OBAFEMI Onashile is a former Chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, NIQS. He has also held the positions of Publicity Secretary of the chapter, Secretary, International Affairs of the NIQS and is currently the Vice President, (West Africa) Association of Africa Quantity Surveyors, AAQS. Onashile who is also the Managing Partner of Consol Associates spoke to Jude Njoku
Consol’s merger with other firms
This is the sixth year after the merger of Consol, Group Q and Aderonke Oyelami & Partners. It has been wonderful six years and the firm has grown from strength to strength. The firm is now a practice of 28 staff and four full-fledged offices in four locations in Nigeria. We have the Lekki head office, the Lagos Island office, Abuja office and Kaduna office, all fully operational and manned by a partner. We also have a branch or an operational base that we are using to service LNG in Bonny/Port Harcourt. But that is not a full-fledged office. I am also happy to say that we have gone beyond Nigeria, we are now operating in Ghana. Beyond Ghana, we are also looking at Rwanda because we hear that Rwanda is business friendly and encouraging international businesses into their country. We have a couple of friends that are operating there and we are looking at Rwanda and some other countries in West Africa.
Why the merger in an era when people prefer independence?
We merged six years ago, so, we are not just doing it now. What we saw ahead was a more fierce competition for plum jobs in our country. Like I said earlier, Nigeria is yet to experience real estate development per se. What we have been having uptil now is like a child’s play. We are going to be having projects worth 250 million dollars, 800 million dollars, one billion dollars, four billion dollars. We are talking about establishing refineries, building new international airports and international rail stations, e.t.c..
Those are big infrastructure projects and to play in the field, we must have a formidable organisation. We saw that ahead and that was one of the reasons we decided to merge, that is, put our forces together and be able to compete internationally. We have a practice with six full-time partners, not part time partners. We have the capacity to run projects simultaneously and even big sized projects.
Secondly , we needed some further expertise. For instance, my core competence now is turn-around project management, that is, if you feel that your project is going bad, call us in. But we also need expertise in dispute and conflict resolution and that is where Chief Odumosu’s services are needed.
Chief Odumosu was the first quantity surveyor to be a qualified chartered arbitrator and he has done quite a lot of arbitration resolutions locally and internationally. In order to enhance our capacity in that area, we said we can partner with Chief and be able to offer that kind of service to the public and I must say we have had a couple of nice arbitration experiences that our clients were very pleased with. I couldn’t have done it. Likewise also, Mrs Oyelami’s experience in construction especially with engineering is bringing in a lot of goodwill for us in terms of engineering cost management.
She is in charge of the Engineering Cost Management in Consol and since the merger, we have done a lot of jobs in engineering cost management, one of the reasons we are servicing LNG in engineering projects. So, enhancing our capacity is another reason for the merger.
Thirdly, in order to manage many more locations. We are talking about international competition where our competitors are operating in 20 -25 countries at the same time, operating in three to four continents at the same time.
If we want to compete with this kind of people, we must also build up our capacity to be able to operate in more than one country and have partners. We just must come together and build up bigger profile in order to adequately compete internationally. This is why we felt we needed the merger and I must say we intend to still merge with more firms – quantity surveyors, engineers and architects It is a pointer to the current direction in our industry.
Looking at a consortium of firms?
It is not a consortium of firms but a multi-disciplinary firm. That way,we are able to offer many disciplines, many vocations rather than bringing in three or four firms and saying we have joint venture. Joint venture might come in, depending on the project but we are not averse to having joint ventures.
But ultimately, we still need to build up Consol to a firm that will have over one hundred staff and also operating and making profits in about five or six countries within the next three years. So, we have a challenge ahead of us.
You said we have not started real estate in Nigeria. Can you explain?
Take a look at Dubai, Saudi Arabia, United States, China. These guys develop a city at a time. A city is just one project in their own parlance. You are talking of developing over one thousand houses. We are talking of projects worth two to four billion dollars. We are talking about nuclear reactors worth one to two billion dollars, that is the kind of projects we are talking about.
The one we can say looks like a big project is the Rainbow Project in Port Harcourt. Go and check it out, it is dogged with so many issues. To me, it is a teething problem we will overcome but that is the magnitude of projects we should be looking forward to having. Another example is setting up a university. We are talking of setting up something like University of Ife brand new. It is a project that will have so many buildings, infrastructure and those are the kind of developments that Nigeria needs to build up its infrastructure.
AAQS is the association put together by some national association of quantity surveyors in order to look after the affairs of quantity surveying profession across Africa. AAQS is an association that has institutions as members not individuals. I am currently the vice president for the west region.
I oversee the west region of Africa in helping to enhance quantity surveying practice in the region. Part of what I am doing is to expand the influence of quantity surveying in West Africa, so we are bringing in more countries into AAQS and that way, spreading QS profession across the entire Africa. In another couple of weeks, I will be going to Gambia for exploratory talks with quantity surveyors in that country.