“We need to return to 1963 Constitution to get Nigeria right”—Femi Okunnu

 

Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing in the first republic and former pro-chancellor and chairman governing council of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi , Alhaji Lateef Olufemi Okunnu, SAN, in this interview, x-rays the Nigerian state 58 years after independence and says only a return to the 1963 constitution will revive Nigeria. Excerpts:

How do you see the state of affairs in Nigeria 58 years after independence?

The state of affairs today, coming from the year of independence in 1960 is very, very grim. I cannot find a better word for it. Very grim because as a young man in 1960, and as a young political activist in 1960, after my political activities as a general secretary and president of the Nigerian Union of Great Britain and Ireland. The hope which we had about Nigeria was a country free and strong; free, yes we were free; strong, we were not strong, economically, morally, mention it.

Our picture of Nigeria, our hope for Nigeria that time was a country very strong economically, the leader of Africa in world affairs and a leading economic power in the world. Nigeria is neither today. It is not in either of the two positions, any position of leadership today. It is very far from it.

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So what went wrong?

What went wrong? Leadership. We don’t have leadership with patriotism. We don’t have patriots at the helm of our affairs. We don’t have those who are Nigerian patriots. We lack that sort of leadership. There are good ones among them but very few. We don’t have people who are patriotic enough, who have the love of the country and who have a mission to create a strong, economically strong country to lead this nation. We need a country or leadership which will have the feel of the people of this country, a leader who will understand the people of this country, who will understand what the people want for their daily life and to provide what the people want. We don’t have them. We have people interested in how much they can steal from the public pockets or exchequer. They are more interested in how much money they can rake out, legitimately and illegitimately. That’s our biggest problem.

What went wrong? Well, where do we start? True enough, we have a coup, a military coup but that was not really the beginning of our trouble or the main cause of the present travail Nigeria is experiencing today.

Not the military?

Not the military. The military has left governance in the past, almost 20 years, 19 years now. What has changed between 1999 and 2018? Nothing, if anything, it is worse. So, it is not the military. It is not the coups we had, bad as they were.

And it wasn’t the civil war?

It wasn’t the civil war. That’s not the cause of our problem. It is unfortunate that the civil war erupted in the country because of greed in certain quarters and intolerance in some other quarters, all merged together, all colliding. It wasn’t the civil war but the unfortunate thing is that we have politicians today who are political prostitutes. They move from one party to another, they move to one party and back to their former party. That’s what we see in the political scene, whether APC or PDP. Today, you’re APC and you move to PDP; tomorrow you are back to APC or the other way round. There’s no ideology which will provide or let us know what you want to do for the people of the country if you get into power.

What are your goals, your ideological goals? No manifestos to say when I’m in power, this is what I will do for education, this is what I will do for health, in housing, in agriculture, in works, nothing! They provide us with nothing. In those days before independence, there were three major political parties. There was the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, NCNC, the oldest of the three, when Cameroons, the trust territory was being governed as part of Nigeria on behalf of the United Nations with the Nigerian National Democratic Party founded by Herbert Macaulay in 1922. There was the Action Group.

Free education and free health

The NCNC was led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the Action Group was led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. There was the NPC, Northern People’s Congress led by the Sardauna of Sokoto. Both the Action Group and NCNC had manifestos promising to provide free education for the people and they kept their promise. The Action Group did it, provided free education and free health. Awolowo started it as Premier of Western Region and Azikiwe followed suit with similar plans and manifesto and they achieved their purpose before the military coup. Sardauna of Sokoto had his own plans for the northern people. They wanted the north to be together, Muslim and Christian. NPC welded them together although, again, like you find even in western and eastern region, minority and ethnic groups wanted some measure of self government. But back to the point, the major parties had manifestos of what they will achieve or wanted to achieve in government. Today, we don’t have manifesto’s. No party has any manifesto today, none. Well some of them do make promises but at the end of the day…

What the public wants is written manifesto, a pamphlet saying that when I’m in government, if I form a government at the state level, this is what the state government will do for the next four years in areas like health, education; pre university education, primary school, secondary school, agriculture, housing. No party to my knowledge since 1999 has published a manifesto. None of them have said ‘if I form a federal government, this is what I will do for the country in terms of transportation, whether by rail or by road or by sea or water and other fields. So, that is one thing which we lack. Everybody says what comes to his mind and we don’t even know their minds, so their promises are unfulfilled. We can’t know what the performance of a particular governor or a particular party in a state or in the federal government after four years is.

Political parties measurement

So we don’t have any manifesto to show us or persuade us to vote for them, that when they are in government, this will be the performance so we can gauge at the end of four years whether they measured up to their promises.

Is this not a function of the constitution, the military constitution that we’re operating in Nigeria?

No, not exactly. It is not the function of the constitution. Whatever the constitution you have, any party which promises to govern and govern well should provide three meals per day for the people, provide employment for the people, provide education, better education than the available one, provide good health, build hospitals and look after the people’s welfare. These are things you measure political parties with, not the constitution. That has little to do with the constitution. When I say it has little to do with the constitution, the only relationship between the constitution and these functions is this: that the parties will tell us what they want to do within the powers vested in the state government for example or federal government in the constitution. But today, we have a huge confusion about who has what functions. So, it has nothing to do with the military rule as such but let me say this, people talk of the constitution, constitutional changes, they want to change the constitution and the major parties promise structural change, isn’t it? They only occasionally mouth this vital issues. They haven’t told us what they want to change. They have not even committed themselves to any change. Neither the APC or the PDP or APGA in the eastern part of the country has come out clearly to say it is in favour of structural change, constitutional change. All of them have just been dancing around the need for change but no commitment so far.

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Currently, many people are agitating for restructuring. How do we restructure?

Well, the issue of restructuring has been with us for quite some time and the whole issue boils down to what constitution is best suited for Nigeria. Nigeria has gone through several constitutions in the past 100 years. Clifford’s constitution of 1922 was limited only to the colony of Lagos and the protectorate of Southern Nigeria. The north was being ruled under indirect rule by the British until 1946 when we had Sir Arthur Richard as the Governor-General of Nigeria. Later, we had Lord Milverton and under Milverton’s constitution, for the first time, the people of the Northern protectorate and the people of the Southern protectorate and the third colony of the British, Lagos Colony were brought together under the same umbrella in a legislative council.

That was the first time the whole of Nigeria came under one constitution but there was the Macpherson constitution in 1951 followed by Littleton constitution in 1954 which established the federal system of government for the country and the constituent parts of Nigeria at that time were Northern region, formally Northern protectorate; the Western region, the Eastern region, both carved out of the Southern protectorate, the fourth unit forming the confederation was Southern Cameroons and the fifth unit was the Federal Territory of Lagos. Now, the structure remained the same in 1960 when Nigeria gained independence from Britain and when Nigeria ceased to be a dominion with the Queen as the head and became a republic in 1963, the constitution was changed; not in depth but just changed from dominion to republic, otherwise more or less word for word.

Now, before independence, as I said in relation to Northern region earlier on, the minority ethnic groups within each region agitated for self government. They wanted their own regions. There was a civil war, many people don’t remember this, in the Northern region waged by the Tivs and the Idomas. They went to war and the Nigerian army crushed that rebellion. It was an armed conflict. It was just before independence and after independence, before 1966. They wanted their own Middle Belt region, that is middle belt movement. Not only Tivs and Idomas but also the Yorubas in what we now call Kwara state agitated. There was also a huge agitation in the Eastern region by the Calabar, Ogoja and Rivers people. The Ijaws, the Ibibios, the Efiks wanted their own separate region. These are now the areas called the South-South. It has no constitutional significance. In the west, the non-Yoruba parts of the region also wanted their own independence. They got theirs in 1963, that’s the mid-west now, the mid-western region.

Constitutional conference

So between 1958 and 1960, the British colonial governments told our leaders clearly, “if you want structural changes, that is, new regions, it will delay your independence” because the new regions must be able to stand on their own and that will take time. So, the leaders and not only the leading politicians but the minority leaders, the COR states, the middle belt movements, even the non-Yoruba part of Western region opted to leave things as they were, to leave the structure as it was until after independence. It was on that call that the changes made by Gowon became very relevant. So, up to independence, we had three regions. In 1963, we had four regions, mid-west, and Gowon after the second coup set up the constitution review committee, ad hoc constitutional conference to debate at a time when the civil war was on the uprising.

People were talking that there has been mass killings of Nigerians of Igbo origin, Igbo speaking Nigerians in parts of the Northern Nigeria. There had been disturbances here and there. The country was on the brink of a breakup and he summoned this ad hoc constitutional conference to debate the future of the country. I was a member of that conference. I took part fully in that conference in 1966 after the July 1966 coup by Gowon which enthroned Gowon as the head of state. Now, the issue of states came up very strongly during the conference. The Eastern region led by Colonel Ojukwu as the military governor wanted to pull out of the federation and it was a very difficult time indeed for Nigeria.

Now what came out after that? In 1967 about the time Ojukwu declared the breakup of the country, the federation and the establishment of Biafra as a sovereign country was some sort of surgical operation to satisfy the yearnings of minority people in the Northern region for their own self government within the federal Nigeria. So, the creation of twelve states structure was the answer to that yearning. The COR states movement, the Calabar, Ogoja, Rivers movement, the non-Igbo speaking part of Eastern region had not just one state, they had three states, Rivers state; largely Ijaws, Kalabaris and so on and also South-Eastern states, now Cross-River and Akwa Ibom, that is, the Efiks and Ibibios.

Remember Lagos state had been a colony of Britain since 1861 before Nigeria came into being in 1960, the Lagos colony as it was in 1861 became a state. It was never part of Western Nigeria when it was created in 1946, except for a part of it: Epe, Badagry, Ikeja, being moved to Western Region for some period. The biggest agitation had been that the North was too big, big in size, big in population and it was double the size of the rest of the country and the population was greater than the rest of the country and if they wanted federalism, the north had to be broken up into states and that led to the north being broken into six states. Six states were made out of the Northern region and six from the west and the east and of course Lagos. To me, that was the ideal federal system in terms of state creation. Unfortunately, those military leaders who wanted to create favour for themselves wanted the favour of the people who wanted more states. They broke up the country and were even in the process of creating more states as shown in 2014 constitutional conference of Jonathan. So, to me, the ideal constitution was the 1963 constitution with 12 states structure which was the constitution which governed Nigeria from 1966.

Wasn’t it a military constitution?

Gowon followed the 1963 constitution throughout. The only significant change was the creation of states out of the Northern region, East Central states, Rivers state, South-East of out Eastern region. The mid-west was left almost intact. The rest of the west was left intact as Western states and Lagos state, also making up the 12 states. To me, that was the best Nigeria ever had and can ever have in terms of state creation. But let me emphasise this; that the constitution which prevailed throughout Gowon’s military regime and for part of Muritala-Obasanjo’s military regime was the 1963 constitution. It was the 1963 constitution which still prevailed largely until the 1979 constitution. To me, that was the ideal constitution. Now the problem was created in 1979 constitution. It killed federalism in Nigeria, fiscal federalism. That is the problem Nigeria has today. That is the 1979 constitution and its successor, the 1999 constitution.

You see, a federation is a group of willing state or states which agree to cede part of sovereign powers to a federal government on top with defined powers and the remaining powers, either concurrent, shared with the federal government or other powers not stated in the constitution to be welded by the state government. That is one element of federalism. Local governments have nothing to do with the federal system of government. They’re a hundred percent part and parcel of state government. Federal government should not interfere with local government. Unfortunately, the 1979 constitution created an avenue to bring in and cause confusion about the meaning of federalism. The major harm created by the 1979 constitution was on finance, the state of origin, revenue allocation.

The revenue allocation established before independence, that is in the 1960 constitution took account of functions exclusive to the federal government and they all agreed before 1960 that this formula was best suited to cater for the needs of federal government and what was that formula? You take what became dominant, an economic factor, oil. Element of federalism: Any profit from oil was shared under this formula. Fifty percent of the revenue will go to the region of origin, twenty percent to cater for the needs of the federal government and the needs of the federal government were largely foreign affairs, defence: that is the armed forces, the police, immigration, citizenship. It is all listed there. Just twenty percent of the revenue from oil and the remaining thirty percent should be in the distributive poll, to be shared by the regions. The emphasis I am putting here is that the federal government is just twenty percent. In 1979, it was part of the recommendation which the constitution drafting committee made and I was a member of that constitution drafting committee. It was part of our recommendation to retain that formula in the 1960 constitution.

In the 1979 constitution, General Obasanjo, who was the head of state at the time, changed it and put zero instead of the fifty percent for state of origin. In fact, the whole hundred percent went to the federal and the federal legislature, that the national assembly had to know what pittance to give to state of origin. That was the death knell of federalism. The 1999 constitution just made little adjustments; state of origin, thirteen percent, federal government being 52 or 54 percent with more or less the same functions in 1960 constitution. The functions have not increased. The functions on the exclusive legislative list more or less are the same as in 1960 but the federal government has garnered the bulk of the revenue on oil.

The federal government has other sources of revenue like company tax, like customs, so what difference has it made? It has made the states impoverished. They have no money to cater for education, primary and secondary. They have no money for health. They have no money for housing. The federal government has garnered the whole money and that is why you have governors queuing up at Abuja. That is why we need restructuring to go back to the 1963 constitution with this amendment. And let me add this. All the parties when they are in opposition, they say they want restructuring; when they’re in government, they don’t want restructuring.

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Pledge to carry out restructuring

Jonathan was forced into restructuring which made him set up a constitutional conference in 2014 because of the trouble created by Boko Haram which will reduce the voting power of his opponent, Buhari and because Jonathan’s government believed that it could now move into South-West, waving restructuring for those who wanted restructuring as against the non-view of the majority political party dominant in South-West at that time. So, they want restructuring when they are not in power but when they get there, no restructuring. I will like to challenge all the political parties to make a pledge that the presidential candidates after they have gone through their primaries and what have you, should make a pledge to the Nigerian people, for the candidate of APC who is Buhari, to pledge that when he gets back to power, he will carry out restructuring in the line I suggested which is going back to the 1963 Constitution.

I will want the candidate of PDP to publicly pledge that his party, if he wins the election, will carry out this same restructuring. I will want the candidate of any other political party contesting election next May to make a similar public pledge. That is the only way that Nigeria can find out those who are honest with themselves and with the public and those who are not honest with the Nigerian public as far as restructuring is concerned. They should make a pledge.

You said what many people are saying

No, that is not people are saying. Restructuring means different things to different people. In the line I have outlined, go back to the 1963 constitution with twelve states structure. That is my own idea and that’s why I have opposed JIRAD conferences, constitutional conferences; we had one in 2005 called by Obasanjo. I led Lagos to the delegation there. I refused to go to Abuja in 2014 because I thought it was going to be a waste of time but having given the issue some deep thoughts in the past two or three years, I am now convinced that we need a JIRAD conference which will now decide the future of this country.

What of the national conference of 2014?

Nothing came out of it. But there was a paper on it? Nothing came out of it. Nothing came out of the paper. It was just an ordinary paper. No action. Nothing! Jonathan had the power to get the national assembly under him to do the restructuring but nothing happened. I will not even have accepted that one because Jonathan’s conference advocated in total, about 59 states for Nigeria when ninety percent of the existing states cannot pay salaries for their staff.

So you believe going back to the 1963 constitution is the solution to the problem.

That is my own belief with the section on finance to remain as it was. We enabled regional governments at that time and state governments to finance their governments and let me just add this rider.

Financing their governments

Throughout Gowon’s rule, the mid-west had fifty percent allocation, just as Rivers state received fifty percent from its oil profit. The governor of the South-East then also received fifty percent as was under the 1963 constitution. The fifty percent revenue state of origin continued until 1979. But that will make the federal government weak and not unattractive if we go back to that system

What does the federal government do with the huge money when it has no additional constitutional functions to discharge?

Most of the functions discharged by the federal government today are stolen from the states, health being an example. The federal government has no business to do with health. It is a function of the state. Primary and secondary education is not the business of the federal government. It is the business of the state, with the regions in those days. So, federal government meanwhile has stolen some state powers or functions.

So it has no business going about feeding school children?

It is not its business. Give the states the money. Let the states have the money. Leave the school children to the states. You don’t control the schools. You don’t own the schools. That is how they caused confusion about the functions of government. The federal government has intervened in areas which does not concern it. Housing for example is not their business. I was the federal commissioner for works and housing for almost eight years. It is not their business to provide housing for the people. Leave that for the states. The function of the federal government in housing is to make provision for an atmosphere for mortgage banks or mortgage institutions to thrive, not actual construction of housing. It is unconstitutional. They have too much money illegally acquired but let that money go back to the states as it used to be.

Chioma Gabriel

Investors now delight in Abuja outskirts

 

Buoyed by the high cost of rentals in Abuja, the Federal Capital territory, which has slowed down returns, investors in the real estate sector have shifted their focuses to the outskirts for ease of sales and returns.

The outskirts has thus become a new mecca for developers resulting to new developments in these areas with no fewer than fourteen locations identified as the most fast developing areas.

The areas so identified by players are: Karu, Kuje, Old Nyanya, Kubwa, Gwagwalada, Lugbe, Lokogoma, Kiyami, Kasanna, Wumba, Duboyi, Waru,Apo/Dutse District.

The Guardian investigations revealed that these locations have become a construction hub as property developers, and estate surveyors and valuers are seen at sites constructing mass housing units.

Although, these areas, are noted for huge traffic in the morning period and close of work in the evening, they however have some positives as they boost of cluster of social, educational, commercial and public institutions springing up daily.

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Before now it takes about 15 to 20 minutes drive from these districts to these areas but the shift has resulted to heavy traffic build ups in the morning and evening.

Explaining the shift, Site Supervisor of Abuja Property Development Company (APDC), Suleiman Saidu, the outskirts are particularly attractive to servants cannot afford rental fees in Abuja city, hence their preference to the suburbs.

He explained that a one bedroom apartment rent goes between N300, 000 and N350, 000; N650, 000 to N700, 000 for two bedroom bungalow, while 3 bedroom apartment goes for N800, 000 to N950, 000 per annum.

“So, APDC is constructing 1,000 housing units in Dei-Dei axis, a suburb of the capital city.

Managing Director, Queenville Real Estate Group, Princess Eno Essien affirmed the existence of massive housing estates in Orozo,Jikwuyi,Karishi axis.

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She added that standard properties are being developed in the outskirts of Abuja, and their prices are affordable for low-income earners, adding that workers are making use of it.

According to her, government approved Zero equity contribution for housing loans below N5 million, stressing that as citizens, we are entitled to housing loan to get houses.

An estate surveyor and Valuer, Eric Okafor, argued that public servants who have access to bank mortgage facility have resorted to new districts for the purchase of houses.

He also added that those who ordinarily wouldn’t want to leave the city centre, would be left with no option than to relocate to the new area where cost of living is cheap.

Okafor maintained that houses are really on the increase, and rents are low as well as outright purchase of the properties in suburb adding, prospective buyer have choices to make there.

He argued, some public servants who access to mortgage facility resort to the new areas to build houses, adding, those who wouldn’t want to leave the city centre, now left with no option than to relocate to the new districts.

‘There are no road networks in the districts as per the massive housing estates.

The FCDA can only provide roads leading the entrance of the place, while developers or, allottees have to do the remaining road network in their domain.”

However, a prospective tenant must have to cough out N500,000 for one bedroom; N700,000 for two bedroom M1 million for three bedroom, while 4bedroom duplex goes for N1.5million per annum.

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Ferdinard Enyi is a House Agent, said in Wumba for example, price tag for one bedroom is N450, 000; two bedroom N600, 000; three bedroom N800, 000.

“Similarly, in Kiyami one bedroom goes for N400, 000; two bedroom N550, 000,and three Bedrooms is up to N650,000 per annum.”

However, buying houses in the districts vary in amount depending on the bargaining power of the buyers and property owners. At time, there are cases of ‘special purchase’

In Lokogoma district, for example, one bedroom sells for N8million; two bedroom flat cost N15million; three bedroom is N22million and four bedroom duplex goes for N30 million.

These prices depend on whether one buys from the allocating authority or from the third party.

Cornelius Essen

Using mortgage finance to tackle housing deficit

 

The housing sector is one of the indices for measuring the standard of living of people across societies.

It also plays a more critical role in a country’s welfare than is always recognised, as it directly affects not only the well-being of the citizenry, but also the performance of other sectors of the economy.

Consequently, governments designed mortgage finance to enhance its adequate delivery as housing provision requires huge capital outlay, which is often beyond the capacity of the medium income/low income earners.

Despite its recognized economic and social importance, housing finance often remains underdeveloped.

The low levels of lending reflect the small numbers who can afford mortgages because of the high cost of houses in relation to incomes.

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It also includes the perceptions of risk that are based on, amongst other things, the informal nature of most title deeds and property.

The National Housing Policy of 1991 created a two-tier housing finance structure with Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs) at the first tier and the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), the supervisor and regulator, at the second tier.

The Mortgage Institutions Act (No. 53 of 1989) prescribed the regulatory/supervisory framework for the establishment and operation of Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs).

Later, the Banks and other Financial Institutions Act of 1991, “BOFIA”, as amended, transferred the licensing, supervision and regulation of PMBs and FMBN to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Under the process, the PMBs are to mobilise funds for their lending operations.

Some of such loans (mortgages) can be off-loaded to the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to sustain continuous liquidity in the National Housing Fund (NHF) Scheme.

This flow has unfortunately been constrained by the provisions of the Land Use Act, which restricts access to legal title to land.

To encourage the penetration of the mortgage finance and homeownership, the National Housing Fund Law (Act No.3 of 1992) was promulgated to create an alternative and continuous flow of funds from which loans could be granted to contributors on affordable repayment terms.

The law stipulates compulsory contributions of two and a half per cent (2.5per cent) of basic salary by employees earning N3, 000.00 or above in the public and private sectors, which attracts attract yearly interest at compound rates, refundable to contributors on attainment of 60 years of age or on retirement from employment after 35 years of service.

The loan attracts a fixed interest rate of not more than six per cent and repayment is for a maximum period of 30 years while maximum amount loanable is N15 million.

In its strategic move designed to make homeownership more accessible and affordable for Nigerian workers, FMBN recently approved the implementation of a Rent-To-Own Housing Scheme, an innovative affordable housing product, which provides an easy and convenient payment plan towards homeownership for Nigerian workers.

The scheme is specifically designed to make it possible for Nigerian workers to move into FMBN homes as tenants, pay for and own the properties through monthly or yearly rent payments spread over periods of up to 30- years.

To further increase affordability, the properties will also attract a single digit interest rate of 9per cent on the price of the property on an annuity basis.

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The product will cover properties with the maximum value of N15million.

The rent-to-own housing product targets Nigerian workers who are contributors to the NHF and will be implemented in phases. About 3,000 houses are planned for the pilot phase.

To deliver on the rent-to-own housing scheme, FMBN will partner with reputable estate developers for the construction of quality, cost-effective housing stock nationwide.

Payments for the houses will be domiciled with the CBN through the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

Properties that are planned for the rent-to-own scheme are existing estates that are funded by FMBN nationwide and non-funded estates.

FMBN Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Dangiwa stated that the programme is targeted at increasing access to affordable housing by Nigerian workers who fall into the low- medium income brackets.

In addition, he stated that the implementation of the scheme will totally eliminate the burden of equity contributions by workers for housing loans, complement the existing products of the bank by widening the home ownership bracket, increase housing stock, and help the bank to utilize abandoned estates that are to be transferred to the scheme.

To further deepen the housing finance, the private investors are also being enlisted to boost affordable social housing delivery for Nigerians.

Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Alhaji Abdul Samad Isyaku Rabiu, Chairmen & CEOs of Dangote and BUA Groups of Companies respectively plan to partner the FMBN.

While on a joint courtesy call on the bank’s Board of Directors, they entered into partnership agreement and lent their support to the proposed N500billion recapitalization of the bank, stating that it is a much needed development that will help power FMBN’s efforts to more effectively discharge its mandate.

The Chairman, Dangote Group commended FMBN for the renewed aggressive drive to provide affordable housing for Nigerians.

Additionally, he said that his company is ready to collaborate with FMBN towards lowering the housing deficit by increasing the tempo and scale of social housing provision across the country.

His words: “Count me as a friend of FMBN. We are open to collaborating and supporting the good work that your bank is doing towards ensuring the provision of affordable housing to medium and low income earners in Nigeria.”

In the same vein, the Chairman, BUA Group of Companies, Abdul Samad Isyaku Rabiu also said that he is committed to a close partnership with FMBN.

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“I am committed to forging a partnership that will add value to FMBN’s work and look forward to further engagements in this regard,” he said.

In his response, the FMBN Board Chairman, Dr. Adewale Adeeyo on behalf of the board and management thanked and applauded the two distinguished business moguls for their visit and good intentions to partner with FMBN.

He said that FMBN will work closely with them towards the consolidation and implementation of the partnerships.

Another boost to housing development is currently underway through a strategic collaboration between FMBN and leading labour unions, aimed at addressing in a structured and sustainable manner, the housing requirement of their members currently estimated to be about 3,750,000 housing units.

The FMBN in conjunction with the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) plans to commence the implementation of a national affordable housing delivery programme for Nigerian workers.

This includes fast-tracking the provision of safe, decent, quality and affordable housing to registered members of NLC, TUC, and NECA that also contribute to NHF, which the FMBN manages.

The pilot phase of the program aims to deliver 2,800 housing units in 14 sites across the country. This includes 200 houses in each of the six zones in addition to Lagos and Abuja.

FMBN Group Head, Corporate Communications, Mrs. Zubaida Umar said the key features of the housing program are the emphasis on affordability and the focus on low and middle-income classes of workers.

Planned house types therefore include fully finished semi-detached bungalows and blocks of 1 bedroom, 2 bedrooms, and 3 bedrooms.

She revealed that the designs of the houses are based on local and international social housing models that have been tested and proven to deliver housing units that are structurally strong, livable and at cost effective rates that fit the income of the targeted beneficiaries.

“To ensure successful execution of the program, the design and implementation plan was based on extensive deliberations and recommendation of housing experts.

They drew from the theoretical and practical experiences of housing stakeholders, varied inputs, and consultations with developers, private sector players, research and analysis of housing projects locally and abroad,” she said.

Chinedum Uwaegbulam

Estate surveyors plan to focus on mass housing delivery

 

Estate surveyors and valuers in the country plan to hold a forum on how the country can reduce its housing deficit through effective mass housing delivery.

The forum, known as the 6th National Housing Summit, and scheduled to hold in Abuja on October 8 and 9, is being organised by the Faculty of Housing, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers.

The faculty said it was worried about the lack of political will to solve the problem of housing in the country, hence, the need to take the forum to the seat of power.

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The Planning Committee Chairman, Mr Kehinde Abayomi, said the theme of the summit would be ‘Alternative building techniques for mass housing delivery’ and would focus, among other things, on a new innovation capable of producing up to 1,000 units of quality and affordable houses from foundation to the roof within one month.

Abayomi, who represented the Chairman of the Faculty of Housing, NIESV, Mr Chika Okafor, at a press briefing ahead of the summit, said stakeholders would also be educated on how to finance mass housing delivery.

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He stated, “The main reason for our steady housing problems in Nigeria can be traced to lack of leadership, vision and political will as well as a well-structured institution to drive government policies and programmes.

“We have private real estate developers, who among others, can collaborate with the relevant government agencies to build houses for a target group and such houses being allocated to be acquired based on need, but not sold in the open market based on highest bidders as it is the practice now.”

He stated that the target group for the innovation could be the low and medium income earners who desired accommodation.

The Secretary of the faculty, Mr Tosin Kadiri, said the summit would be specific about affordability and alternative building methods.

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A former Chairman of the faculty, Mr Casmir Anyanwu, said the summit was part of advocacy.

“The faculty is mainly about advocacy, pointing out the direction to go for both the government and the people,” he stated.

Maureen Ihua-Maduenyi

Low-income earners can’t afford govt housing units – Experts

 

Stakeholders at a seminar organised by the Ogun State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors have chided the federal and state governments for constructing housing units only for the rich.

The seminar held in Abeokuta and had as its theme: ‘Effective housing delivery in a developing economy.’

The President, NIQS, Obafemi Onashile, noted that there was the need for the government to evolve an effective housing policy, which would guarantee more affordable houses to the low-income earners and the masses.

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Onashile, who was represented by the Vice-President of the institute, Mr Olayemi Sonubi, said Nigeria, with a growing economy, needed more affordable housing units.

He noted that the government’s housing policy had failed because there was no systematic plan to build houses, adding, however, that it was not enough to build houses that the low-income earners might not afford.

He called on the government to bring the interest rates on mortgage loans to one digit, because according to him, a two-digit mortgage loan regime would take a long time to pay back.

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Onashile added, “Mortgage loans should not attract more than five or six per cent interest, having such loans at 19 per cent is quite high.

“There is the need for the government at the state and federal levels to build affordable housing units that low-income earners can afford.”

In his keynote address, a former General Manager, Ogun State Broadcasting Corporation, TundeAwolana, an engineer, said not many low-income earners could afford the housing units being built by the government and private developers.

He stated, “Housing corporations are building prohibitive housing units, which can only be afforded by criminally-minded people.

“They are supposed to build housing units for low and medium-income earners. Some wealthy Nigerians are also building big houses their children may not like to inherit.”

Awolana called on professional in the built environment to rise up to the occasion in tackling the challenge of housing deficit in the country.

The Ogun State Chairman, NIQS, Mr Kayode Dipeolu, said the workshop was aimed at examining the effective delivery of housing units in the country.

 

Samuel Awoyinfa, Abeokuta

Trump’s tariffs threaten China’s economy

American and Chinese officials have made headlines in recent months for their confident predictions of trade war victory, but many longtime China watchers say the most important drivers and trends affecting Asia’s largest economy go well beyond tariffs. As the trade war escalates, it will not be easy for the Chinese government to use public spending to boost investments due to its mounting debt.

As the trade war between Washington and Beijing ramps up, analysts are divided over just how tariffs will impact China’s economy.

Some economists say the tariff battle between the world’s two largest economies — which advanced with a new round of tit-for-tat taxes on Monday — could land a significant hit on the East Asian giant, while others contend that China will manage around the White House’s offensive.

That argument may, however, miss the point about the future of the communist country.

American and Chinese officials have made headlines in recent months for their confident predictions of trade war victory, but many longtime China watchers say the most important drivers and trends affecting Asia’s largest economy go well beyond tariffs.
Slowing investment, mounting debt

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China has long relied on infrastructure investments to drive its economic growth.

Investments contributed to 44 percent of China’s nominal GDP in December 2017, compared to about 20 to 25 percent for countries like the United States, Japan and Germany, according to figures compiled by economic data provider CEIC.

China’s fixed asset investment is slowing, however, with investment growth falling to a record low in August. Economists including Nicholas Lardy from the Peterson Institute for International Economics, however, warn against paying too much attention to the historically low figure as China is currently revising the way it measures fixed asset investment.

Still, as the trade war escalates, it will not be easy for the Chinese government to use public spending to boost investments due to its mounting debt.

The world’s second-largest economy had a relatively stable level of debt until the financial crisis in 2008 when it spent a whopping 12.5 percent of its GDP to stimulate the economy.

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The country had encouraged loans to boost economic growth, with Chinese banks extending a record 12.65 trillion yuan ($1.88 trillion) in loans in 2016. That credit explosion stoked worries about financial risks, so authorities in 2017 pledged to contain the rapid build up in debt.

Since then, Chinese debt-to-GDP has steadily grown to about 250 percent — or about $28 trillion, according to DBS and CEIC.

However, the Institute of International Finance has put China’s debt at more than 300 percent of its GDP.

The International Monetary Fund issued a strong warning about the country’s economy in 2017, warning that debt-fueled growth is an unsustainable long-term solution.

Chinese authorities had been trying to rein in the country’s rising debt, with China’s state-owned banks told in April to stop lending to local governments. But as the trade war drags on, China appears to be using investments to boost the economy again.

The National Development and Reform Commission, a top Chinese economic regulator, announced earlier this month that it aimed to promote infrastructure investment.
Aging population, betting on consumption

While China is trying to improve productivity through automation and robotics, the effects of its aging population are taking a toll on the economy.

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“Demographic trends could subtract 0.5 to 1 percentage point from annual GDP growth over the next three decades in post-dividend countries such as China and Japan,” the IMF said in a 2017 report.

China’s one-child policy ended in 2016. Couples are now limited to two children, but there has been speculation that officials are mulling scrapping birth restrictions altogether.

But decades of limiting couples to having only a single child have led to plunging birthrates. That, along with a corresponding aging population and shrinking labor force, has implications for the country’s consumption trends.

China has been trying to move toward economic growth that’s led by consumers, but data on consumption has been mixed. Monthly retail sales have been slowing, but quarterly spending, which includes education and travel, is on the rise.

China’s online retail giants, meanwhile, reflect a nuanced picture of consumption. In the second quarter of 2018, Alibaba saw sales rise by more than 60 percent from last year, even though rival JD.com faced slower sales.

Xin En Lee

OPIC’s 80% local inputs sourcing raises hope for low-cost housing

 

Nigeria is today the second most expensive housing market in Africa, after Angola, and one of the reasons frequently cited for the high house price in the country is the cost of building materials which are largely (about 60 percent) imported.

It is estimated that building material constitutes 20-30 percent of total construction cost, making the new initiative by the Ogun State Property and Investment Corporation (OPIC) on sourcing building materials locally not only attractive, but also a source of hope for low cost housing.

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OPIC is now offering prospective buyers houses constructed with 80 percent locally sourced inputs. Apart from its capacity to reduce house price, the initiative is also part of efforts to boost the country’s economy, creating direct and indirect job opportunities for Nigerians.

The corporation is an arm of Ogun State’s Ministries of Housing and Commerce and Industry. It is a frontline property investment and development company in Nigeria, currently making efforts to create housing hubs along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway corridor.

The expansive New Makun City housing project at Sagamu interchange and the MTR Garden Estates at Isheri end of the expressway are testaments of the corporation’s drive towards providing affordable housing for home buyers and investors.

According to Jide Odusolu, managing director of OPIC, 256 housing units will be completed in the first phase and delivered to prospective allottees in the second quarter of this year. This is in addition to constructing several kilometres of link roads from Lagos-Ibadan expressway to the new estates.

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OPIC has earmarked N4.5 billion for capital projects to cover the development of housing units and link roads to both New Makun City and MTR Garden Estates; rehabilitate roads, repair and upgrade housing units in both Agbara Residential Estates in Agbara and Alamala Estates in Abeokuta.

There is high expectation that with this drive to open up local communities with good roads network coupled with the local sourcing of building inputs, access to housing will be a lot easier for a good number of people, especially the low income earners.

Building materials prices in Nigeria are way out of the reach of many would-be builders. There was however, a significant drop in the prices of these materials in the first half of this year (H1 2018).

BusinessDay had, in an earlier report, disclosed that in the material prices was a good reason for builders who had abandoned their projects at the peak of economic recession to return to site and those wishing to start new projects to move to site.

Michael Jideofor, a building technologist, notes that the twin evils of high inflation and exchange rates escalated commodity prices, including those of building materials, leading to meteoric and unsustainable rise in construction cost and stalling of many building projects.

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Depending on the brand, the price of cement, a major building component, has dropped to between N2,550 and N2,600 in H1,2018, down from between N2,700 and N2,900 in corresponding period in 2017, representing about 8 percent drop in price.

This means where a builder would have spent close to N300, 000 to buy 100 bags of cement in H1,2017, he would now spend about N260,000, gaining close to N40,000 which is enough for him to buy a tipper load of gravel.

But while the price of sandcrete (9inch) block has dropped to 210 in H1 2018 and to N170 at the moment, down from N220 in H1 2017, the price of aluminum roofing sheets (0.55mm) has gone up 7 percent to N2,700 in H1 2018, up from N2,500 in H1,2017.

The price of cables (6mm/coil) has also come down to N35,000 in H1 2018, down from N38,000 in H1 2017, representing -9 percent drop. Similarly, the price of paving stone 60mm (local), which is very much in vogue for builders, has dropped from N2,100 in H1 2017 to N1,800, representing -17 percent drop in price.

CHUKA UROKO

70% of Abuja’s residents live in slumps – Senatorial aspirant

 

According to a senatorial aspirant Mr. Olanrewaju Lawrence, about 70% of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) citizens are living in the slumps.
Mr. Lawrence, who is contesting on the platform of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) for a Senatorial seat in FCT in the 2019 general elections, said the situation was caused by past leaders who refused to plan well for the people.
The aspirant who made this know during the ANRP-FCT chapter primaries in Abuja, added that the capital needed a pragmatic shift in leadership in order to bring about the desired development.
“FCT is over 35 years and those elected has not brought the desired development”, he lamented.
“FCT ought to be having more than 10 million tourists as a revenue generating area for the government and creating jobs for the citizens duelling in the capital but look around, you will see infrastructure that are not well conceived”, he added.
Mr. Olanrewaju lamented that money politics was responsible for poor leadership in the capital city.
While noting that Abuja was created to be the proud black capital of the world, he called on the Abuja residents to vote wisely during the 2019 elections.

 

Economy may slip back into recession, CBN warns

…to discuss with MTN, banks over N8.1bn fine

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria on Tuesday warned that weak economic fundamentals currently being shown by the economy were putting the country’s exit from recession under threat.

The Nigerian economy exited recession in 2017 after suffering contraction for five consecutive quarters.

Addressing journalists shortly after the two-day meeting of the MPC members held at the headquarters of the apex bank, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the economy had started showing signs of weakness.

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For instance, he said the committee was concerned that there was a fresh threat of recession as the economy recorded growth rate of 1.95 per cent and 1.5 per cent during the first and the second quarters of this year, respectively.

He noted that the slowdown emanated from the oil sector, with strong linkages to employment and growth.

For instance, the apex bank boss said the late implementation of the 2018 budget, weakening demand and consumer spending, rising contractor debts, and low minimum wage were some of the risks to output growth.

Others, according to him, are the impact of flooding on agricultural output, continued security challenges in the North-East and North-Central zones, and growing level of sovereign debts.

Emefiele stated, “The MPC observed that despite the underperformance of key monetary aggregates, headline inflation inched up to 11.23 per cent in August 2018 from 11.14 per cent in July 2018.

“The near time upside risks to inflation remain the dissipation of the base effect expected from 2019 election related spending, continued herdsmen attacks on farmers and episode of flooding, which destroyed farmlands and affected food supply ultimately.

“In this regard, the committee urges the fiscal authorities to sustain implementation of the 2018 budget to relieve the supply side growth constraints so that they can address the flooding, which has become perennial on a permanent basis.

“Relative stability has returned to the foreign exchange market buoyed by the robust external reserves, with inflation trending downward for the 18th consecutive month.”

He added, “The gains so far achieved appeared to be under threat following the new data, which provides evidence of weakening fundamentals. The committee identified rise in inflation and pressure on the external reserves created by the capital flows reversals as the current challenges to growth.

“It noted that the underlying pressures have started rebuilding and capital flows reversals have intensified as shown by the bearish trend in the equities’ market even though the exchange rate remains very stable.

“The committee was concerned that the exit from recession may be under threat as the economy slid to 1.95 per cent and 1.5 per cent during the first and the second quarters of 2018, respectively.

“The committee noted that the slowdown emanated from the oil sector with strong linkages to employment and growth.”

On what could be done to stimulate economic activities, the CBN governor said that though growth remained weak, the effective implementation of the 2018 Federal Government budget and policies that would encourage credit delivery to the real sector of the economy might boost aggregate demand, stimulate economic activity and reduce unemployment in the country.

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The CBN governor said the committee urged government to take advantage of the current rising trend in oil prices to rebuild fiscal buffers, strengthen government finances in the medium term and reverse the current trend of decline in output growth.

The MPC, according to him, also called on the fiscal authority to intensify the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan to stimulate economic activities, bridge the output gap and create employment.

The apex bank boss said the MPC expressed concern over the potential impact of liquidity injection from election-related spending and increase in federal allocations, which are rising in tandem with increase in oil receipts.

Emefiele added that the committee was concerned with the rising level of non-performing loans in the banking system, and urged the banks to closely monitor and address the situation.

He also expressed concern over the weak intermediation by Deposit Money Banks and its adverse impact on credit expansion as well as investment growth by the private sector.

While revealing the outcome of the meeting, Emefiele explained that seven out of the 10 members of the committee agreed to maintain the current monetary policy stance, while three voted to increase the rates.

According to him, the MPC decided to leave the Monetary Policy Rate unchanged at 14 per cent.

Apart from the MPR, which was retained at 14 per cent, the committee also retained the Cash Reserves Ratio at 22.5 per cent.

Also retained were the Liquidity Ratio which was left at 30 per cent; and the Asymmetric Window, which was left at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR.

Explaining the rationale for the decision, the CBN governor said, “Tightening will tame inflationary pressure, tame the reversal of portfolio capital, improve the external reserves, and maintain stability in the foreign exchange market.

“Conversely, the committee also noted that raising rate would further weaken growth, as credit would become more expensive, non-performing loan would increase further, leading to a deceleration in output.

“In the committee opinion, the upward adjustment would not only signal the bank’s commitment to price stability, but also its desire to maintain all policy interest rates.”

He added, “A decision to hold all policy parameters will sustain natural improvement in output growth.

“There is need to maintain the current policy stand and await a clearer understanding of the quantum and timing of liquidity injection into the economy before deciding on possible adjustment.”

When asked about the state of the Nigerian banking system following the withdrawal of the licence of the defunct Skye Bank Plc, the governor insisted that the Nigerian banking system remained “sound and healthy.”

He said, “In every chain, there will always be strong points and weak points in a chain, but what we will continue to do is to make sure that that chain remains strong in all aspects of it. Notwithstanding that, as we see areas where there are weaknesses, we will do everything possible to make sure that we keep the chain linked together, and that is what we did with Skye Bank.

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“As I have said before, I will love to see a situation where banks are not liquidated, that we have to think outside the box to see how much we can ensure that we have more banks in the country than have less number of banks in the country, and that is what we are doing.

“The situation with Skye Bank, as you well know, is that as at two years ago when the news broke that the bank had slide into negative capital as a result of Non-Performing Loan, at that time, we compelled the entire board and executives to resign and they did.”

Emefiele added, “After that, before we conducted an internal audit, the hole (financial gap) was about N370bn. After the forensic audit, it came to the level it is today, which is almost about N800bn

“So what we did was to say that having established a hole at this level, taxpayers’ money will be invested in this bank as a loan. So, we decided that there is a need to let shareholders know, particularly those that have lost their investments; we will try to make sure that small investors remain protected.

“It is for this reason that the name had to be changed for legal reasons. Having got to the point where the Central Bank of Nigeria has invested close to N800bn in this bank, at some point it must be seen to be owned by the CBN until we find investors that can pay a fair price for the bank.”

He gave an assurance that depositors’ funds in the bridge institution, Polaris Bank, remained safe, adding that the apex bank would ensure that it would not throw the over 5,000 workers of the bank into the labour market.

On the MTN controversy, he said that the N8.1bn, which the CBN asked the company to pay, was the dollar equivalent of the naira generated from its profit.

He said what the CBN sought by asking MTN to return the money was that it wanted a reversal of that transaction because it was not finally authorised by the apex bank.

The governor stated that since the funds moved through four banks, the quantum of dollars that passed through the banks was what the CBN asked the lenders to remit.

Emefiele stated, “It is important to note that this was an investigation that started about two years ago. I feel vindicated that in the history of the banking sector, I at least gave a chance where the regulator, the governor sitting in the meeting, the Director of Banking Supervision with over 20 examiners sitting in a hall with the company and the banks, asking them to resolve the issue, because we agreed that MTN is an important telecom company in Nigeria.

“After that meeting that we held on May 25, 2018, the discussion was inconclusive. We gave MTN and the banks one week to send relevant documents, but it was not done. But realising the importance of this company, we gave extra two weeks for them to provide relevant documentation to the examiners.

“Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and we felt that we couldn’t wait indefinitely and that is the reason why we released the investigative reports. Right now, they have responded and provided documents, which I have sent to the examiners to review.”

He added that the CBN would again invite the banks and MTN to prove their cases.

“It is normal that we should allow them to clear themselves and that is what we are doing. I believe that in due course, we should make a final call on this subject,” he noted.

Ifeanyi Onuba

London’s affordable homes in expensive locations, a lesson for Nigeria

The London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, like the Banana Island in Lagos and Maitama District in Abuja, Nigeria, has some of the most expensive properties in the UK, but a new development of affordable homes has been approved for that location.

In the Nigerian highbrow locations, especially Banana Island, property values are such that the houses built on that island are targeted at a particular class of people. Any other person is a total stranger who is expected to leave immediately after his visit because he does not belong here.

But the story is different elsewhere. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has taken over the Notting Hill Gate scheme and doubled the amount of affordable housing being built to 35 percent, up from 17 percent. Under the new plans, about two thirds of new affordable homes will be available at social rent levels, others capped below the London Living Rent level.

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The application to redevelop Newcombe House in Kensington and Chelsea was turned down by the local council in March, before the Mayor took over the application later that month. The borough has consistently failed to meet targets for new and affordable homes.

Khan pointed out that last year no affordable homes were given planning permission by the council. But through his takeover, the Mayor has secured amendments to the plans that increase the level of affordable housing from 17 to 35 percent.

This is a big lesson for government’s at all levels in Nigeria. The mayor in London who is influencing the redevelopment of affordable homes in expensive areas is an equivalent of a local government chairman in Nigeria.

This underscores the importance the government attaches to housing the citizens but in Africa’s largest economy, housing is a luxury. The expensive locations in the country are exclusive for only the rich and high net-worth individuals who have chosen to live in such locations for a number of reasons including affordability, class, taste, and above all exclusivity of that location where only men of means are found which widens the inequality gap in society.

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For the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea to have chosen to develop more affordable homes in the expensive locations means there is a deliberate attempt to close the inequality gap in the society.

The development will include a medical centre, step-free access to the nearby Notting Hill Gate, underground station and a new public square with permanent pedestrian and cycle access.
“Since taking office, I’ve been clear I will use all the levers at my disposal to increase the supply of council, social rented, and other genuinely affordable homes that Londoners need across the capital,” said Khan.

Continuing, he explained, “having considered all the evidence available to me, and following hardwork by my planning team to increase the level of affordable housing, I have decided to grant permission for this development”.

This is a huge lesson for Nigeria where affordable homes for low income earners is not part of the concerns of government. Majority of private sector operators don’t factor affordable housing into their calculations and those who do usually go to the hinterland to develop. Demand here is not strong because many people would rather rent at the city centre than own a home in the ‘bush’.

The proposed development in London will also include important new step-free access to Notting Hill Gate station, a major improvement benefitting local residents and visitors coming to enjoy this vibrant and exciting part of the capital. This is unimaginable in a location like Banana Island where such a development will not be permitted because it will impact negatively on the exclusivity of the location.

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London has housing crisis like Nigeria, but unlike Nigeria, the government at various levels are addressing the crisis. Nigeria has a deficit estimated at 17 million units that requires an annual housing delivery of about 700,000.

But, Chudi Ubosi, an estate surveyor and valuer, says aggregate output at the moment is not up to 100,000 units.

Khan believes that ‘London’s housing crisis won’t be solved overnight, but hopes “this will send a clear message that I expect developments to include more genuinely affordable housing and other benefits for local people,’ he added.

CHUKA UROKO

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