thursday June 15, 2017 he said, “Fashola just reconstituted newly, the Board of the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN) in his office on Wednesday June 14,  2017.  What is the Minister of Works and Housing doing on the reconstitution of the Board of ARCON?  The constitution of the ARCON Board and QSRBN have traditionally moved together. Initially, the files were equally being given pari-passu treatment. Why is there a divergence at this moment? Or is the ARCON file missing in his Ministry? Something definitely is amiss.

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In a bid to get reaction to the damning allegations made against the Architect Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) and its President, The New Diplomat contacted the ARCON President, Arc. Umaru Aliyu via his mobile line, but he declined comment on the matter saying he was not ready to react to the matter. Aliyu said he cannot be intimidated with the allegations raised against him.

His words: “Please, I don’t talk to people on phone, I don’t talk to people I don’t know, do whatever you like about any allegation. I cannot be intimidated, I’m not going to react to anything.”

However, construction experts have succinctly said that, for the Federal Government, alongside State Governments and Private Sector Players to actualize their dream of reducing housing and other infrastructural deficit in the country, all contentious issues between NIA and ARCON, must be set aside, and the extant laws and constitution governing both bodies must be respected, so as not to stifle growth in a sector that is still struggling to shake-off the debilitating effects of economic recession in the country.

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