The Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Muhammad Al- Amin, in this interview speaks on some ongoing reforms in the FHA to deliver affordable housing to Nigerians.
I took over at a point when there were crises in the authority. The government was contemplating on how to fix the series of problems in FHA over the last 10 years. The last attempt was to privatise the agency so that it could be self-sustaining. So when I took over, the other members of the management and I studied the reform and we realised that it wasn’t the best option. The factor of social housing is very important; which the privatisation agenda did not factor in. So, we tried our best to inform the government that it wasn’t the best option because the investor that would acquire FHA would be out for profit and there is no way the common man’s interest in housing would be accommodated.
Graciously, President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval that FHA should be restructured and the issue of social housing should be paramount and that we should also be doing some work on commercial housing. That was why I reestablished social housing and commercial housing.
When we came on board, the two units had no targets or specifics, so we immediately injected life into them.
What are the National Housing Programme and the Mass Housing Programme all about?
The National Housing Programme is a Federal Government initiative to provide houses for mostly workers and middle income earners, while the Mass Housing Programme is government’s policy to meet the demand of urban migrants. We are doing these two programmes currently, but we are 100 per cent influencing the Mass Housing Programme’s pilot in Abuja, then other parts of the country will follow. We were also able to convince government to start giving FHA some intervention funds so that we could go back to the field and start building. We were captured in the budget and we received 100 per cent of what government promised us in 2017. The FHA was the only agency that was given 100 per cent of its budget in 2017 and it is the only MDA in 2018 that has gotten up to 50 per cent of its budget as well. That goes to indicate that President Buhari is very keen about this agency and he wants to fulfill the promise he made to Nigerians to provide housing for all.
Before answering that, I will have to explain the products of FHA. When I came on board, we only had two products, and I introduced some other products. The first is called Site and Services. There could be some Nigerians that are not interested in the designs that we have or cannot afford the houses we have but they are also in need of accommodation. So, we get land, provide all the basic infrastructure, then we allocate the plots at Site and Services.
The second product is called Carcass. Here we build a house, just the structure, and we roof it, then we sell to individuals for them to complete the other works and put the type of fittings they want.
Another product is called Expandable Housing; in which we design four bedrooms for instance, in a plot of land, we build one bedroom for you and allow you to check in and you build the remaining bedrooms according to your time and resources.
To execute the programmes, we need to tie whatever we are doing in FHA to what the government’s policy on housing is.
PMB came in 2015, and in that year, there was what was called Global Urban Agenda, which aim is that every person; irrespective of status of income, must be accommodated. You must have a housing programme that befits you unlike what happened in the past when only if you were rich that you got a house. With this idea, PMB directed that FHA’s programmes should tilt towards implementing Global Urban Agenda.
Can you highlight challenges you had to deal with?
First and foremost was the issue of resentment of the unions; they thought whoever was coming to head the agency was going to be an undertaker by closing the agency, retrenching the staff and privatising it. So, I had that problem and I quickly brought back their confidence and built trust of what the government wanted.
The other challenge was funding. Since 2003, the then government of Obasanjo stopped any form of funding for the agency because it felt that the agency could be self-sustainable. When I came, in fact, paying salary was very difficult, the first thing that I did was to look at our Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and we quickly cashed in on that and started realising revenues for the agency. That helped us to pay our overhead and others.
Another issue was projects. Projects are executed in two ways here; the direct intervention and through partnership. We have lands, we invite investors, they come in with their money, we do our designs, the investors build with their money and then we sell, supervise and share the profit. That is the PPP arrangement. But when I came in, all the PPP arrangements were having one problem or the other and I had to look into them and come up with a model that would settle the problems. One of the things I did was that I linked the agency with the Infrastructure Regulatory Commission (IRC) and we have been working together since then. We structure every project so that we ensure the right thing on PPP is done and the right people are found and projects are being delivered.
Source: Malikatu Umar Shuaibu & Daniel Adugbo