Artisans, farmers and suppliers in the country are getting more empowered through the National Housing Programme aimed at providing affordable houses in Nigeria. A number of artisanal job opportunities have been created following the speed the current administration has approached the project.
Okabua Joseph who is one of the labourers, said he was able to earn a job through the project. Okabua said before now he had nothing doing but that he now earned about N2,000 daily from which he took care of his family. Under the National Housing Programme, each state government provides land where the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Works, Power and Housing, provides physical housing units in the 36 states. The Ministry of Works, Power and Housing recently took a tour of some states in the North Central; particularly FCT, Nasarawa, Benue and Plateau, where projects under the National Housing Programme handled by various contractors are ongoing.
The monitoring team, led by the North Central National Housing Programme Zonal Coordinator, Engr. Julius Olurinola, began with the FCT project located at Dukwa in Gwagwalada Area Council. The Gwagalada project consists of 72 housing units, according to Leo Chao a contractor at the Gwawalada site, who added that with the fast disbursement of funds the project which was already 40 per cent done would be completed in due course. The ongoing projects in Lafiya, Nasarawa state are semi-detached bungalows consisting of one, two and three bedrooms. The housing estate which is located at Ungwar Rere, Kilometre 10, along Shendam Road consists of 78 housing units. Engr. Olurinola said the first phase of the Nasarawa housing project was almost at completion stage, adding that the project would be completed in the next two months. But by the time the inspection team arrived the Makurdi housing project at the Mobile Police Barracks Road, New Layout, the site had been taken over by protesters claiming to be the actual owners of the land which the Benue State Government provided for the housing project. They blocked the entrance to the estate calling on the Federal Government to immediately compensate them.
READ:ABUJA INTERNATIONAL HOUSING SHOW – THE LARGEST HOUSING AND CONSTRUCTION EXPO IN WEST AFRICA Leader of the group, Deunion Akombo, said the Utu Mega Layout community demanded a quick response from the Federal Government to compensate everyone affected by the scheme. In Jos, residents of Laminga in Jos East Local Government Area of Plateau State expressed joy over the new national housing programme sited in their community, saying that the programme had been boosting the economic lives of the people. The project involves two blocks of one-bedroom semi-detached flat (four units), 24 blocks of 3- bedroom semi-detached flats (48 units), 14 blocks of three-bedroom semi-detached flats (28 units), giving a total of 40 blocks (80 units). The District Head of Laminga, Adagwom Izang Abok, said the project had empowered the community by providing menial employment opportunity to labourers, food and drink sellers, suppliers, among others.
The Federal Government is sinking N771 million into building 80 houses in Plateau under the Federal Housing Programmed (FHP), according to Mr Julius Olurinola, FHP Zonal Coordinator (North-Central). Olurinola, who inspected work on the housing project located at Laminga village in Jos on Sunday, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that he was “very impressed” with the quality of work at the site.
He commended the Plateau government for donating the 5.04 hectares of land for the project, and particularly lauded its collaboration with the federal government to execute the project. Olurinola urged the handlers of the project to keep up the good work, and also encouraged them to strive to meet the deadline for the completion of every unit.
He said that the housing scheme was a collective dream that must be supported to minimise the shortage of houses in Plateau.
The official said that infrastructural facilities were already being provided to the estate, saying that special attention was being paid to road construction which had been the major challenge for the handlers.
A representative of the contractors, Mohammed Jalige, commended the Lamingo community for being hospitable, and attributed the speed of the job and its good quality to the peaceful working environment in the area.
Jalige said that the handlers had employed more than 1,500 youths and trained many of them on various skills.
Speaking at the phase one of the project site in Gwagwalada, Abuja, Olurinola who is the ministry’s Director of Engineering, said the project implementation which already commenced in 33 states including the Federal Capital Territory have created both direct and indirect jobs across the chain. He said the three apartment houses have 72 units of flats to be occupied by interested individuals at an affordable cost, adding that the project is a reality of campaign promises of the present administration.
The FCT Condominium Type A Project is a block building consisting of 4 units of 1 bedroom, 16 units of 2 bedroom and 4 units of 3 bedroom with a parking space available to occupy 50 cars.
The Project Manager, Mr. Liu Chao, said the needed infrastructures for the project such as access road, water, power among others are 95 per cent completed while the building is 40 per cent completed.
He said about 200 workers have been engaged apart from suppliers and food vendors, who on daily basis provides meal for the workers.
Chao, representing the contracting firm, City International Dimension assured that the project will be delivered in six months.
Ministry Project Team Leader, Architect Toyin Faturoti added that, “Ramp was constructed mainly for the physically challenged and there is high rail for protection of the occupants. There are 2 bedroom flats and 3 bedroom flats where each bedroom has its toilets and kitchen good enough to make them comfortable.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Finance, Akinyemi Ashade, spoke with select journalists on the recently passed 2018 budget, the urgency for infrastructure renewal in the state, and the aggressive drive to boost internally generated revenue, among others. Chika Amanze-Nawchuku presents the excerpts:
Lagos State Government has just passed a budget of over one trillion Naira into law. This is certainly a first for any state in Nigeria. What informs this level of mega budgeting and what guarantee can you give that this budget will be fully implemented? Are you not being a little over-ambitious?
When you examine the requirements of the state especially from the point of provision of social and physical infrastructure you will find that there is still a huge vacuum that needs to be filled. And this is despite what has been done over the years especially since 1999. Take a look at any area whatsoever, from roads to public housing to education to security and healthcare and education. There is still so much that needs to be done. And perhaps that is why you will see that His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is so anxious to turn things around and to do so in a systematic manner.
And as you would have obviously already witnessed, there is so much that is going on currently in Lagos in terms of infrastructural development. In fact, it is a full infrastructural renewal that is going on. The reconstruction and total redevelopment of Airport Road into a 10-lane expressway is underway and progressing very well. Oshodi is being completely overhauled into a modern transport interchange that will not only facilitate movement but also drive business and commerce and provide jobs for people. Like the Ajah and Abule-Egba flyovers, which Governor Ambode built in record time, the Pen Cinema bridge is also being aggressively worked on. The Pen Cinema bridge will help to provide relief to the millions of citizens who live in the Agege-Ogba-Oke-Ira areas of Lagos and their neighborhoods from the traffic congestion that has for decades been associated with the rapid expansion and population growth in that entire axis. His Excellency’s promise is to deliver that project this year.
You may have probably heard of the embedded power project as well. This is a unique power project and will deliver independently produced power to Lagosians. Target completion date is 2018 and this project will deliver regular electricity to Lagosians. Now, can you imagine how that singular project on electricity will impact the lives of Lagosians? By how much it will help to unleash the entrepreneurial energy of the people and drive the efficiency of businesses and make life more convenient for the people? And there are lots of other projects in Education, public housing, healthcare, security and other areas.
So you see, the budget is a reflection of the enormity of work that needs to be done by a responsive and responsible government.
But some people have complained that despite the huge annual budgets, development hardly seems to get to their immediate localities. Some say they contribute to grade their streets and repair their transformers and even provide their own water.
I think this question in a way provides some answer to your first question. The N1.046 trillion budget may be huge indeed, but it remains insufficient to really drive development in the optimal manner that the state deserves especially given the fact that we have for many decades considerably under-invested in infrastructure. What I’m saying here is that even for such a relatively huge budget, there are still limitations as to what it can achieve. That is why government has to be exceedingly painstaking in the overall budgeting process. The idea is to deliver the greatest good to the greatest number of people and ensuring that in as many ways as possible everyone enjoys the dividends of good governance. That is why you will find that all of the projects that are being implemented are those that will deliver the greatest impact to the highest number of people. This is not to say that we will not take projects everywhere. Ultimately, every ward, every street will benefit from one project or the other. Many of the projects I have mentioned are the big signature projects of this administration but there are lots of others. For instance, a BRT Lane will be constructed from Oshodi to Abule-Egba. There’s an 8 Kilometer regional road to connect VGC with Freedom Road in Lekki Phase One and alternative routes to connect Lekki-Epe Expressway from Oke-Ira in Etiosa Local Government. Also in this budget, housing projects in Ajara-Badagry, Igbogbo, Iponri, Gbagada, Omole Phase I, Igando and Sangotedo will be completed on a rent-to-own basis.
Apart from these, there’s also the issue of social infrastructure, which we must also bear in mind. This year, for instance, we are making a provision of N126 billion for Education which essentially represents 12 percent of the overall budget. Now, this is a record as I do not know any other state that is devoting as much to education. But then it speaks to the sophistication of the thinking of Governor Ambode. He is driving an aggressive infrastructure renewal across the state in order to deliver a Lagos of the future. But what is the future without Education? What is the future if our children are not availed quality education to keep them apace with their counterparts elsewhere in the world? So education is being taken very seriously and this affects all our children. Another key area is healthcare to which N92b or roughly 9 percent of the budget is being devoted. So provision of social infrastructure is an area into which the government is investing heavily and which impacts the lives of all of us, much more than we probably realize.
What about the size of government? There is a general view that government size is too large which is why government always tends to devote so much to recurrent expenditure which is really about paying salaries of people in government while capital expenditure suffers.
Let me talk about the capital expenditure to recurrent expenditure ratio and assure you that in Lagos state, it is a very healthy one. In fact in the 2018 budget, the ratio is two to one. 67 percent of the budget is going to capital expenditure while 33 percent goes to recurrent expenditure. And that’s a very realistic and healthy ratio. So we are devoting far more to capital expenditure than to recurrent here in Lagos. This is not to downplay the importance of recurrent expenditure, which also has a critical role to play in the economic value chain. Governance as you know, still must be carried out by functionaries at different levels. However, we continue to watch the government headcount very keenly but more importantly, Governor Ambode will always emphasize efficiency. It’s not just about the headcount, it is also about how much the government is empowering its own people to deliver at their best, how much it is providing them with training, tools and facilities to operate the machinery of government efficiently.
This brings me to the key question of funding this budget of N1 trillion. How do you plan to fund this overly ambitious budget?
Well, you are right to call it an ambitious budget. But I’m sure that the scenario I have painted in our discussion so far, justifies why it needs to be ambitious if it is to truly deliver a better tomorrow to us and our children.
To fund the budget, we are looking primarily at internally generated revenue. As you very well know, dating back to the days of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, IGR has been a mainstay of our local economy in Lagos and that has been very critical to the progress we have continued to make as a state and set us apart from all other states in Nigeria.
But people are beginning to complain about your taxes. In fact, some people say you are over-taxing…
I very much appreciate where all of this is coming from, especially against the backdrop of the current economic situation. None of us, no matter how wealthy, is immune to the current economic situation. Even if you are, you must have friends, and relatives who are affected. But I assure you that everything we are doing is based on a fundamental premise which is not to burden any citizen with more than what he can conveniently shoulder. That is the explicit instruction of His Excellency, Governor Ambode. That is why you will find that in every instance, we have incorporated a feedback mechanism so that any citizen who legitimately believes that what he’s being charged may be excessive has a right to seek clarification and even appeal.
What has happened in the recent past is that government has made an effort to enhance the efficiency of the tax regime in the state as part of the overall reforms in the financial management of the state. You may probably have heard the LIRS frequently complain that the tax burden in the state is shouldered by a small fraction of people. Many people who ought to pay tax do not pay. And this creates a problem for everyone. You may have read press reports of the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly lamenting recently that of the more than 2million taxable properties in Lagos, only about 300,000 were actually paying Land Use Charge. In fact, this was one of the motivations for the review and repeal of the old Land Use Charge Law.
So what has happened basically, has been an attempt to redress this. For instance, there are taxes or levies that had over the years become obsolete. If you were paying a tax or levy of N50 in 2001 for instance, that may have been quite significant at that time, but certainly much less significant in 2018. So on one hand, some of these taxes and levies had become obsolete.
On the other hand, there was also the question of the inefficiency in the collection process. This is an area which we are aggressively striving to ramp up. For Land Use Charge, for instance we are enhancing the enumeration of properties across the state. We are doing this physically but also supporting it with the use of GPS technology.
But the complaint is that the Land Use Charge has gone up astronomically. Quite a few people have complained bitterly that the new rates under the land use charge regime may have negative impact on future property development in the state because of the land use charge rate.
When the old Land Use Charge law was repealed by the Lagos State House of Assembly recently, one of the complaints the Assembly had was that there was a bit of opacity in that whole regime. So for instance you could be paying far more than someone living in a much bigger house on the same street because the method of calculation of Land Use Charge tended to be very subjective.
That was why the House of Assembly decided that in making the new law there would need to be some standardisation. That was why they decided that going forward, properties would be valued at market rate. As you know, market rate is very much standardized and if you use the services of a professional valuer you will find that these professionals do actually provide very accurate valuation of properties based on market rates.
So using market value in property valuation is helping to eliminate some of the opacity that used to be associated with the Land Use Charge regime. It is also helping to ensure that obsolete rates are brought fairly up-to-date.
Another thing it also does is that now, you do not necessarily need to wait to receive your annual demand notice before you pay your Land Use Charge. If you wish, you can value your property with the help of a professional valuer and calculate the value of Land Use Charge yourself and then go ahead to make payment.
But the market rate approach for determining Land Use Charge has also led to very steep increases in Land Use Charge. Some people have said that they got increases of over 200%. Is this increase not too high?
First, I think that the use of percentages can be very misleading. Someone who has been paying say N1,500 since 2006 and who is now requested to pay N5,000 today, 12 years later, may say it’s a 300% increase but you and I know what the value of N1,500 was 12 years ago versus what it is today.
But more importantly, I want to say that the State Government has been very encouraged by the responses so far to the Land Use Charge. The officials started distributing the demand notices just a few weeks ago and so far the responses have been very good. Very many property owners have proceeded to make payments. And we would continue to encourage property owners and those who have up to 10-year leases on properties to go ahead and pay as soon as possible because in doing so, you benefit from an additional 15% relief on the Land Use Charge, which is one of the additional reliefs in the new Land Use Charge regime.
What do you mean by “reliefs” are you talking about discount? Is the Land Use Charge discounted?
By relief, I am referring to the several buffers that the law has put in place in order to reduce the amount that is eventually paid. So even though properties are valued at market rate, in calculating the Land Use Charge rate to be paid, a general relief of 40% is applied. And then of course, if payment is made promptly there is an additional 15% relief. So in essence, one is paying just about 45% of the chargeable rate if one pays in good time.
Apart from this, retirees who are aged 70 years and above and live in their own houses are exempted. They do not pay any Land Use Charge. The same applies to properties that are used for religious and not-for-profit activities. They are also exempted. There are categories of exemptions and reliefs for the physically challenged as well.
And as I said earlier, the majority of property owners have gone ahead to make payments.
But this is not to say that all those who are complaining about the new Land Use Charge regime have no case. This is a system that is man-made, so it is not necessarily perfect. This is why we have a Help Desk office at the Ministry of Finance, specifically dedicated to handling such complaints. And I encourage every citizen with a legitimate complaint to please contact the Land Use Charge Help Desk. The Help Desk is very accessible and can be reached by phone and email. All the contact details of the Help Desk are on the demand notices. Any property owner disputing his bill may simply contact the Help Desk to resolve these issues. The Help Desk is manned by trained professionals, human beings like you and I, who live in the same Lagos, so they empathise. I assure you that once a legitimate case is established, then of course, a remedy will be instituted promptly.
As I said earlier and I must continue to re-emphasize this: the new law was not designed to punish anyone. The sole objective was to make it more realistic and functional. Where any property owner may feel that the computation of his bill is wrong, please feel free to contact the Help Desk of the Land Use Charge office.
So you are looking at funding the N1.04 trillion budget using IGR basically?
Well, IGR alone will not be able to completely fund this. In terms of IGR and what we receive from the centre we project that the state will receive about N897billion. The balance will have to be funded through budget deficit financing. So you can see that in the face of the developmental challenge that we are confronted with, we all have to be extremely committed and creative to generate the funding to surmount this. We will need to make sacrifices from time-to-time, and thankfully, Governor Ambode is clearly demonstrating that these sacrifices are not in vain. His commitment to infrastructure renewal across the entire state is very palpable and the evidence is there for all to see.
I will continue to appeal for cooperation and understanding from my fellow Lagosians in this journey towards building a mega city of the future; a city that our children will be very proud of.
Rabiu Umar is the Managing Director of Ashaka Cement Plc, a subsidiary of LafargeHolcim. In this interview with journalists, he says multiple taxation remains the bane of business growth in the country. MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI was there
How did the Boko Haram hostilities in the North-East affect your operations?
On November 4, 2014, our plant was attacked by the insurgents. Obviously, they were trying to find explosives. Exactly one month after that, there was another attack. Of course, the default thinking was for the company to shut down during that period until things calmed down.
The management of Lafarge, however, took a decision to keep it open because as you may know, stopping and starting an operation this big is not really a day’s job because we have about 700 people working here and we live in a place that is more or less like an island.
Even if we had shut down operations, the members of staff would still be there. You can’t have 700 people suddenly pack their bags to go somewhere. Therefore, a decision was reached at a significant financial expense to keep the plant running and I think it was the right decision which has shown that we have the resilience when it comes to keeping our operations running.
Looking at the post-insurgent era, how are you contributing to the redevelopment of the area?
To start with, we make cement and most of the destructions in the area were civil in nature, if you take out the psychological and socioeconomic aspects. So, naturally, we are contributing in that regard. If you remember, there were more than two million people who were displaced by the insurgency and by virtue of keeping this operation open; we are helping to make sure there is enough economic activity in the area.
Like I said, there are 700 people working here directly and probably another 2,000 people who do supply and other things. The average household in this part is 10. So, you can imagine what the company has done. A more direct approach is helping the communities acquire skills that can be useful in terms of social services and health care as well as education.
We have an artisanship, for example, that has intakes from the communities strictly created for them. Graduates of this scheme go on to set up their businesses and develop their communities. If you are a carpenter or a mason, you get the tools of the trade and can go into the community to start.
At the same time, we absorb some of them. The second most senior person on the industrial side after the plant manager is a local person from Bajoga, who came through the programme. We took him to South Africa and our sister plant in Calabar as the second most senior person there as well.
We look at the contribution from the perspective of our operations rather than direct interventions, and, of course, we have those. We have built classrooms, boreholes and a lot of things but we call those ‘business as usual’ because they are basic things that we do. Building classrooms doesn’t mean that education will happen. So we do more sustainable activities in that regard.
Giving back to the community comes in different forms and sizes. The focus we have as a company worldwide is health care, youth empowerment and education. These are things that everywhere you go in the LafargeHolcim world, you find that different societies have different ways of implementation but these are the three core things.
When it comes to health care, for instance; I can say directly, today on a daily basis, we have a clinic that sees over 200 people from the community. Both consultation and drugs are free; it is one of the things we believe is important.
I just spoke about youth empowerment. We have in excess of 2,000 graduates since the beginning of the programme and every year, we keep taking them and we pay them for the two years that they are here.
Over 90 per cent of our staff are of northern stock; 70 per cent are from the north east while those from Gombe make up 56 per cent of our staff. And of course, most of them are from communities around us.
And when you look at education, we have two schools right inside Ashaka and they have over 1,000 students and 60 per cent of them are from the community and they don’t pay school fees. I think also beyond how much money we give the youths, there are also other exchange programmes that we have.
A polytechnic is about to start at Bajoga. The reason for citing the school there is because Ashaka exists here. Polytechnics produce hands-on people. The plan is that we will partner with the school to do a lot of exchange programmes.
We are also starting an agricultural programme called agri-ecology; it is all about mixed breeding. You take the ecology of agric process back to its natural way where one crop fights the pest of the other, for instance. This creates a high yield.
So, in a sense, we are going to roll that out to empower our communities and help increase their yield by up to 30 or 40 per cent. It means they can generate more revenues from one piece of land.
Cement manufacturing comes with a lot of emissions. How do you control your operations so that it doesn’t impact negatively on the environment where people live in?
Cement business involves extracting things from the ground but at the same time we have a standard. The LafargeHolcim, as the largest building materials business in the world, has standards.
The standard is such that if any country that the company is operating in has low standards, our standard becomes what we use. But if it is higher, then we also use it. So, at any point in time, we make sure we are well within the standard that each location has.
We have a very high standard and there are different regulatory agencies that we work with. They include the Ministry of the Environment, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.
The key concerns are the dust emissions and when it comes to coal, there is the acidity. And of course, before you even get a licence to operate, there must be an environmental management plan in place. Beyond that, we make sure we have an improvement plan.
A few years ago, you know you are approaching Ashaka when you find dust on vehicles but today, that is not the case. It has reduced and we have the numbers to show for it. We hosted the former Minister of Environment some time ago to see what we are doing. Of course, there is always room for improvement but the most important thing is to ensure that the dust emission is lower than the limits set by the environmental plan.
Sometime ago, you signed a development agreement with some communities. What is the status of the implementation of that agreement?
The implementation is on going. We ran into some misunderstanding. It was actually a law, everywhere you operate a mining activity you must have a community development agreement which defines the basics of what you must do but you don’t limit yourself to only what is on the agreement.
We ran into some issues but it is being implemented while we are trying to do more; not everything we do is in black and white. The medical thing I talked about earlier is not part of the plan but we do it.
It is a five-year programme but what we try to do is to make sure that whatever we want to do within a year is done before the year runs out so that the community can start getting the benefit.
How are government policies impacting on your business?
I think there are two levels to it. Government policies in a sense have helped us to operate because without a framework, you cannot run. Is there room for improvement? Of course, there is.
One of the key things that is really confusing is multiple taxation because you have the federal, state and local governments. And sometimes, when you stack up everything, it is a bit confusing to understand at what level it stops. It is one of the key drivers of business that every business owner talks about in the country.
It also brings about uncertainty; you plan something you want to do this year and suddenly, something comes up that is not in your plan but can have an impact on your planning and result.
A lot of people think that the price of cement is very high considering that Nigeria has limestone. What’s your take on this?
I wouldn’t want to go into that. It is very controversial because there is an emotional part of it and the real part of it. And typically, we tend to be more emotional. I don’t want to go into details but it is not quite true that all our raw materials are locally sourced. You can find out how much cement is in Chad and Niger in dollar and make the comparison.
Lafarge has some programmes on affordable housing in the southern part of the country. What similar initiatives do you have in the north?
It is a national programme, not specific to any region. We are in the process of developing one in this region. Affordable housing comes in different shapes and forms. For instance, you may want to build houses in large scale. So, there is affordable housing and there is mass housing.
Mass housing may not be the bottom of the pyramid but it allows more people to really have access to housing. And how does it work? You’re building this same structure in a thousand places and instead of using blocks you can use what we call the formwork, which is one of the things we are working on.
We have done one in Ogun State and we are taking people from the north to see how it works because the idea is to copy the model and ensure we can do it quickly and in a cost-efficient way.
There has been a lull in the property market. What effect has this had on cement sales?
First of all, Nigeria went into recession and anybody who lives in Nigeria knows the impact. The cost of anything that has any correlation with foreign exchange has doubled. So, first of all, that is a reality.
The income left after taking care of basic needs has gone down, and naturally, there is no way it won’t have an impact on certain sectors that are not immediate, like food. And then of course, the economic situation means that the market is not growing as fast as expected and I think that’s publicly available information.
People tend to blame affordability of housing on cement. To what extent will you say cement influences affordability?
Cement is less than 20 per cent of the total cost of building construction. What is the correlation between cement and the cost of building? The global average is six per cent. This is verifiable and a scientific information. It depends on the building practices; for instance, not everyone use hollow blocks; some use the formwork. That way, there is a lot of saving.
So, there are a lot of building practices that help to bring down price but when you look at the price of blocks and cement, the global average is six per cent. In Nigeria, it may be seven per cent but I don’t think it is up to eight per cent.
Typically, people think if the price of cement is half of what it is today, it increases affordability or the number of people that can afford to build their own homes. In a sense, you can say yes, but it is only six per cent.
The rest of the 94 per cent is in the finishing. You can build and finish the carcass of your building and you are just 30 per cent of the way including the concrete, beam and all. You find out that the cost of one door will probably build the walls. That is where most of the cost goes.
What are your expansion plans for Ashaka Cement?
Where we see Ashaka is as a more efficient business in the next five years and one of which is from the cost perspective. There is currently a project on going; we are building a power plant to be able to generate our own electricity. Today, we are relying on generators as you know the cost of fuel whether LPG or diesel is very high and has a high correlation to foreign exchange.
We are building an N11bn project, a 16-megawatt coal-fired power plant to cater to our needs. That is one of the biggest plan that we have in terms of being able to reduce our costs because one of the biggest costs in cement production is the cost of energy.
Inside the kiln, we have temperature running up to 1,400 degrees, which is up to the heat used for steel. You can imagine the kind of heat we are talking about here and to generate that kind of heat, we need fuel.
We are 1, 500km away from the coast of Nigeria and when there is a challenge of fuel, people can import but we are here in a landlocked place. So we must have a different source of energy. Again, there are gas pipelines but Gombe, Benue and Sokoto states do not have. Everyone else is linked. Gas is much cheaper but we don’t have a link to the pipeline. That’s why we need to find a solution.
The second is to unlock some of the existing potential in terms of capacity. Over the years, you lose some efficiency and we are trying to gain back that efficiency.
The other is, depending on how things go, we intend to increase the capacity of the plant by building new capacity.
As FG pledges completion of Benin-Auchi Road Illah in Oshimili North local council of Delta state, the hometown of the former Super Eagles Coach, Mr. Stephen Okechukwu Keshi, has been selected as the site of a 10, 000 housing units for civil servants to be constructed by Greenfield Assets Limited.Also approved is the completion of the Udu Harbour Market Phase 1 and construction of concrete drains as well as discharge channel from Refinery Road through Aribogha Street, Jesus is Lord Street to the natural waterway by Regal Clinic, Jakpa Road, Effurun. The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Patrick Ukah who disclosed in Asaba explained that the approval is to alleviate the housing challenges facing civil servants in the state, especially Asaba, the state capital, with a view to making them more comfortable to meet the demands of their offices.
The commissioner said that the government approved the continuation of the construction of Ibusa/Achalla/Asaba Road (Phase 1: 4.125 km) in Oshimili North local council, in addition to the construction of Ogulagha/Youbebe/Biniebiama Road (1,500 metres) in Burutu local council and the rehabilitation of Orogun-Emevor Road and Erhieta Road (4.6 kilometres). Also approved is the completion of the New General Hospital Road with a spur to Joy Ariguzor Street, off Okpanam Road, in the state capital territory, the construction of Arhagba—Orogun Road (11.294 kilometres) in Ughelli North local council and the construction of Upper Ojekpolor Street, (1,150 metres) in Ika North East local council.
Meanwhile, the federal government has committed to delivering high quality roads nationwide. The government also appealed to motorists and other road users to be patient with contractors handling ongoing federal road construction projects in the country.
Director, Federal Highways South-South in Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Charles Okomah, an engineer, disclosed this while addressing journalists in Benin City after a two days tour of federal government projects.He said the dualization of the Benin-Auchi section of the Benin-Lokoja Highway, will meet the project completion date, scheduled later in the year.
Okomah urged motorists and other road users on the need to be patient with the pace of work which is rather slow adding that construction works on the road is near completion.He argued that the slow pace of work was due to inclement weather condition, but insisted that generally adverse weather condition would be no excuse for contractor’s non-performance.
Okomah, who noted that inclement situation has improved, hence work also has improved said, “We have a lot challenges usually. We have inclement weather conditions for a period of almost four months in the execution of road construction projects.He said the ministry will not hesitate to sanction contractors found wanting in terms of default on contract, particularly on the ground that such default is not as a result of non-payment on job description.
Controller, Federal Ministry of works, Edo State, Oke Owhe, an engineer, during the tour of projects in the state said the federal government awarded the first phase of the dualization of the Lokoja-Benin Road, section four (Ehor-Benin) to Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) on the December 3, 2012 ,while work commenced on the December 24, 2012 and the expected project completion date is now December 23, 2018.
The project tour, which was monitored by members of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) commenced from Edo South Senatorial District through Edo Central and Edo North Senatorial Districts of the state with verifiable projects receiving government attention.
Nigeria’s economy had for over three decades now been presided over by the brightest economists from all over the world, from the top echelon of the World Bank, ADB/ADF, the Academic Community and other economic pundits.
Yet, The Human Development Index (HDI) of Nigerians which is an aggregate of the general standard of living of the people in terms of access to education, health care, housing, security, potable water and high life expectancy etc has not improved, and to some extent has deteriorated significantly.
So, what went wrong ? what can we do on the short and long term, and is there any need for policy and orientation shift to reverse this trend ?
Are we really on track? Nigeria has the highest numbers of children who are out of school in the world, 12 million of them followed by 5 million in Pakistan.
Most Nigerians do not have access to potable drinking water, which is a critical human necessity.
Life expectancy in Nigeria at under 50 years is very low even by African standards due to poor access to medical services, such that malaria takes over 200,000 lives annually.
The rich and influential however go abroad for medical treatment, leaving the poor to an uncertain fate
The house deficit stands at 18 million units and millions of Nigerians live in shanty towns without any sewage system, schools, running water and health services.
Nigeria, despite being a major exporter of crude oil, still imports refined petroleum products worth several billions of USD a year.
Nigeria is a heavy importer of food despite the abundance of arable and fertile lands showered by the tropical sun and fresh waters, which are ideal for farming wide varieties of grains, tubers and fruits. The security situation in the country is very precarious, such that the movement of people is restricted and cautious because of abductors and kidnappers.
These are some of the plethora of problems confronting Nigeria today.
These challenges in most cases require simple solutions, which however were often complicated by untested economic policies, which are too theoretical,, impractical and sometimes unreasonable .
For example, If Nigeria’s economy is the fastest growing in the world, then, how come that tens of thousands of Nigerians are fleeing the country to Europe and other parts of the world ?
If Nigeria is trully out of recession, why can’t the effect be felt now, instead of in decades to come as being suggested by our economic experts?
In essence, there is no workable plan in place now and the Nigerian people are unhappy, and not fairing well. The adoption of market economy and privatisation policy , which is a refined form of capitalism in its poor and distorted form is the foundation of Nigeria’s underdevelopment.
The private sector has taken over the role of the government, whereas, both should work independently and compliment each other. The private sector in developed countries operate freely, in several sectors of the economy, while the governments in turn provide free education, free health care, assist farmers, pay stipends to the poor and offer several social services.
The policy shift should ensure that the government assumes its responsibilities towards the people. The rampages of the herdsmen today will be a child’s play when they are joined by millions of Nigerian children who are currently out of school.
The problem of education should therefore top the list of government agenda. There can be no development without an educated population. The free education policy of Western Nigeria of the past can still be replicated today.
The Lagos State model during the second Republic from 1979-83 is a good example to copy in terms of physical structures, teaching and management
On housing, the government should take advantage of the mass employment potentials in the huge housing deficit in the country.
A housing project of 2 million units a year has the potentials to employ up to 5 million artisans as; plumbers , electricians, carpenters, masons, tilers, supervisors, labourers and other accessory jobs.
Medical tourism abroad is a national embarrassment. The Nigerian government should build several world class hospitals to deal with this anomaly.
These projects could be funded from Nigeria’s 40 billion USD Foreign Exchange Reserves which is currently open to all and sundry to finance the importation of assorted luxury goods which add little value to the economy. The same principle should apply to the building of refineries and reviving defunct government-owned enterprises (GOE) such as the National Airline and Shipping Line. These companies went down because of poor and incompetent management. .
Giant Chinese Construction and Oil Companies operating internationally are owned by the Chinese government and run by trusted party members and competent managers.
Finally and most importantly is the need to stop the continuous decline in the value of the Nigerian currency. The best way to strengthen the Naira is for the CBN to stop funding luxury imported goods directly from Nigeria’s scarce foreign exchange reserves.
Although there is a policy to this effect, the CBN has been circumventing it by funding them through the BDCs.
When sponsored alarms are raised in the media about the falling value of the naira in the open market, the CBN rushes to pump money to the BDC apparently to ‘shore’ up its value, but in actual fact, willfully or naively enriching the BDC operators and indirectly funding importers who are not entitled to foreign exchange at the official rates.
In principle, individuals who which to exchange their naira at whatever rate should be free to do so. This should not be the concern of the CBN. If the value of the naira is strong within Nigeria, the demand for forex would reduce. And this can only be done, if local industries are supported by the banks to grow.
The recent raising of tariffs on locally produced products in the on going frenetic tax drive can only worsen an already bad situation. When Sékou Toure, the late President of Guinea Conakry opted out of the CFA Francophone monetary zone in 1958, he took a calculated risk and he had to sail or sink with the decision.
He created the Guinean Franc and pegged the official rate at 2,5 Guinean Francs (GF) to 1 USD. The parallel market rate was 200 GF to 1 usd. What Sékou Toure did was to give local value to the GF which rendered the USD and other foreign currencies irrelevant in the country. The government provided free education from primary to university level and the President put his children in the same school system.
There was free medical services and serious medical conditions were referred abroad, (usually to Morocco) at government expense.
Sékou Toure issued ration cards to every family, including diplomats, Nigerians, Americans , Germans to purchase rice, meat, fish, sugar , vegetable oil at reasonable prices. A 50 kilo rice was sold for about 10 usd.
This policy was so effective that incidences of violent crime was rare, Beggars were not in the streets, there was no prostitution or human trafficking in the country. This program not withstanding, the government did not shut down private sector operators who were also thriving.
The policy of food distribution to the public is not alien to Nigeria. It was a means of empowering the people in what is now derided as stomach infrastructure.
The Nigerian National Supply Company (NNSC) during the second Republic, had warehouses all over the country through which rice, sugar, vegetable oil, milk and stock fish were supplied to civil servants and the general public at reasonable prices.
This program should be revived to stem the current level of hunger in the land.
These simple remedies are more effective than the fabulous economic statements which have not benefited the Nigerian people in any form.
• Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director of Trade, Investment and Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When it comes to buying lands, lots of people are scared and are victim of having to buy lands and properties at location where they end up regretting or ultimately losing their hard earned investment to scammers who pose as legitimate owners Which is why you need to learn about these various hot pointers which helps you most especially in investigating titles on any land that you want to purchase. Because that very land that you are about to go for could simply be a fake making you lose your hard earned money.
So here it goes…
Search At The Land Registry
In every state, the land registry is the first and most important place where you can easily conduct your search over property before getting involved. Example of such is simply the Surveyor General Office Alausa, Lagos. What this usually reveals are the important information that lets you know the situation of the location that you are looking to buy or purchase. They include The nature of the grant and the grant holder in nature of the property
Description of the property
The details of the registered transfer, sale, leases etc
Any previous or existing encumbrances on property such as mortgages, pledge
Any government acquisition
Any court judgment on the property you are interested in.
Search at the Probate Registry
This is simply to reveal whether or not probate has been granted and those that are simply involved in this case. This is so as to know if there is no WILL in place to the property that you are about to acquire.
Search At Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC]
In a situation where the past owners of the property is company incorporated under companies and allied matters Act. This will help to reveal the trustees or if the company is registered and also get to know if the its has the capacity to carry out the transaction.
To get to know if a land has been subject to court litigation which is a big problem some buyers usually find themselves in, you need to do a court search which is conducted to find out if there is any of such in place or rather if there is also an appeal filed against the judgement.
Inquiry On Communal And Family land
This is simply conducted on the principal members of the family land or community and head of the community to ensure that the land is not subject to any of such and also affirming that all the important consent of the land is obtained and verify if the title in question was neither void or voidable.
Its of utmost important that you check the land for yourself to see what it is that you are getting involved with. Should in case you cannot simply as a result of staying outside the country or in a position of not been chanced, then you need to get someone trusted that would help check out the location and give you a feedback on how good the place it.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), is set to hold a dialogue session that will renegotiate grey areas in the new Land Use Charge Law of Lagos State.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by Mr Muda Yusuf, Director-General of LCCI on Friday in Lagos.
Yusuf said that the session, scheduled for March 9, would examine the provisions of the recently-passed law viz-a-viz its implications for residents and businesses operating in Lagos State and its environs.
“In continuance of its Public Policy Advocacy Initiative, it behoves the LCCI to provide a platform, such as this, to aggregate the views of stakeholders (both public and private) on the new Land Use Charge Law in Lagos, which has generated heated debates in the public space.
“This platform will enable stakeholders in Real Estate, Construction and other related sectors to engage the Lagos State Government on the recently-passed Law and re-negotiate its grey areas,” he said.