Surveying in Nigeria: Academic and Professional challenges

Jul 2023 | No Comment

This article has identified and grouped 6 challenges the Surveying profession is grappled with in order to ensure its future and survival

Godwill Tamunobiekiri Pepple

Department of Surveying and Geomatics, Faculty of Environmental Sciences Rivers State University Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Emilia Biobele West

Department of Surveying and Geomatics, Faculty of Environmental Sciences Rivers State University Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Precious Lenyie

Department of Surveying and Geomatics, Faculty of Environmental Sciences Rivers State University Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Amarachi Oteyi

Department of Surveying and Geomatics, Faculty of Environmental Sciences Rivers State University Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Brief history of surveying in Nigeria

The initiative of Surveying in Nigeria can be said to be as old as the country itself. Surveying as the name implies is the oldest tertiary professional course of study and one of the oldest organized professions practiced in the country (NIS, 2013). The Surveying profession plays a key role in physical, economic and developmental planning in Nigeria as the bedrock of every meaningful development (NIS, 2013). Training in surveying commenced locally in 1908 as a survey school which was the first post secondary school established in Lagos, Nigeria to meet the exigency of Surveying and mapping of the country (NIS, 2013; Kabir et al., 2022). Ayeni (1982) noted that the survey practice existed even before the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914. As at 1899 and 1900 survey departments existed in Lagos and Kaduna respectively whose major activities were mostly cadastral (Ayeni, 1982). The discovery of Coal at Udi in 1904 and Tin at Barkin Ladi in 1912 led to the establishment of two coal cities in Enugu and Port Harcourt and the Tin city of Jos, while the boom in agricultural activities in Kano provided the necessary rationale for carrying out cadastral surveys (Okoronkwo, 1984). The survey practice deals with geospatial or locational data which may be obtained from different sources including Earth orbital satellites, aircrafts and groundbased instruments. Furthermore, Ebong (1981) stated that the first system of survey level established in Nigeria was in 1891, while the first system of levelling for vertical controls in Nigeria started in 1920 and continued up to 1945 (Fajemirokun & Nwilo, 1990; Fajemirokun & Nwilo, 2000). Before regions were created in the early fifties, surveying in the country was under one umbrella known as Federal Surveys with sub-headquarters in Ibadan, Enugu, Kaduna and the headquarters in Lagos. The Nigeria Institution of Surveyors (NIS) is one of the oldest organized professional Bodies in Nigeria which started in 1934 as the “Licensed Surveyors Association” under the able leadership of the late Nationalist, Herbert Macaulay, in 1960, the name was changed to the “Land Surveyors Association of Nigeria” with the late Surv. C. T. Olumide as National Chairman. The current name “The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors” was adopted at the Enugu Conference in 1966 with the late Surv. C. T. Olumide elected as its first President.

Surveying education in Nigeria is now offered at three levels, namely technical, technological and professional. The technicians are trained in the polytechnics, the technologists are trained also in the polytechnics and colleges of technologies while the professional training is carried out mainly in the universities (Balogun, et al., 2013; Kabir et al., 2022). Surveying in Nigeria had always been governed by laws and regulations since the introduction of the profession into the country. This is to ensure high standard of the professional practice and to protect the interest of the public to whom surveyors render his/her services. Over 80% of Nigerian schools do not introduce the Elementary Surveying as a profession to students. Thus, many post primary school leavers lack the basic information of Institutions offering Surveying and Geoinformatics programmes in Nigeria, its entry requirement, how to go about becoming a professional Surveyor and opportunities accruable to a graduate Surveyor (Kabir et al., 2022).

This had led to wrong perception and unnecessary doubts for the profession, since Africa is one of the continents obviously lagging behind in educational and professional attainment (Hannah, et al., 2009). Nigeria the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 200 million people, having witnessed a steady decline in the quantity and quality of surveying professionals over the years. As at now the Nigerian professional surveyors are less than 6000 (dead and alive). Since surveying is a highly specialized field, and it requires a great deal of knowledge and skill. As such, it is important to understand the academic and professional challenges that come with surveying in Nigeria. This article has identified and grouped 6 challenges the Surveying profession is grappled with in order to ensure its future and survival.

Poor professional image

The perception of a profession by the public, its reputation, trustworthiness, and level of expertise begats a good professional image. The image of a profession is important because it influences public perception, affects career growth, and earning potential. Several factors contribute to the poor professional image of surveyors which includes the following:

a. Poor public awareness: The poor public awareness of the roles of surveying and inability to understand the different aspects of the profession, such as Cadastral, Engineering, Hydrographic, Mining, Topographic, Photogrammetric and Remotely sensed Surveying. There is no post primary training that will necessitate a foundation for people who intend to study Surveying and Geomatics at tertiary level.

b Outdated and incomplete laws: Survey laws in Nigeria are drawn from the existing colonial Western, Eastern and Northern regions which has necessitated varying survey laws from state to state. CAP 194 which has four parts (Survey Ordinance, Survey Regulations, Survey fee and qualifications of Surveyors and Survey Regulations (Lagos) that was repealed in 1989 but not completely replaced by CAP 425 which has five sections (Surveyors Council of Nigeria, The registrar, Registration, Professional discipline and Miscellaneous and General) and two schedules (supplementary provisions relating to the Council and supplementary provisions relating to the disciplinary committee and investigating panel).

c. Corruption: Many surveyors engage in sharp practices, such as falsification of survey reports or manipulation of data or records. This unethical behavior undermines the integrity of the profession and makes it difficult for honest surveyors to build a positive professional image.

d. Lack of modern equipment and technology: Without access to the latest tools and techniques, surveyors may struggle to provide accurate and reliable data which can further damage their reputation and make it difficult to compete with other professionals who have access to modern equipment and technology.

e. Lack of recognition and support: Surveyors are often undervalued, and their contributions are not recognized, leading to a lack of motivation and dedication to the profession which can further make it difficult for surveyors to build a positive professional image.

f. Poor perception and marketing: Poor public perception or marketing of the surveying profession is one of the factors confronting a surveyor. Every Surveyor shall be governed by the provision of the Surveyor Council of Nigeria (SURCON). The code of ethics in the survey profession as prescribed by SURCON Decree 1989 No. 44 Section 7. The professional Surveyor is not allowed to advertise or offers his services by means of circulars or paid announcements in any sound, motion and print medium.

Lack of interest in surveying

The lack of interest in surveying by prospecting students has led to a shortage of qualified surveyors in the country. The surveying profession is essential to land use planning and infrastructural development. Here are some reasons for this lack of interest include:

a. Perception of surveying as a low-status profession: There is a perception that surveying is a lowstatus profession compared to other professions such as medicine or law. This has made most young people view other professions as more prestigious and financially rewarding.

b. Lack of awareness about surveying: Most people are not aware of surveyor’s role in land use planning, infrastructure development and management which is the foundation for any meaningful development.

c. Difficulty of the profession: Surveying is a technical profession that requires specialized skills and knowledge. Many young people may view surveying as a difficult profession, which can deter them from pursuing it as a career.

d. Inadequate remuneration: The compensation for surveyors is often perceived as inadequate compared to other professions. This has made most young people seek for more financially rewarding.

Poor training and retraining

Currently, only twenty (20) Universities and thirty-six (36) Monotechnics/ Polytechnics/ Colleges of Technology in Nigeria offering Surveying and Geoinformatics at different levels are recognized (SURCON, 2019; Kabir et al., 2022), and these institutions often lack the resource of providing quality training. As a result of this challenge, many surveyors are not adequately prepared for the task ahead because they need to be conversant in a variety of subjects, including mathematics, physics and geography, as the profession requires a high level of technical expertise and specialized skills to adequately perform their jobs. These poor training are due to the following reasons:

a.Inadequate educational infrastructure: The educational infrastructure is often inadequate in some institutions such as accommodation, electricity, water supply, laboratory, library and rest rooms. Many schools lack these resources and facilities needed to provide quality training in surveying.

b. Insufficient funding: The surveying profession requires significant investment in equipment and technology. There is often a lack of funding for surveying programs, leading to a lack of access to the equipment and technology needed for effective training.

c. Unification of training: The quality of training can vary significantly between institutions, leading to differences in the skills and knowledge of surveyors.

d. Outdated curriculum: The curriculum used in many surveying institutions are often obsolete and does not reflect current industry standards and best practices. This can lead to a gap between the skills and knowledge taught in the classroom and the skills and knowledge needed in the field.

e. Limited opportunities for professional development: Surveyors often have limited opportunities for professional development, such as attending conferences, seminars, and workshops which can make it difficult for surveyors to stay upto-date with the latest industry trends and best practices.

Collapse of professional boundaries

Professional boundaries are defined by the ethical and regulatory guidelines of a profession and are essential to maintain professional standards and protect the public interest. Surveyors face several challenges related to the collapse of professional boundaries that includes the following:

a. Conflict of interest: Surveyors may face conflicts of interest when they are asked to provide services to clients who have competing interests. A surveyor may be asked to provide a survey report for a property owned by a family member or friend which in most cases, the surveyor may face pressure to provide a favorable report, even if the report is not accurate or in the best interest of the public.

b. Lack of impartiality: Surveyors are expected to be impartial and provide objective data and analysis. Surveyors may be influenced by personal biases, financial interests, or pressure from clients to provide biased reports.

c. Over-stepping professional boundaries: Surveyors may face pressure to provide services that are outside their area of expertise or competence. A surveyor may be asked to provide legal advice or construction supervision, which may not be within the scope of their profession.

d. Opposition from civil engineers: Surveyors were regulated earlier than civil engineers, yet the licensed engineers seem to have a comparative advantage which has absorbed the practice of surveying into civil engineering in most countries for years. The detachment of surveying from civil engineering is still not complete but recognition of the skill and knowledge of Surveying as a separate profession has become evident.

e. Ethical dilemmas: Surveyors may face ethical dilemmas when they are asked to provide services that conflict with their ethical standards. A surveyor may be asked to provide a survey report for a property that was obtained through illegal means. In such cases, the surveyor may choose to uphold ethical standards or meet the demands of their clients.

f. Duplication of beacon numbers: As at today, some Surveyors use survey beacon numbers allocated to them previously for another location or forge numbers assigned to another surveyor for a new survey in other to avoid mandatory payment for formal processing of new surveys.

g. Back dating of survey records and plans: On the other hand, back dating of survey records to meet with the demand of some clients in cases where the surveyed land is in dispute.

h. Deceased Surveyors in active practice: As at today, nonSurveyors practice actively with the seal and details of a deceased Surveyor which has resulted to a huge number of fake plans/maps in circulation that can further erode public trust of the profession.

Lack of team work

Another cause for great concern is the rate at which newly-registered surveyors open up their own firms and break away without consideration of the fact that professional survey practice requires great team work, while equipment outlay is highly capital intensive. The unhealthy competition and rivalry, leaving most practicing surveyors with the option of cutting corners or indulging in unethical practices in order to survive. Surveying involves a range of tasks that require collaboration between professionals within the built environment. Some causes of lack of teamwork, includes the following:

a. Lack of communication: Communication is essential for effective teamwork. There is often a lack of communication between surveyors and other professionals which can lead to misunderstandings and errors in the planning and execution of projects.

b. Lack of trust: Trust is vital for effective teamwork which in most cases can lead to conflicts and delays in the planning and execution of projects.

c. Lack of collaboration: Collaboration is necessary for effective teamwork which in most cases can lead to duplication of efforts and inefficiencies in the planning and execution of projects.

d. Resistance to change: Resistance to change can be a significant barrier to effective teamwork which can lead to a lack of innovation and creativity in the planning and execution of projects.

Lack of resources

The surveying profession involves the use of a wide range of resources, which include equipment, technology and human resources that are often expensive and are mostly imported. Some of the key factors that contribute to the lack of resources include:

a. Inadequate funding: The surveying profession is often underfunded, that leads to a lack of resources which affects the quality of training, research, and provision of surveying services.

b. Limited access to modern equipment: The lack of access to modern surveying equipment and technology is also a significant challenge because most surveyors still rely on outdated and manual surveying techniques, which can be time-consuming and inaccurate.

c. Insufficient training and development opportunities: The lack of training and development opportunities for surveyors affects the quality of surveying services provided and can result in a shortage of skilled surveyors.

d. Inadequate staffing: Many surveying firms are understaffed, which affects their ability to provide timely and accurate surveying services.


In line with the findings of Ruther (2003), which suggested that the solutions to the multifaceted difficulties and problems highlighted above are evasive and requires significant planning, commitment and change of attitude from the surveying community. Steps towards a possible improvement could be: Educational Database, Curricula Reviews, Joint Postgraduate Programs and Short Courses, General Networking between Educational Institutions and Joint Research Projects, Collaboration with other Institutions and Organisations and Donor Support. Nwilo and Osanwuta (2004) also identified that Surveying is a highly technical profession, and it is often overlooked by the government and other organizations. By training, education, and ethical guidance, surveyors can maintain their professional boundaries and uphold their responsibilities required for developing regulations and guidelines to promote professionalism and ethical conduct.

As such significant investment in educational infrastructure, funding for surveying programs, and the development of standardized training programs that reflect current industry standards and international best practices should be encouraged. While improving communication, building trust, encouraging collaboration, and fostering a culture of innovation between surveyors and other professionals can ensure the successful planning and execution of infrastructural projects. Lastly, increased funding, improved access to modern equipment and technology, more training and development opportunities, and better staffing of survey offices can become more efficient, effective, and responsive to the needs of society because surveying plays a crucial role in shaping the world around us.


1 Surveying curricula should be frequently reviewed in line with modern instrumentation and information technology.

2 NIS the professional body and SURCON the regulatory body should work closely with professionals in higher institutions, public service and in private practice to modernize professional practice in Nigeria and promote the wellbeing of the profession by extracting and documenting the survey content required in all sectors of the economy.

3 A pupillage school of surveying should be established to carter for the registration of surveyors with first degree certificate or its equivalent in Surveying and Geomatics. The training for our intending surveyors must be intensified by adequately staffed and equipped programmes in tertiary institutions.

4 SURCON should updated its register yearly and publish names of deceased Surveyors and their seals retrived to avoid it being used by non-surveyors for active private practice after the demise of said surveyors.


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