Housing : Our destination in the next decade — Joseph Ogeh

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Commissioner for Housing, Delta State, Architect Joseph Ogeh, has revealed the go-getting programmes of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in multiple joint ventures with African Development Bank, ADB, Sovereign Wealth Fund, National Housing Fund, NHF and cement manufacturer, Lafarge Cement Company to turn civil servants in the state into property-owners as well as provide reasonably priced houses for the populace.

Architect Joseph Ogeh Ogeh, who listed the star projects of the government, critically examined the measures and concluded that if the tempo was sustained, the state would have no problem meeting the United Nations standard on shelter in the next 10 years.

The Commissioner, speaking to Saturday Vanguard, asserted: “The civil servants are happy about it because before we started, we had meetings with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Nigerian Civil Service Union, NCSU, and the Head of Service. It was a flamboyant idea.”

“For some of them, the housing component in their salaries was just N15, 000 or N20, 000, but they pay as much as N40, 000 monthly on rent. The advantage they have is that today this is your house but we are going to be taking N20, 000 from your salary every month. So you have a house and rather than paying N40, 000 for rents, they are taking N20, 000 from your salary,” he said.

Ogeh said the government was using the Delta State Mortgage Bank as a vehicle to achieve the objective, adding: “We now have to partner with the Delta State Mortgage Bank, which in recent times has been repositioned for better performance to really live up to its expectation as a mortgage institution.”

Workers’ inventory

“They have taken inventory of all civil servants and have registered as mortgage up takers. The issue is that if a civil servant is allocated a house through the mortgage, all you have to do is that the housing allowance in your salary will be deducted at source every month, but from day one, you are already a landlord. “It will be deducted gradually within the next 20 years or so. Deductions will continue until you finish paying it but on day one you have packed into your own house,” he said.

According to him, “The entire civil service workforce in the state is about 60,000. Our desire is provide a minimum of 10,000 housing scheme within this period. We are partnering with Shelter Afrique, which is the housing development unit of the African Development Bank with headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. You know Nigeria is the highest shareholder of the bank and that is why Nigeria will always nominate who will become the Managing Director. We have had Okonjo Iweala,Obi Ezekwesili, Aruma Oteh and presently Femi Adesina former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria as the Managing Director.”

“The process is ongoing and any moment from now, the ground breaking will commence to build 1,000 housing units in Asaba, including all infrastructures (road network, schools, hospitals, drainages, electricity etc). You know anywhere you have a 1,000 housing scheme, you will be thinking of about 5,000 people. It is going to be a community of its own. It is a pilot scheme. By the time they finish the pilot scheme, they will go to other centres to replicate what they have done in Asaba.

“We also have the one that is being funded by the Sovereign Wealth Fund. It is a 600- housing unit by Issele- Asaba Road, along the Benin Expressway. We also have the one by cement giant, Larfarge through GreenField. They are funding it and they have already started the first 1,000 unit by Illah near Asaba. The total package is going to be 10,000 housing units. They are doing 1,000 in Asaba and will spread the rest in the three senatorial districts. One thing we are trying to do is how these civil servants can access these houses”, he said.

Not exclusive to govt workers

He clarified that the scheme was not meant for civil servants alone, adding: “There are members of the public who have verifiable businesses that are recognized and once they are registered, they are qualified and there are some businessmen who would want to pay in three installments and clear their mortgage within two years.” “When we are talking of civil servants, who will pay in 10 years, there are people who will say how much is the mortgage? Say N10 million, they will say I will deposit N2 million today. So it is an open thing, but housing delivery is not a profit- making thing to government. It is government duty to provide shelter to its citizens. So, in our planning and delivery of houses, we are not thinking of how to make money out of it. The important thing is delivering affordable houses to the people,” he informed.

New secretariat building to house all govt agencies

The Commissioner said government decided to tackle public buildings when it came in because the amount expended on rent of offices is ridiculous. He asserted: “In fact, three quarters of government agencies are on rented apartments .The amount we pay in a month if you calculate that in one year, I do not think any human being will do that even for his own business.”

“So, the first thing this government decided to do was to develop what we call Delta central secretariat building, which will house 28 agencies that are on rented apartment. It is a seven- floor building. Put in a layman’s language, it is the size of two football fields and the width is 60 meters, which is more than half a football field. Once completed in the next 20 months, every agency will relocate to the new secretariat building.

“The advantage is that the state will save the money it has been paying on rents. Delta state is 25 years plus but what the state has paid in just 15 years on rent is more than what it takes to build that secretariat two times. All that money will be saved and two, there is ease of doing government business. Let me give you a typical example, my office as Commissioner for Housing is located at Summit Road, while the Ministry of Lands, which is a related ministry, is at Ibusa Road. Another related ministry in terms of C of Os and all, which is the Ministry of Justice, is at Ibusa Road.

“So when you carry a file looking for the Commissioner for Lands and Survey to confirm the details of land, you have to carry the file to different places and in the process, certain papers could be missing. So ease of doing business will be one of the great advantages of that project. You carry your file and access the next ministry which is on the other floor by taking a lift. Within a couple of minutes, you are done,” he stated.

Commissioner Ogeh hinted: “They have finished sub structure. A lot of companies bided for it but was finally awarded to North China Nigeria Limited-a Chinese company. We hope in the next 20 months, the project will be completed and we would have saved the state a lot of money.”

Next 10 years in Delta

Looking at the housing sector in the state in the next 10 years, he said: “If this tempo is maintained in the next 10 years, we will be able to accommodate a lot of Deltans to meet with the standard demanded by the United Nations in terms of shelter.” His words: “We are collaborating with the National Housing Fund, but the Delta Mortgage Bank is keying into the Sovereign Wealth Fund to deliver houses to Deltans .The National Housing Fund operates with the Sovereign Wealth Fund. As we speak now, if you go to Asaba, they are working. In fact, it is a pilot scheme in Delta, Ogun and Adamawa states.”

“The National Housing Fund actually relates more with state mortgage banks, which is why for you to key into the scheme; the state must have a vibrant mortgage institution. Realizing the importance of mortgage, the state governor immediately restructured the Delta State Mortgage Bank on assumption of office to a vibrant institution.

Star projects

Speaking on star projects by Governor Okowa besides the secretariat building, he said: “The secretariat is one of the major star projects of this government but there are other star projects. For the first time, we are building a Trauma Centre which is first of its kind in the whole of the south- south. There is only one in Ondo state; it is going to be sited along Agbor-Asaba Expressway.”

“It is an emergency medical centre that will be fully equipped. We are also developing the first Teachers Development Centre to train teachers in the state. Today there is lack of self development. I think the type of teachers that taught me in those days is not the same type of teachers we have today. We felt the only way to strengthen the educational sector is to develop the teachers.-a kind of train the trainer programme. That is another star project of this government. There are things that are completely new.

“Asaba is usually flooded during the rainy season but if you go to Asaba now, it is wearing a new look. Major sewage not just gutters are being erected in Asaba. We are starting the Okerenkoko new town project, which began under the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan regime. Part of it will serve as residential quarters for the Nigerian Maritme University. You remember the place was completely destroyed. So, there are a lot of star projects we are embarking on that we can show to justify his re-election in 2019,” he stated.

Okowa has done well

The Commissioner, who expressed satisfaction with the performance of his boss, told Saturday Vanguard: “If we are sincere with ourselves, there are states that owe salaries. As we speak, some are up to six or seven months or thereabout. With destruction of oil facilities by the Avengers in the early part of this government, Governor Okowa has proved himself to be a good manger of resources. Delta state has not owed civil servants salaries. He managed the state in a way that we are able to pay salaries and still able to do many things.”

“We came into partnership with a lot of partners. Most of them have been doing well. He has employed lots of strategies to manage the little resources in the state. In Isoko for example where I come from, there are a lot of things I can point to. My people are aware because development is physical. For example, if I want to talk of human capital development, the YAGEP and STEP programmes have helped a lot of people in my area. Not to talk of road infrastructure and many other things he has done. There are many reasons to tell people to allow him go back for a second term. If he can manage the little, he can manage the much, that is what the Bible says. It is also said if you cannot be faithful with little, you cannot be faithful with much.

Emma Amaize

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