By Kingsley Adegboye
Built environment professionals comprising builders, developers, engineers, architects and others who gathered at the grand opening of Royal Ceramics’ Centre called “Royal Experience Centre” in Lekki, Lagos last week, have renewed call for affordable housing with the use of local building materials, taking into consideration abundant natural resources of the country.
The stakeholders who commended West African Ceramics Ltd, leading manufacturers of ceramics tiles in Nigeria for its consistency in producing quality tiles that can match the standards of their foreign counterparts, and for opening of the Lekki mega showroom, agreed that the outlet will service the housing needs of Lekki residents particularly in terms of interior finishing. The theme of the forum was Experience the Art of Finishing in S’Tile. In his keynote address, the President, Real Estate Developers’ Association of Nigeria, REDAN, Ugochukwu Chime, emphasised the need for use of local building materials in the country if affordable housing is to be truly achieved, adding that the cost of building is a significant component of housing provision as it constitutes approximately 56 per cent of the total cost of the project. According to REDAN boss, “any effort to reduce cost is a tonic to availability and affordability of home ownership to Nigerians. “Given the generally low income level among off-takers for housing products, we are therefore extremely keen on how cost of houses can be brought to minimal level, hence our interest in taking advantage of any opportunity, including uptake of new and emerging technologies to reduce the cost of construction.
“It is on this premise that we find this effort of Royal Ceramics cardinal and imperative. This is because from our foray to their factory in 2016, we found out that most of the raw materials used are locally sourced. This has assisted in reducing the cost of their products without reducing the quality. And with their very high quality products, they have demonstrated their contribution to not only national economic growth but helped to reduce cost of housing.” Corroborating his counterparts in a paper presentation entitled: Engineering Affordable Housing with Local Products, President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, Adekunle Mokuolu said that to make affordable housing possible, favourable legislation that would make land available and affordable should be put in place by the Federal Government while there should be provision of efficient low interest mortgages, efficient and cost effective primary infrastructure, enforcing the local content policy and executive order 5, empowerment of would-be home owners, rejuvenating moribund industries and solving the Ajaokuta Steel project equation. According to the NSE president: “Everyone has the right to a decent shelter and improved well-being. However, the housing deficit will continue to grow except deliberate and commensurate measures are taken to tackle it head- on. The first step is to tackle the high cost of building by either subsidising the cost of building materials or crashing it.
“How best can this be done other than taking full advantage of the enormous local materials available through intensive research and understanding how they could be used for developing decent low-cost housing? Affordable housing can be achieved, but not much will be done if the status quo remains unchanged. We can right the decades of wrongs today if we are determined. The best time to do so is now. Let us turn to local products both in human capital and natural resources.” Declaring open the Royal Experience Centre located along Lekki-Epe Expressway, the President of the Nigerian Institute of Building, NIOB, and chief host of the event, Kenneth Nduka, said the establishment of the experience centre will indeed serve as a unique distribution outlet of West African Ceramics Ltd to service the housing development requirements of the Lagos Megacity project of the proactive government of Lagos State. Nduka added that the centre will equally wet the appetite for high taste and good quality finishing by highbrow property developers and occupiers along the Victoria Island/Lekki axis and beyond. He stressed that the array of uses to which tiles are put in a building project ranges from the artistic, decorative, flooring, walling, roofing, ceiling and through to structural and even illuminations and signage. In all these uses, appropriate specification and proper application remain the essential yardstick for the attainment of the desired functions it will perform and the right purposes it will serve in a building. The General Manager, West African Ceramics Ltd, Mr. Bhaskar Rao said the Royal Experience Centre initiative is a response to support government’s efforts in resuscitating local production through effective distribution network to ensure that products are available at the right time, right place, and at the right price and the delivery of the products in a way that encourages consumers to cultivate and sustain the ‘Buy Nigeria’ behaviour.
Rao added that this is because they do not just buy products, but the collective experiences of product quality, affordability and reliability delivered, just as they also acquire product knowledge and application, unmatched customer services as well as all the functional attributes of the product.” According to him: “The mega experience centre serves beyond a showroom where tiles are displayed, but a hub designed to enlighten customers about the applications of various designs and types of tiles in a building project and to create an unprecedented shopping experience for customers obtainable overseas. The showroom is an initiative to strengthen dealer relationship and channel management in a way that consumers would experience tile shopping different from the norm obtainable in developed societies.