Segun Adebayo, the 11th President of the International Facility Management Association, (IFMA) Nigeria Chapter, tells Bennett Oghifo how they offered the federal government free sustainability consulting on the National Theatre edifice and on other projects of such stature
IFMA has been in Nigeria since 1995, what are those things the association has done to enhance the practice in the country?
The founding members of the Association started in 1995 but got the Association incorporated in February 1997. Therefore, in the eye of the law, we will be 25 years of impactful existence by next year. Within those 25 years of valuable existence, we have, in line with our objective, changed the narratives of knowledge development and capacity building in Nigeria, having trained several people and certified about 825 people from 2005 with foreign certifications of FMP and CFM respectively. Our strategic collaborations in the enhancement of the practice in the Industry through academic knowledge further gave birth to the introduction of Masters of Science in Facility Management by the University of Lagos. We have also, as a proactive Association, continued to deepen our relevance through advocacy and strategic engagement with stakeholders towards a better Facility Management Industry while our impact through collaboration with relevant public institutions, professional organizations, and organized private sector to deliver knowledge and capacity-driven environment have also enhanced growth of the industry.
With the state of infrastructure decay in Nigeria, what are the steps taken by IFMA to address such societal challenge?
IFMA has always been a strong advocate on the urgent need by the relevant stakeholders to address the challenges of infrastructural decay in Nigeria and I think our efforts are yielding steady and gradual positive results. Beyond our continuous engagement with the appropriate public institution, we have also been part of policy development at the federal level, even as we also collaborated with Lagos State Government through the pioneer agency in Facility Management in Nigeria, Lagos State Infrastructure and Asset Management Agency (LASIAMA) through strategic alliances and capacity building. An example of one of our several steps was our reaction to the collaborative initiative adopted by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Lagos State Government and Bankers Committee on the revamp of National Theater, Iganmu, Lagos. We did commend the federal government on this laudable initiative and further advised that such initiatives should be extended to other federal government’s properties. We equally offered to provide free “sustainability consulting” on the project and others in the nearest future.
In the private sector, many people assume that Facility Management is largely at the level of janitorial services, what are you doing to correct this impression?
Facility Management, as defined by IFMA, “is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety, and efficiency of the built environment, by integrating people, place, process, and technology.” Beyond the definition that clearly shows that FM is beyond janitorial, IFMA also has 11 core competencies, such as communication, Project Management, Operation and Maintenance, Business Continuity, and Emergency Preparedness, amongst others. Those competencies are the guides to an effective operating model and framework in the industry in line with global best practice, As for us, we are committed to the advocacy and orientation of the public on their assumption that FM is all about janitorial services. Indeed, Facility Management goes beyond janitorial services in all ramifications.
Last year changed the game for many industries. What are the ways in which FM was affected and what were the challenges and the new lessons learned from the pandemic?
Just like every other business interest, the COVID-19 pandemic equally has its impact on the FM sector in Nigeria, although the severity of the impact is debatable. According to the industry operator, at the height of the pandemic where the nation experienced total lockdown, the integrated services of facility managers were still required by FCMG, Pharmaceuticals, Health sectors, amongst others, to ensure their continued operations while other sectors operating skeletal also required the services but at a reduced pace. The challenges faced by all also vary amongst the industry players. However, most of the industry players/operators applied the principle of the “Business Continuity and Emergency Preparedness” concept, one of the Core Competence of Facility Management Practice, and adopt the same to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. IFMA, Nigeria Chapter also, during the period, commenced strategic advocacy through our monthly series of Knowledge Sharing Session where we virtually had conversations around the sustainability and value of FM during and after the pandemic. This is not to say that we did not learn some lessons. The practitioners did learn new ways of doing business and making the environment cleaner and safer; we equally learned how to integrate technology in making various aspects of the business work better. The lesson is endless if you ask me.
The theme for the 2021 World FM Day is “Celebrating FM- Standing tall beyond the pandemic.” What is your advice for fellow practitioners in the world of work post-pandemic?
My advice will stem from the need for all of us to learn from the experiences of the pandemic, especially when COVID–19 came in like a thief in the night. We should also exhibit those experiences as we move forward in the gradual return of work-life situation. The experiences of the year 2020 had shown that we need to be strategic in our ways and ensure that eventualities do not hinder us completely from performing our legitimate roles with all sense of duty. With our individual and collective experiences, practitioners have brought a difference to the built environment and ensuring that across all touch-points, FM practitioners are reckoned with and we stand tall at all times.
Facility Managers in Nigeria have various factions. What are the ways in which you want to deploy to unite them?
I do not agree we have various factions of Facility Managers in the country, maybe we should say we have different professional groups and associations with common or collective interest practice of Facility Managers. This is peculiar because the profession itself is multidisciplinary in nature and expectedly so we have various Associations in that space. However, most of us are working towards the betterment of the FM space but with a different ideology. As for us in IFMA, our efforts are centered around the healthy development of the Industry and continuous engagement cum advocacy among all the stakeholders, industry practitioners, and professionals towards the development of a robust and knowledge-driven facility management industry. This will eventually create the desired economy in the built environment with an attendant positive impact on the Nigerian economy.
In the area of up-skilling facility managers, what are the various efforts of the association in enhancing the knowledge base of the association?
We are positioned to deliver quality knowledge and capacity building to the interested public and stakeholders, pay special attention to research and development towards the growth of the built environment. We want to commence in earnest, Mentorship Development Initiative (MDI) for the younger ones who have great potentials in facility management and give back to society through our Corporate Social Responsibility agenda. In demonstrating the above, the Council of the Association recently visited the Faculty of Environmental Sciences of the University of Lagos, where we had conversations with academicians in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, led by Professor Modupe Omirin, HOD, Estate Management, on the critical review of our collective efforts towards the development of sustainable knowledge, learning and capacity building industry.
Is it possible to imbibe facility management skills into children from their early years?
Very possible. All we have to do is to expose them to keeping the environment clean and safe. Teach them some basics of Health and Safety; care of the environment; being responsible to the environment; taking charge of our spaces; landscaping amongst others. Our Mentorship Development Initiative (MDI) will provide platforms to harness their interest in a better-built environment.
What are the various strategies of the association in attracting and recruiting young persons into the association?
We have expanded our engagements to include students and create opportunities for student membership in the Association. The Mentorship Development Initiative (MDI) will also complement the inclusion of young ones into the Association. We really need to engage them now so that we can have a sustainable future in the industry and the Association.
As it is known in Nigeria, Facility Managers are usually engaged after construction has been concluded. At what point do you advise businesses to engage Facility Managers?
As a forward-thinking Association, we have been consistently advocating the involvement of Facility Managers from the inception of construction. This is very critical to the sustainability of the construction. The involvement of a Facility Manager at inception will also enhance the cost-effectiveness of the construction. We will continue to speak to this need especially when the builder or the contractor will definitely leave the site upon completion of the project.
What are the efforts in place to support Nigerian cities to become smart cities?
Innovation and technology are critical to the achievement of smart cities in Nigeria. We already have some success stories in the area of green buildings in Lagos. Interestingly, one of our core competencies is technology while the complementary platform to drive the success of smart cities is innovation around all the components of the same. Artificial Intelligence, the internet of things, amongst others, is the innovative technology we have advocated for the enhancement of the industry in line with global realities. Let me also mention here that, one of the series of our knowledge sharing sessions was dedicated to using technology as disruptive tools to achieve sustainable development and growth of the industry. The pandemic has also fast-tracked the adoption of technology as a critical and strategic tool to achieve a responsive and transformative industry.
His previous roles in IFMA Nigeria
Adebayo was first elected into the Council of the Association in 2015 as Publicity Secretary and served as publicity secretary for four years, vice president for two years before being elected as the 11th President in December 2020. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the private sector, having worked in Bank and Non-Bank financial institutions. He also had a stint with the public service when he was appointed as a Senior Special Assistant on Facility Management to the former Governor of Ogun State in 2017.