If we ask Nigerians the meaning of maintenance, it is plausible to expect majority jump into answering the question without a clear understanding. Whilst many may claim to understand, they rarely practice what they know. This explains why Nigerians spend millions in building or buying an edifice but consider a few hundreds of thousand on maintenance as waste of hard earned money.An arbitrary statistics will show that more than half of the Nigerian population does not really understand the importance of facility management. Our lack of understanding in this regard is reflective of our poor maintenance culture, collectively as a nation and individually. Dilapidated national structures that should have been national monuments are replete everywhere. Our federal secretariat in Ikoyi is a worthy national embarrassment that must not be shown to our kids. The National Theatre in Iganmuthat should have been a tourist attraction is best described as the “shame of a nation”. We spent billions on building stadia across the country and all of them have become comfy habitats for reptiles and other species of the animal kingdom. We only remember to renovate when the Super Eagles have a friendly match against the Black Stars of Ghana or another footballing nation. Ours is a country that can spend billions on erecting a structure but fails to pay millions for the management and maintenance of the building. We are a nation where people would rather wait for the bulbs in their rooms to go off before they are replaced, yet the same bulbs have expiry date written on them. Who even bothers to check the expiry date on goods in Nigeria except for consumables? That is our reality as a nation.
This bad culture is visible in virtually all sectors of the economy. It is why our airports have remained the way they are. It is why we have decrepit vehicles moving human lives from one location to the other. And this is ultimately responsible for the struggle of the facility management industry in Nigeria. Whenever facility management is mentioned in Nigeria, many erroneously think about cleaning services which is actually the most basic aspect of the business. Yet it is a big industry in developed world contributing hugely to the overall economy. For instance, the European facility management market alone is now estimated to be worth €640 billion and ranging from 5-8% of GDP in individual countries, while the global market is estimated to grow to $US1.3 trillion by 2018. Apart from major companies that have departments responsible for managing their facilities, not many Nigerians see this as an important element of building and general living. Perhaps if our government had recognised the important role of facility management in nation building, our structures would not become dilapidated so easily. Perchance, the BRT buses we spend billions of naira purchasing would not become decrepit only after three years of usage.
This is where the existing facility management companies and institutions should intervene in increasing the awareness for the importance of managing both national and individual facilities. There is need for a change of orientation and approach to the way we manage our properties in Nigeria. We have already admitted that our maintenance culture is poor and shameful, but there is every room for change. Now we are spending billions constructing new rail lines in an effort to improve the transportation in the country, but we currently have many rail lines that no longer function due to bad maintenance and management. All this can be corrected if our government will incorporate facility management into every project that is being executed in collaboration with private companies that possess the competence. It should not be difficult to pay 50million naira for a company to maintain a road that was constructed with 50 billion naira. Rather than saddling the Federal Road Maintenance Agency, FERMA, or Public Works Bureau with the responsibility to maintain our roads, competent facility managers may do a better job. We should not wait till a road becomes completely impassable before we commission a company to rehabilitate and reconstruct. This can be factored into the construction of the road by commissioning a management company from the outset to maintain the road. And the same philosophy should apply to every project the government executes.
This also calls for the importance of government regulation. The industry seems to have remained unregulated with the influx of many supposed facility management companies that are basically into cleaning services employing all kinds of people that cannot even interpret the composition of the chemical they work with. Facility management should be seen as a service for only the big corporations, our nation can utilise their service to sustain our infrastructures.