FEDERAL government has attributed the slow pace of ongoing infrastructure projects in the country to lack of funding.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of a four-day workshop programme for federal controllers (Housing) in Ilorin on Tuesday, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola SAN, said that the major problem with infrastructure generally is regular and sustained funding.
The minister was apparently referring to such projects as Oyo Ogbomoso, Ilorin-Kabba-Omu Aran among roads, among others.
“All of these is money. You’ve heard about funding, you’ve heard the Minister of Finance and then the National Assembly. You’ve heard everybody saying we are borrowing too much, you’ve heard everyone saying that the money is going to capital projects.
You’ve heard everybody saying we need to increase our revenue base and look at so many things and some people disagree. So, we have to find a consensus on where to find the money.
“The major problem we have with infrastructure generally is regular funding and sustained funding. So, those who say we should not borrow should find an alternative answer to where we get the money.
Those who don’t support borrowing are they ready for increased taxes? On the one hand, they are saying that in order to drive the economy, the government must reduce taxes or corporate taxes or individual taxes.
It’s a chicken and egg thing really. Where do we get the money? It’s not from President Buhari salary or NASS salary. We are talking of quantifiable substantial amount of billions of naira, hundreds of billions of naira to spend to pay because that’s how you move money around an economy. Because when you pay contractors, they also pay for sand, iron rods, granite, cement etc.
They don’t keep it. When they get money, transporters get busy, quarry owner gets busy and that’s how the economy grows,” he said.
The minister, who dismissed insinuations that Nigeria has 20 million housing deficit, however, conceded that Nigeria has housing challenges, saying that housing challenges are universal phenomenal.
The theme of the training is “learning and development for greater stature.”
Mr Fashola revealed that the ministry had removed the mandatory 10 per cent equity contribution before accessing loan from the National Housing Funds (NHF).
“First of all, I don’t believe in that 20 million housing deficit number. Nobody has owned up to it. It is a number of no origin, I say so. So the person who did that data should come up and take ownership of it.
“But that is not to say that there is no housing challenge. We have it, every country in the world has it. Its level and degree is a function of so many things. It is perhaps, more pronounced in the urban centres as it is in the rural areas. But even in the urban centres, there are still empty houses even where there is a problem of shelter.
“What we are doing is to try and complete ongoing projects that we met. We have started our own national housing programme. The idea is to design a product that Nigerians accept and can afford. One of the reasons why we have a number of empty buildings and houses is that some of these buildings are acceptable or are not affordable or both. So we are trying to create a model that will be acceptable for the people.
“Some of the other things we are doing is to grant funding for people who contribute to the National Housing Fund (NHF) by way of mortgage. That is happening. We are improving access by reducing the amount you have to contribute. Those who wanted to borrow up to five million Naira, for example, their equity contribution was about 10 per cent.
“We know that some people will not have N500,000 to contribute and deposit, we have removed that. They can borrow and what they should have contributed is now capitalised into what they will pay.
“That opens the door of access. You are not denied because you did not have the fund to self contribute. We have also reduced the amount of which you are borrowing five million Naira and above from 15 per cent down to about 10 per cent.”
On consents and title documentation, the minister said that “we are also dealing with backlogs of title documenting and transactions, such consent to transact land. This is also a barrier to access. If you cannot finish the documentation, you might probably not get the funding. If you don’t have the title you might also be denied access to funding.
“So we have those backlogs of consent and certificate of occupancy (C of Os). As at April 19th this year, we signed 2,400 certificates of occupancy, we issued 1,214 consents to transact business on land. These are things, some of which have been pending since the 1990s. We are attacking housing challenge in many fronts.”
On the power to revoke the licenses of DISCOs, he said: “The power to regulate DISCOs rests with the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), not in the ministry. It is a power vested by law, so the ministry cannot interfere with that power. It is a statutory power.
The ministry is only saddled with policy directive which I have given in documents, letters and all of that. Don’t forget that before the privatisation, the ministry had well over 50,000 staff. The staff strength of the ministry is now 779.”