The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) is set to walk their talk and make a bold statement with a planned establishment of a light industrial park in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
This is the first initiative by any professional body in the country to take decisive steps to practice what they preach.
The resolve by the NIA to establish the park was disclosed by the institute’s President, Tonye Oliver Braide, recently in Lagos, at a press conference to unveil their forthcoming West Africa Architecture Festival.
The maiden West African Architecture Festival would hold from October 24 to 28 at Obi Wali International Conference Centre, Port Harcourt and has the theme, ‘Harnessing the Great African Potential in Global Value Chain’.
Already, the institute is in talks with the Rivers State Government to acquire a piece of land, measuring 100 hectares on which the light the industrial park would be built, said Braide, who had with him other members of NIA, including the Chairman of Rivers Chapter, Dike Emmanuel, who is the chairman, local organising committee; the General Secretary of the institute, Abimbola Ajayi; and its Chairman, Student Affairs, David Majekodunmi.
According to Braide, the idea of building a light industrial park for the manufacturing and production of basic components of housing construction and fitting emanated from the fact that there was need to look inwards as the economy shrinks. “With the economic depression that we have, a time has come for us to start to reorganise ourselves in the comity of nations. We want to bring some of the resources that we have to be able to domesticate some of our industries’ products, particularly architectural products,” he said.
A lot of products used in finishing of houses, he said are sourced outside the country, adding that this was putting a squeeze on the nation’s foreign reserves.
He said the squeeze would worsen with the federal government’s plan to increase the nation’s housing stock within a short time, but that products from their proposed industrial park would save the nation’s foreign exchange.
“We are saying that if we have to house our people and develop, then we must be able to manufacture or, at least, domesticate the process. This will give us revenue, put our youths to work, it will part of the template that we will have to use to come out of the recession. So, Architects have decided to take the bull by the horn, in our own little way,” he said.
Architects, Braide said are involved in the building of beautiful houses and that they have decided that the architectural components of these houses should be domesticated; “we should be able to manufacture everything in a house, up to a hundred per cent local content. Architects want to develop a critical mass to see how we can contribute to national development with this festival.”
The maiden West African Architecture Festival is broken into various components, according to Braide. “There will be presentation from international and local experts in the building industry.”
Confirmed speakers include, Demas Nwoko, a Nigerian artist, designer and architect; Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese of Catholic Church; Remment Lucas “Rem” Koolhaas, a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist and Professor in practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, among others.
The sub-themes are; ‘Best Practices in Developing Green Architecture in the West African sub-region’; History and Culture as Drivers for Future Growth; and ‘The Growth Dynamics of the West African sub region’.
Braide said there would be an exhibition of the works of various architects and cultural artifacts, as well as buildings of good repute across West Africa.
Guests and participants will be entertained by cultural troupes and display throughout the seven days of the festival, according to the chairman of the Local Organising Committee Dike Emmanuel, who said Port Harcourt is safe. “The Rivers State Government has given its backing to this project; let no one deceive you that Rivers State is not safe, because it is safe.”
He said people go about their business day and night without being disturbed but that the government will put everything in place to secure life and property during the festival.
Student architects have a place in the event, said the Chairman, Students Affairs, David Majekodunmi, who explained that there is an on-going competition among them that would produce winners at the festival.