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Foreign practitioners must show respect for local Architects – NIA chairman

Set to checkmate foreign incursion into its territory, the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos Chapter has begun extensive audit of all projects going on in the state.

This is specifically to ensure that no foreign counterpart practices in Nigeria without fully complying with the International Union of Architects (UIA) Professional Practice Accord, and where deliberate disobedience to the pact is found, necessary steps may be taken to put an end to it.

In Nigeria, all architects belong to a body known as Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA).  The professional group has a body, Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), which is empowered by law to regulate the practice of architecture in the country.

To this end, ARCON is empowered to license any foreign practitioner, before he or she is allowed to engage in any business of architecture in Nigeria.

Precisely, by Decree No. 10 of 1969, CAP 20, Laws of the Federation, the professional body stamps the project, checks whether any foreign architect is authorized to practice, requests proof that the architect is authorized, and whether he or she has a license, which he/she may have to present if requested.

Notwithstanding, it has been observed that the rate at which foreign partners carry on the business of architecture in Nigeria without complying with the Accord is worrisome and for that reason, local professionals are now taking censors of all on-going projects in Lagos.

Speaking with The Guardian last week in his office, Chairman, Lagos NIA, Mr. Ladi Lewis decried the rate of foreign professionals’ incursion into the country, saying the Institute at least, the Lagos Chapter had commence in depth study of all projects in the state.

He said: “The issue of foreign professionals’ incursion into our space without meeting the requisite condition is worrisome and we at the Lagos State Chapter have decided to resist this.  It is so bad that a lot of people are coming into the country doing whatever they like.”

According to him, “There are extant laws that guide our practice in foreign countries.  The International Union of Architects Accord, popularly known as UIA Accord on Recommended International Standards of Professionalism in Architectural Practice, which clearly specifies that you cannot go practice in another country, without complying with their rules.  What we see all around today when foreigners come into our country without complying with our laws is illegality, and such could not be allowed in their country”, Lewis bemoaned.

Citing instances, the NIA chairman said it is forbidden for an American architect to practice in Mexico without engaging a Mexican architect, adding that, one of the highpoints of the Accord is capacity or knowledge transfer, which does not allow imposter of foreign design on the locals.      According to him, Lewis said the Accord says foreign practitioners must show respect for local architects.

“What we find in our country is more of foreign content designs, which are extremely expensive.  We are not saying we don’t want partnership, what we are saying is that, foreign architects must respect the local counterparts.”

To therefore sensitize his group, Lewis said this issue would be focus of discussion during its next conference during which the Accord would be distributed and both ARCON and NIA are expected to state their demands based on the document.

Being mindful of the fact that the issue goes beyond Lagos architects, Lewis said he believes his team should do more to initiate the move with facts and figures, which cannot be controverted.

“With the Accord, we have the power to report such foreign professionals to the International Body and their own institutes.  We can also sue them either in Nigeria or their country.  In some cases, you find that what they give the client is totally out of place, too ridiculously low to what is expected.  There is his particular one I had to wade in and after the fourth review, our position was finally accepted.

“Currently there is a fact committee to review the document, with a mandate to look at all the projects in Lagos, list them and the firms involved and do our analysis in line with our laws.  Yes, this is a national issue, but we are kick-starting at least to ensure we have our facts in place and after which, we shall send our report to the national body, which would be expected to intimate the UIA.”

Apart from sending its report to its national body, the Chairman revealed that he dreams when there would a law in Lagos State that would address the issue.

“I am also considering the option of sending our report to the State’s House of Assembly for possible law to be enacted at least in Lagos.  Yes, it is true that governments at various levels also flaunt this Accord.  It is assumed that, they do not know and that is why we want to give more publicity and awareness to the Accord.”

He added that, the fact-finding team is expected to wrap up it report on or before the end of this month.

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