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Affordable Housing Delivery Critical to Ending Mass Poverty in Nigeria –Nwora, EFAB Boss

DR. Fabian Nwora, is the CEO/ Chairman, EFAB Properties Ltd, a household name in real estate sector in Nigeria. In this exclusive interview, the property magnate said President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty is achievable if houses are made affordable to more Nigerians.

He called on government to address the issue of multiple taxation on house owners and also reduce the prices of building materials to enable more people build their own houses.

He urged President Buhari to appoint a person who is familiar with housing sector as Minister of Works in his new cabinet, adding that the person should be willing to partner key players in the hous- ing sector. He speaks on how he rose from grass to grace.

Humble beginning

First of all, let me start by in- troducing myself. My name is Dr. Fabian Nwora, a businessman and CEO, EFAB Properties Ltd. I’m from Osumeyi in Nnewi South Lo- cal Government Area of Anambra State. I started as a trader with my elder brother, Chief Louis Nwora, in Onitsha in 1974. In 1977, I was transferred to Kano State to estab- lish the building materials section and we deal on iron rod, tiles and cement. From there, I went to open another branch in Sokoto State. In 1992, we moved into the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and started the same busi- ness, building materials. It was a kind of family business. So, when I left Sokoto to Abuja, I settled in Idu where I had to build my office since there was no existing structure for me to rent. So I built a house which served as my shop where we were selling iron rod. I built my house at Idu with mud because that was the only convenient and affordable material. Not quite long, we discovered that property business was moving fast in Abuja, hence I realised that there was need for me to build a house to live with my family in that remote area. So, I approached the villagers to sell a plot of land to me, which

I bought at the cost of N2,000 without Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O).

I built a four-bedroom apart- ment with boy’s quarter and I moved in with my family, but I later discovered that I was lonely with my family because I didn’t have neigbours. The house was almost in the bush, but because I knew where I was going and what I had in mind, I didn’t bother. Before then, I was in Sokoto Government Reserve Area (GRA), but because I was focused, I damned the conse- quence and decided to live there. So, in order to have neigbours, I decided to buy another land for N2,500 from the villagers. I built 10 flats of a room and parlour self- contained and I let them out and those who needed accommodation paid for them. I built the house with N10,000 and after letting the apartment for N6,000, it was then I realised that I could recoup both the money for the land and building with two years rent. Then I said to myself, this is a lucrative busi- ness and that was how I went into property business.

Consolidation

I went further to build more houses though with mud block and plastered them with cement and let them and we recovered our total investment in just one rent of two years. I found out that property business was more profitable than buying and selling hence, we combined the two, that is, building mud houses in Idu and buying and selling building materials. Many of my friends who visited me from big cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt and Onitsha said they could not live in a mud house in an obscure area where there was no electricity, no pipe borne water and security. I told them that in life you must start within your limit because if you live above your means, definitely, you will go under.

I told them that in life you must first build capital, else, if you live above your income, you will find it difficult to maintain such bloated lifestyle. So, some of them took my advice and will always pass the night in my house while some chose to go to hotels. As God may have it, I moved my property busi- ness into town in FCT. So, in 1995, we started at Garki precisely where I bought two plots of land. We started building on the two plots at the same time, one is where I eventually live and I sold the other. There were ready buyers who were anxious to have a house in FCT. Before you would complete a building, some had started paying deposit. And because developers were few in Abuja then, we spread our tentacles by moving 70 per cent of our capital into properties and built more houses across FCT.

Later, we moved further from building houses to estates and the first estate we built was EFAB City Estate (Mbora 1) and because people knew that we could deliver, they chose to buy houses from us. We had a lot of challenges because there were a lot of squatters on the land allocated to us by FCDA. It was difficult moving them since they got their allocation through village heads. We tried to dialogue with them and in the cause of our discussions, we found out that they didn’t have anywhere to go so we decided to give them a little help as we could.

We bought 8 hectares of land at Masaka and divided it among them and allocated them free of charge. Some of them that had mud houses or batcher got three, four, five and six hundred square meters of land respectively so that they could have permanent houses. After they moved, we demolished the place and built the estate and that has been our strategy. That was how I consolidated and God being on our side, we have been successful.

Secret of my success

Honesty, customer satisfaction and hope in God. In EFAB, the customer is the king and we listen to their complaints and ensure that our customers go home smiling.

Maintaining cordial rela- tionship with FCT indigenes

It has to do with courage and wisdom on how I relate with them. I put them in my shoes because they are human beings like me and I make sure I reach out to them and listen to their complaints and fashion a way to solve such problems. You must always know how to call them to a roundtable discussion to agree and disagree and at the end you reach a consensus. Even if it means parting with some money as compensation, so be it. This is necessary because they own the land and it is their source of living. So, I carry them along and they are happy. I always engage them and I assist them in my little way.

Assistance from the Fed- eral Government in dealing with land owners in FCT

The only way the government supports us is through allocation of land even though they are supposed to put up infrastructure up to the gate of the estate, but that is not always the case. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t and if you keep on waiting for them it may take too long.

Therefore, you have to bridge the gap between government and the indigenes by providing most of the infrastructure.

Source: sunnewsonline

‘Implement National Urban Development Policy’

Dr. Olubunmi is a past president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners. In this interview, he spoke on the impact of the government’s inability to implement physical development policy and why the profession remains endangered.

In some of your advocacies, you raised concerns that more than 75 percent of Nigerian cities have no development plans. Why is it difficult for state governments to design a workable physical plan for their cities? 
It is because of who they are. I have traveled around this country and talked to governors. There is this governor I met in Plateau state in 2001, he was very bold and asked me why do you want me to spend N30 million to do a master plan for Jos while I could use the N30 million to build five kilometers of road. He spoke the minds and attitudes of almost every governor. But I told him, I believed that you have built a house, he said yes, and I asked him before you built the house what was the first thing you did He said I acquired a land. I asked him, what was given to you; he said a piece of paper.

Again, I asked him, when the government allocated the land to you and gave you a certificate of occupancy, they gave you another piece of paper. I told him when the government gave your survey plan; it was another piece of paper. Also, I said when he was about to build; the architect gave him a piece of paper. The same thing goes for engineers and quantity surveyors. I told him, you wouldn’t have gotten the house if you hadn’t pay for those pieces of papers.
I then said the physical development plan is a piece of paper that you have to pay for before you could have a master plan.

The average policymakers in power looks at the report of the physical development plan as a piece of paper and don’t look at the benefit that would come from those pieces of papers. Those in power dramatize rather than really act and that is why we don’t realise that we have to plan.

The professionals to have their fault; they have become too technical to the detriment of the government. If the professionals understood clearly their urban economics, they should be able to tell the policymakers that by doing a particular plan, they would make sure that traffic in a particular location would disappear because the land uses would be changed.

They could educate the government on what the time wasted in traffic would cost the government. When town planners are making their case, they should justify it in an economic blueprint on the benefits government would derive in naira and kobo and not in descriptive terms. Town planners must tell the government the financial implication of not doing development plans. That is one of the areas that are deficient in the training of town planners is urban economics.

A report by the National Population Commission (NPC) Nigerian says city growth is expected to reach 58.3 per cent by 2020, yet urbanisation is demographically driven without commensurate socio-economic dividends. What is the way forward?
We are pretending that urbanisation would go away whereas urbanisation is real and growing. The politicians have all neglected the rural development of rural areas. Every person in rural areas has all come back to town. The rate, at which every city in the country is growing, is alarming and we are sitting on a time bomb. Abuja, for example, was designed for three million people now we have from seven million to nine million living in that city. That’s why the infrastructure is failing and authorities couldn’t manage the city. The government shouldn’t pay lip service to the issue of urbanisation but address it frontally. If not addressed, the revolution would start from urban centres.

The national urban development policy should be implemented to address urbanisation issues. It shouldn’t remain a document like it has been for years, because no single step has been taken to implement that document. There should be central coordination of all plans rather than everyone doing their things in silos. The Federal Government should look at the land surface area of Nigeria, identify the land that is available for mining, agriculture among others and determine where to divert people. We are not lacking in the pieces of paper, what we are lacking is the strength of character to implement our plans.

Town planning seems to be endangered. What are the problems and your advice for new entrants into the profession on how to grow?
It is historical, how planning started in this country was as a result of the bubonic plague. The colonial master came to this country to react to the situation and that is why we have various laws such as swamp clearance, street lighting law, sanitation, and others. Many of them are one ‘subject law’ without a provision for town-wide planning. The nearest that came close to planning is the one that created the government reserved area.

Right from the beginning, there was an interest in the administration of the cities rather than the planning. The colonial master didn’t direct our minds to planning the cities but to collect taxes and for another administration purpose.

Another thing is that we didn’t have any school for teaching town planning at the beginning. It came as a technical education, where the students were trained on how to do planning schemes and not citywide planning. However, it was the United Nations that came to Lagos, saw the rate at which the city was growing and came up with the issue of the master plan for Lagos, fully financed by them.

Additionally, right from day one, the negative image that the town planners got is that they are seen as people that come to demolish buildings in the society.

The town planners have to understand the whole area of financial issues to rectify the deficiency in the education of town planning.

They should acknowledge their ignorance if they want to move forward. New entrants have mistaken computer literacy for knowledge. They should be ready to learn and be humble because the industry is knowledge-driven. Acquire the practical knowledge and realise that town planning is a public relations subject and so must develop the skills to deal with various publics.

They should also understand that growth is a gradual process, be ambitious but not be too much in a hurry.

Ultimately, they should develop outspoken and handwritten skills for report writing and presentation and continue participation in professional practice as well as continuous reading.

Various issues have emanated in all fronts such as flooding, waste management, farmers/herdsmen clashes, insecurity, traffic congestion, and degenerating slums. How could the government use planning to resolve such challenges?
All these are not problems but symptoms of a fundamental issue of lack of planning. It is a human being that disorganises nature and once you don’t structure your relationship with nature, there would be a collision and nature would win.

The problem of traffic is a function of land uses. Where you would travel to, is a function of land use available there. If you arrange your land use in such a way that you either reduce the need for travel, then the traffic issues would be reduced.

On waste management, the first thing is to identify the landfill sites using technology. If your town is well laid out, the roads would be accessible to transport wastes to landfills.

Talking about insecurity, more than half of the population in Lagos, for example, doesn’t have a house address and a person that doesn’t have a home address, is already a security risk to you because if he or she commits a crime, nowhere to trace them to. In some places that are even well laid out, there is no proper numbering. When there are no roads, where would the policemen pass to arrest a criminal? Once an area is not well laid out on how people should build, what you would have is slums.

The concept of RUGA is not wrong but the environment in each it is been introduced was suspicious. The government needs to encourage private sector investors with various incentives and ensure that the policy is only implemented where there is land. The southeast is the densest part of Nigeria, no land but they have the population and so to find land for RUGA could be a problem.

Everything is tied to and revolves around adequate physical planning.

If you were to advise the Federal and State authorities on urban governance, what would you recommend as ways to make cities workable and prosperous?
Let each state go and work out its own urban governance that would work for them. The reason for that is because the Yoruba urbanisation is different from Igbo urbanisation and so on. Currently, our cities are abandoned and ignored in terms of physical development, no document to guide them and so they can never be good.

We have waited for too long and almost lost the battle of urban governance in Nigeria. Before the traditional rulers in a typical Yoruba town were in the ones in charge of the cities but politics came and we now have another level of government called the local government. They don’t even know their roles in urbanisation; the document, which they have, didn’t prescribe a particular role for them in urban governance till today. The laws that have been in existence since 1946 talked about them doing ‘planning schemes’ and not master plans for the cities.

The 1992 law was the indigenous one that gave them power for physical planning but unfortunately, it was during the military regime and therefore has a military sense. To make matters worst the state government never allows the local government to function, they took all their powers, making them be helpless.

 

Land administration and management in Nigeria is still highly centralised. What kinds of reforms do you think would help the nation to reap huge benefits from this resource?
The Land Use Act is one of the greatest dis-services to this country. Some of the provisions are inimical to development. The most inimical part of development is the issue of the governor’s consent before people could transact on their lands. Why it has been difficult to amend the Land Use Act is because the governors are making so much money and holding so much power. So, any attempt to amend the act could be the use of another military fiat. The land is the basis of capital and someone who controls land, controls everything. That provision, in particular, is hindering development.

The New Urban Agenda was unanimously adopted at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) four years ago, serving as a new vision for our cities and municipalities for the next 20 years. What is the best way to implement it for Nigeria to ensure sustainable development?
We are used to going to these international conferences and signing the treaties but what does Nigeria do with their outcomes. I don’t have any hope. The only thing it does is that it creates awareness for urbanisation in cities. If you managed urbanisation very well, urbanization contributes the highest percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If your cities were productive, your GDP would increase.

Nigeria hasn’t done a single master plan ever- since they endorsed it. You can’t tell a white man that your cities haven’t a plan they won’t believe you. Planning goes from the bigger to the smaller. A town planner doesn’t work from the small pieces and hoping that you would merge, you must look at the bigger picture as a professional.

If the Lagos state governor goes any conference in the world today, how many plans does he have to carry along if he wants to talk about metropolitan Lagos? The model city plans in Lagos is a disservice to Lagos state government and an embarrassment to the people. The government would have no other choice than to complete the small plans they have started, merge it and see what the picture would look like.

Source: guardianmg

‘Nigerian Engineers Need More Opportunities in Construction’

Engr. Jose Enrique Rodriguez Pupo is the Managing Director, Juba Construction Company Nigeria Limited with interest in highway and building construction among others. In this interview, Engr. Pupo talks about challenges in the sector. Excerpts:

What are the challenges your firm is facing working in Nigeria?

Normally, there will be challenges. Perhaps the main challenges we have in the country are the processes of getting contracts and get paid on time. Another challenge is that sometimes, it’s so difficult to link with governors or people that will have solution to a problem. It is difficult to get them directly, you need to pass through many channels.

What is your assessment of Nigeria’s infrastructure?

There should be construction of low-cost houses, power, roads, and railways. If the leaders can continue like this, I think the country can go far and achieve more. For example, when I travelled from Sokoto to Kebbi, I saw good roads in remote villages and hospitals, the same for Ondo and Kwara states where I saw good schools and many things.  Surely, Nigeria is working and making progress. Between 1960 and now, there are many achievements.

How do you think the present lull in the construction industry can be addressed?

I think this is a bad period that everybody knows and feels. Nevertheless, I feel Nigeria is passing through a very bad period that everything is slow and the people have to be patient. In the very near future, the economy of the country will be fine but we need to have faith and work for it.

There is this pervading view that we lack project management skills and that Nigerian engineers are not competent. What is your experience working with them?

I totally disagree. I have been in this country since 2004 and to be honest with you, I met with lots of good engineers. The schools are good, the engineers are good. What is happening is like you have a baby and you are not giving him what he needs to be prepared, you won’t get anything from him.

There are some companies that employ Nigerian engineers and are not giving them specific duties and didn’t get what they want. What we are doing now is working with them and using very few expatriates. We are giving Nigerian engineers all they need to work and I am very happy and proud of them. What they need are more opportunities. In the construction industry, Nigerian engineers needed to be given more opportunity for the benefit of the doubt. They are wonderful people with good knowledge.

If you look at some of the problems we are facing in Nigeria, where we experience building collapse, project abandonment, some of these projects are being done by indigenous players. Then what accounts for failures?

I think it is not only to indigenous engineers or companies but to many others. Mistakes are made, accidents are happening. In this country we don’t talk about earthquakes but movements of the earth are happening but are not noticed. Sometimes, the soil tests are not properly done and sometimes, the design of the foundation are not proper. I don’t blame indigenous engineers, I blame companies that don’t engage professionals in the structure. But to be honest, the way I see it, this is not only happening to Nigerian indigenous companies. In my country, it is happening a lot. The problem is that when supervision is poor there will be an accident.

Source: dailytrustng

FG Should Increase FMBN Capital Base to N100bn – REDAN President

In this interview with EDWARD NNACHI, the National President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria and Managing Director, COPEN Group of Companies, Mr Ugochukwu Chime, talks about the housing crisis in Nigeria, and the need to recapitalise the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, among other issues

 What is your assessment of the current state of the real estate industry in the country?

Although the real estate industry in Nigeria has a lot of potential of being used as a desired vehicle for employment generation, socio-economic growth, increased Gross Domestic Product and bigger multiplier growth in the local economy, unfortunately it is still at the lowest stage. This is because the road map, collaborations and understanding of the transaction dynamics by key stakeholders are withholding capacity to deliver; and that for me is a huge step.

The sector is still suffering from the inability to understand and implement transaction dynamics in line with the paradigm shift that has taken place. Twenty or 30 years ago, our people used to build their own houses or government would build for them through the various housing corporations. But with the privatisation and commercialisation of those houses by these corporations and people seen as bankers, doctors and other professional groups, they are no more able to handle the responsibility of providing their own homes. The dwindling financial capacity has necessitated a different mode of purchasing their homes via mortgage option as against buying outright.

All these have led to increased demand. And the increasing population from where we were a few years ago with the current population of over 200 million people has necessitated the need for people to own homes. The total number of mortgages in Nigeria for instance if you go to the Central Bank of Nigeria is less than 100,000 that have been created. That is terrible for a population of over 200 million people, even if you take it that you have only 70 million adults.

Another factor is that we produce less than 200,000 housing units per annum in this country. And that is very terrible when you compare it with the increasing population. We have a very huge housing deficit; the number of which is not yet known. Yet, in providing shelter for our people, we have to create employment, because employment is created from the very first day you start the process of housing construction. It is a sector that is capable, with agriculture, of giving us all the employment we need. We have a problem because of some factors that are not yet properly aligned.

The entry and exit and the commencement and closure of any housing project have to be properly aligned. In Nigeria currently, they are not aligned. Once they are not aligned in terms of the common goals of affordability, availability and acceptability by all the stakeholders, we are going to still have some problems along the line. Many people believe the country’s economy has been badly affected.

How has the economy affected the real estate industry? 

The greatest problem we have in the country today is the high level of uncertainty in every area. Nobody is sure of the direction of any sector in this country. The socio-cultural nature of the country presently with insecurity has made people to become less interested in investment. Investment is the engine that drives any economy and it is based on the perception of what tomorrow looks like. This is because no project gets consummated the day it was initiated.

Some of the housing projects take up to two years in planning; then you have another two or three years for execution as the case may be. These things add up to about five years. Now, most of the investors are not sure what will happen in the next two years in our economy. That becomes a very huge challenge, apart from other factors of multiple layers of taxation by authorities; challenges in ease of doing business which government is trying to attack. Unfortunately, most of the time in trying to sort out these problems, they create more problems for themselves and create layers of challenges and in most of the solution provision obligation, they have not been able to integrate the private sector in trying to define some of the solutions that need to be put in place.

The economy is challenging; access to funds is terrible; we have the interest regime of deposit money banks at upper double digits that is between 24 per cent and 30 per cent. When you add up another set of data, that is the issue of compliance cost – complying with town planning approval, complying with taxes, complying with development authority, complying with environmental issues, this adds another range of between 15 per  cent to 30 per cent.

Now, if you add these two costs together, you find that the cost of doing business in this country is as much as 50 per cent. No country survives such an alarming high cost of investment. The net effect of it is that the product is not affordable for the masses. If we have a people-oriented and sensitive government, I’m sure we will need to sit down and have to change the way we do things in this country.

REDAN has spoken so much about launching real estate data. What does this mean to the ordinary man?

We saw that many estates in this country were sited in the wrong places. Some locations are not viable in terms of the number of people who buy a certain level of houses. Therefore, what we saw was that there is a need to have the integration of appropriate data of planning every aspect of the real estate investment; and if that aspect is not done, it will lead to a situation of mismatch.

You may go and site a project for houses that would be sold for N10m in a state where nobody wants to buy a house of that amount or where the cost of renting a house per annum is as low as N100, 000 or N50, 000. So there is a problem. The global downturn we had in the economy in 2008 started from the real estate sector and because of that the people at the CBN realised that we could not progress without adequate data. We need to track the trend, the direction, the start-ups and other indicators in the real estate sphere as a means of tracking development in our fiscal operation and policy. REDAN is not interested in working in silo with any organisation, but we will like to work collaboratively.

Despite the fact that many Nigerians are homeless, many people cannot afford the houses being built by government. Who should be blamed?

It is a cocktail of many factors. Let me start with the stakeholders; those who need the houses themselves. Many of us are unrealistic as to our housing need. We have done a survey and in the survey, one of the things we put in as a sample was: what kind of house do you want? You find somebody who cannot afford a duplex telling you he wants a duplex. His monthly repayment maybe N10,000. But he is looking for a house that would require N150,000 monthly for repayment. So, one of the key things that we need to do is educate ourselves to know that there is no more free money for housing development; you have to pay for what you are asking for. That is a critical thing.

The second thing is to look at the core centres involved in the development of those houses. Find out which area to touch. That something is costly is as a result of input factors which determine the output factors. We need to look at the cost of building materials; look at the cost of access to land; cost of financing; the cost of compliance – approval fees, registration of titles, and other contingencies. These add up eventually to the cost of affordability.

Therefore, it is not an issue of Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria; it is not an issue of the developers; it is an issue of sitting down and finding out where we are getting it wrong and why we are not getting an effective demand not desire, like they say in economics. Anybody can desire to have anything, but what you demand should be within the ambit of what you can pay for.

What is the way out of this?

The way out is that government has no business being involved in direct construction of houses because of inefficiency. I have been in government. I was chairman of a housing development corporation for four years. I was a civil servant for 14 years. Now, government is not oriented to perform a role in long-term projects because of the vicissitude of the rapid change taking place in the key man that drives those projects.

For a private-sector organisation, the tenure of the key drivers is longer. Many of the permanent secretaries, commissioners, MDs of the MDAs have tenures of six months, one year; some, two; and some, four years, and they are gone. And most of the time, their successors are not interested in projects that their predecessors initiated. The projects get abandoned. Furthermore, because of bureaucracy, you find out that the cost of funds for projects is even high. Most of the ministries or agencies that go to the ministry of finance, whether at state or federal level, to get money duly approved for them are forced by some unscrupulous officials to pay them some kickbacks; to bribe them to release money. People don’t say this truth; but that is the truth.

So, most of the time, the budgeted amount for these housing projects at the Federal Government level, only 50 per cent of it is deplored to complete the projects. And when that happens, we have seen that the houses being built by the ministries are far more costly than the ones we are building. This is because of the cost of corruption; the cost of bureaucracy; the delay in decision-making, and the need to conform to certain level of extant laws.

All these issues make it difficult for housing delivery to trickle down to the masses. Government should not get involved in direct housing development. They have tried it, invested billions of naira over the years and failed. I bet them to show the number of houses they have built, both at the state and federal levels. They have budgeted this and released that; let them show us where those houses are. And remember that most of the time they get their land free. They are selling houses at high prices, but they got free land and they also got money at zero interest. We should ask them to confine themselves to the level of being enablers; to create the enabling environment for the private sector to come in and provide what they know best.

Do you share the belief that not everybody should own a house?

There is no society where everybody ever owns a house. There are still homeless people in every part of this world. I have been to Japan, Germany and other places; we still have homeless people there. Housing, whether it is by way of rent or by way of direct ownership, is still housing.

Our view as REDAN is whether is it by rent or direct ownership, let people be housed. We mustn’t all own homes. But if we have sufficient number of housing units across the country, it becomes easier for somebody to own a house at a reasonable price, not price controlled but market-driven houses. If you put your own at N10 and I put mine at the same location at N8, people will flow to mine. It is the issue of availability. If houses are available for both renting and for direct ownership, let us begin to have homes and in the process, create employment for our people and then create internally generated revenue for component states where these housing projects take place.

Some years back, you spoke on recapitalising the FMBN to the tune of N500bn. In your opinion, has the bank fared better in providing housing for Nigerians in the last four years?

The FMBN needs two things. Every other country that has created an institution like the FMBN has always put in some reasonable amount of money compared to the envisaged services they are going to render. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the Federal Government has only put N5bn into the FMBN and the same government has the temerity to ask commercial banks in the country to recapitalise up to the tune of N25bn. A development institution like the FMBN should have up to four times the capital base of a commercial bank. This is because they are providing a unified secondary mortgage service. So, it is an act of wickedness for the government over the years to have kept the capital base of the FMBN at N5bn as its own contribution.

That is why we are saying if commercial banks should have N25bn, look at the development institutions at the time, increase their capital base in quadruple of that N25bn. This is logical. The government has accepted it but it has not deemed it fit to do what is needed. The same government is willing to invest N700bn in electricity companies that were bought by the elite.

Source: punchng

Archibuilt Offers Building, Maintenance Clinic To Address Building Collapse, Others – Adeniyi

Arc. Adeniyi Mobolaji is the C.E.O, M.A. & Associates, 3rd Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Architects, and Director, Archibuilt Development Services Limited (ADSL). In this interview speaks on various issues affecting building and construction industry. Excerpt.

Several exhibitions, several programmes, why archibuilt?

Archibuilt has been on for 30 years now. When the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) through a special purpose vehicle Archibuilt Development Services Limited (ADSL) created it, I wasn’t in the picture then; I was not a member of the executive of Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) at the time they put together this annual building exhibition expo. And because of its impacts, it has continued to hold every year.

The 2019 exposition has created platforms where you as a professional, student, or visitor can gain from its building/maintenance clinic, product presentation, symposium where major topic will revolve on building collapse, housing finance; website directory, students’ competition, trainings on Building Information Modeling (BIM) Health and Safety (HSE) and Specification writing; website online store among others.

You spoke glowingly about this forum, what have been the challenges Archibuilt has had in the past few years?

Indeed, there have been a lot of challenges, especially in the last few years, when I became the Director. One of those challenges is the economy. This has been a big factor that has affected the manufacturers, the professionals and the public. In a bad economy, the industry that suffers most is the building industry. So, we had a lot of building materials’ manufacturers, who were not able to take their products for the exhibition. There was a lull in business and even clients have been affected one way or the other.

Aside from these, the political climate and stability are also factors. For instance, there were election years and the stability in the country also affected Archibuilt. And after a while, we saw that because we have such a good idea, competitors started emerging. Now, all kinds of people come into the market to do different kinds of building exposition. But as the forerunner, we are not daunted at all, as some of these challenges have spurred us to come up with innovations and new ideas and this has given us the edge year in, year out.

Your theme this year is driving Nigerian architecture through technology. What do you intend to achieve with this?

We have been driving this theme in the past two to three years. And this is so because we saw that building/construction industry is still very much the same as it has been in the past 15 to 20 years. (Pointing to her construction site) if you look at our site, to cast a floor, you can see a whole gang of 30 to 50 people comprising of masons, bricklayers, carpenters, iron bender or welders; this isn’t done in the developed country any more. There is now a technology for casting where you don’t need to have so many people doing the same thing, same time.

So, we have been encouraging the manufacturers within the building industry to take the opportunity of the exhibition to showcase their innovations that would further lift the building/construction industry. In fact, we have some architects, who have come with different materials to show at this exhibition. For this reason, we always look forward to this programme every year.

Some are advocating for revival of local building materials. Is this forum tilting along that line too?

With this expo, we have been encouraging the use of local building materials and this has paid off, as many of our people are no longer relying so much on foreign materials. For instance, we have manufacturers of clay and bricks that come and we are able to expose them to our colleagues and they are able to see innovative ways of using local building materials. We have now in Nigeria, locally made flooring materials. Do you know that Nigeria has the best granite stones? Some years back, we were importing stones from Italy, Spain, China, whereas our stones are better than all of those. So, we have been encouraging our manufacturers to develop our local building materials, which we can also begin to export to neighboring countries.

Don’t you think the use of technology would rather make more people to be jobless?

I’m looking for a time, by God’s grace that our people would not just be reduced to casual labourers on construction sites. Technology supposed to improve the way of life of any people and not the other way round. If people that are carrying concrete loads on their heads all day are employed in the factories manufacturing the materials, it is better for them and the economy. There are different ways of creating employment rather than through labour.

Since you have been the director, how have venue and economy affected Archibuilt Expo?

Sometimes, venue has been a challenge. You’ll be amazed. There was a particular year we wanted to use a particular venue, which we had booked and paid for, then, government came under the guise of a first lady, and wanted to use same venue for her event. We had to take all our things, got big canopies within the short notice to seek alternate venue. It was very disruptive. There was another year, we had planned our event, and government again came to use same venue. We had to reschedule.

Aside this, the lull in the economy has also been a key factor. And sometimes you know people just get tired doing the same thing year in, year out. But, when we saw this, we had to redesign the whole thing to sustain the momentum. For instance this year, one of our plans is to make the Expo very interactive. We normally invite different professionals within the building industry and that reveals that it is not just an architecture thing. We focus on all other professionals – the engineers, the quantity surveyors, builders and we are going to have all of them here. It is going to be an event that will touch the public. Every year many people come in, to pick one building material or the other.

This year, we don’t just want them to come and pick materials only. One of our innovations is the introduction of maintenance/building clinic. And the idea is to have professionals directly preferring solutions to difficulties you might be facing in your building. Depending on the kind of structure, a building’s lifespan is 100 years or more. But we discovered that, our people don’t have a maintenance culture. That is why sometimes, you find a building within its three to four years of its existence is already dilapidated and the owners don’t know what to do. So, we have a forum during which the professionals would advice you on how to go about it.

Though this event has been on for 30 years now, it appears illiteracy level when it comes to building industry is still very low. What’s your take on this?

You’ll not believe that three quarter of Nigerians, including highly placed individuals do not know the right process of building. This is one of the reasons we are having a lot of building collapsing and, or failing. And what do they do? They want to design a building and they do not know that they are supposed to approach an architect. Sometimes, an individual who wants to build approaches a bricklayer, whom he might have seen to have built one house or the other. Sometimes, the bricklayers worked on a building plan for a client 10 years ago and replicate same design for another client without considering the suitable, affordability and the applicability of that design. So, this forum is an opportunity to solve the ignorance and knowledge gap challenge. It is not every building material used by someone else you can use; you need to go to the professionals to get proper professional advice. And I’m glad that this year’s forum would effectively address this.

We are also having government functionaries like the Vive President, the Head of Service, captains of industries, policy makers, as we have quite number of our colleagues in the House of Assembly. We are going to have a symposium that would afford experts to talk on their area of expertise. All this is to ensure that this menace called building collapse is totally brought to a stop.

Arguably, some have said architects do not have serious role when building collapses. Do you agree with that standpoint?

I want to say that the bulk stops on our desk. Why? The architects, though people often refer to us as master builders, and indeed that is who we are. In fact, until recent years, the architect was the all-in-all. He was the architect, the engineers, the quantity surveyor, the builder etc. This was so because the architects conceptualized the structure and he must know about every part of the structure.

Take this site we are right now, I designed the building; invited an engineer to come and do the structural design of the building I have designed. I invited an electrical and a mechanical engineer; the quantity surveyor comes in to do the costing. I am the one to decide the materials that are being used on this site. Since I brought in all these professionals, I have the responsibility to coordinate all the activities of these professionals on my site. I have to ensure that the engineer does exactly what is right. After his or she is done with the design, it doesn’t just drop with the approving authority; he brings the design to me. I have to check his design and be sure that it confirms with my design.

Source: independentng

‘We Will Tackle Housing Deficit in Nigeria’

Andrew Chimphondah is the Managing Director of Kenya-based pan African housing development and finance institution – Shelter Afrique. In an interview he spoke on his  five-year strategy, especially focus on affordable housing and their commitment to Nigeria.

Shelter Afrique has been facing liquidity crisis and could not meet its obligations to the member countries. How are you planning to solve the problem?
What we have done is that in 2016, we closed for new business, which led to my taking over and having the opportunity to provide leadership of the company. We have increased the governance, reoganised the company and introduce a new business model. I think more importantly, we have a strategy from 2019 to 2023. The strategy is purely on growing the company and providing decent affordable housing to the 44-member countries in Africa. In terms of our mission, what we have crafted is that we want to be the prominent provider of research, advisory and financial solutions, to try and address critical shortage of housing in Africa through public and private partnerships (PPP) so that we can achieve sustainable developmental impact.

Shelter Afrique like any other organization has it challenges. We are now tackling 52 million housing shortage in Africa, that has become a housing crisis. We have really called a sense of urgency by ourselves and other funders to say, let us work together to achieve this. We have strategic goals, which are achieving financial and organisational sustainability in our member states. We have opened to underwrite new business from 2019. We are on a road show across our member states, telling them that we have started new business and raising capital from them and encouraging public private partnership with the governments. We want to encourage large scale delivery of affordable housing. Before, we do a project for 20 houses.

We are now opened to underwrite new businesses from 2019 so we are on road show to 44-members states, telling them we have started and also raising capital from member states. The unique difference now is on the supply side, arranging PPP with the governments because our dreams are to deliver large-scale affordable housing through partnerships. Our target market is the low-income earners and developers that do low-cost developments as well do it in a large scale so that the developers can enjoy the benefits of economics of scale and make it sustainable.

What are the challenges? 
Shelter Afrique like any other organization always have challenges. Our authorized capital is $1 billion and what has been paid in is $100 million. We’re in the process of collecting $260 million from member states. When we collect from them, they are giving us equity and capital. When we then go to the debt market, they ask how much are you putting in yourself, we can leverage another $1billion with the $260 million, we’re expecting from member countries. We had an Annual General Meeting in June, all the countries pledged support to Shelter Afrique. But they said, we must sure we comply from governance point and should not engage in fruitless as well as waste less expenditures. We should focus on delivering for low-income earners. At Shelter Afrique, we have the right support and what we just need to do is to make sure that we deliver housing on large-scale on the supply and demand sides. We deliver line of credit to institutions that support affordable housing mortgagees by the right price and tenure so that we then come up with long-term mortgage loan products.

Do you think these efforts will solve Shelter Afrique’s liquidity problem? 
Let me explain the cause of the liquidity problem. In 2016, there was a destructive event; it was actually an internal problem. Because of the event, in 2016, the key aid funders withdraw their support, which created a crisis. I’m please to say, that I have met with each of the eight funders, we have agreed on a date to restructure, whereby all their funding will be paid over a five-year period. We have already signed bilateral agreement with them. These include European Investment Bank, African Development Bank, Islamic Corporation for the Development, West African Development Bank, Development Finance International (DFI) and German Development Bank. We have agreed to originate new businesses. There is no crisis anymore and as Shelter Afrique have gotten enough money to fund the five-year strategy.

What part is Shelter Afrique playing in the affordable housing market in Nigeria?
As we know, Shelter Afrique is the only Pan African Housing Development, and Finance Institution committed to facilitating and financing affordable housing delivery across Africa. The Institution’s main shareholders include 44 African Governments (including Nigeria) and being a major shareholder in Shelter Afrique, we are committed to aiding significant growth in Nigeria and to invest more than $180 million (N 650.9 billion) primarily through lines of credit to financial institutions to support the issuance of mortgages and providing construction finance for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) projects which is in line with our 2019-2023 strategic plan that will help reduce the housing deficit and increase the supply of affordable housing units to above 100,000 units annually.

Now that you are back to business, can you please comment on your plans for Nigeria, what does your pipeline look like.
We plan to tackle the challenges of the housing deficit in Nigeria. As of December 2018, Shelter Afrique’s Portfolio in the Nigerian market was totalling to $14.6 million. As of this year, our board has already approved the disbursement of lines of credit of $16 million to two major financial institutions in Nigeria. We are also working to invest over $180 million in other financial institutions.

Shelter Afrique is exploring avenues to support Nigerian banks and developers, we learnt of your plan for a Nigerian bond to make lending in Nigeria possible. What is like?
Given that we lend in dollars and the Naira to Dollar exchange rate has been fluctuating over the past five years due to the unstable macroeconomic environment, raising a Nigerian bond is now a necessity. As soon as the Nigerian macroeconomic environment seems stable, we plan to commence the process.

Shelter Afrique from 2005 to 2010 committed over N22.51 billion on housing initiatives in Nigeria, and new initiatives are on- going. What interventions are Nigerians expecting in the housing sector, in the coming years?
We plan to partner with the FHA on the Affordable Nationwide Housing Project, which aims at providing affordable housing units to low- and middle-income earners. The project has kick-started in Zuba, Federal Capital Territory. This project will also take place Kwali, Bwari and 46 other sites, which have been marked out in Ibadan and Kaduna. The Kwali mass housing which is situated at Lambata, behind Federal Government College Kwali, encompasses 305 hectares of land and comprises of 12 blocks of one bedroom flat (192) and eight blocks of two bedroom flat (64) which sums up to a total of 256 housing units. The house types captured for this project are of one bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, with prices ranging from N3.1 million ($8,611) to N8.3 million ($23,055).

This Affordable Nationwide Housing Project will not only reduce the housing deficit in Nigeria but also provide direct and indirect jobs in the country. It is noted that the nearly completed “Zuba Mass Housing Project” has already created 10,000 jobs. The scale effect of this then happening in over 46 sites across the country will reduce the unemployment rate and create over 460,000 jobs.

We are also considering a partnership with the Nigerian Army Properties Limited and Fresh Cowries Creek on the “Asokoro Hills Smart City” to provide about 2000 units of affordable houses.

Do you think affordable housing is possible in Nigeria? What partnerships can make this a reality?
It is possible. We have formed strategic partnerships with some institutions in Nigeria in the likes of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Real Estate Developers of Nigeria (REDAN), Family Homes Fund (FHF), Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and Aso Savings.

We’re in talks to participate in the Mortgage Guarantee Company. Also, we’re instrumental in the formation of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company (NMRC). We’re keen to see it succeed and monitor the progress.

Nigeria is facing housing crisis in its major cities within Lagos and Abuja and vacancy rate has increased to about 70 per cent. What should be done to ensure sustainable recovery from the present economic recession in the real estate sector in Nigeria?
Due to the ever-increasing population of the country, the Federal Government has implemented various initiatives to reduce housing deficit and increase the annual supply of affordable housing units in Nigeria. I will like to applaud the Federal Government for the creation of the largest affordable housing-focused fund in Sub-Sahara Africa, Family Homes Fund (FHF) which was initiated in 2016 to provide about 500,000 homes in 2023. So far, Family Homes Fund has successfully delivered 582 homes in Nasarawa state and has started the construction of an additional 4000 housing unit project in Kaduna, Ogun, Kano and Delta states. Also, there is the “Rent to Own Scheme” initiated by the Federal Mortgage Bank to build 3,000 homes of which repayment will be done for up to 30 years.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has also committed N30 billion to provide a housing solution for 23,000 civil servants nationwide under the Federal Integrated Staff Housing (FISH) programme. Altogether, the government has done a tremendous job in ensuring that the housing deficit is reduced in Nigeria. However, there is still a large room to do more.

When you’re constructing houses, you get employment created; some is permanent, while others are short-term.

It cuts across the industries. We’re very keen on contributing to developmental impact and getting involved in institutions to increase mortgage lending on the right price and longer term.

What awaits Nigeria real estate developers, especially those interested in affordable housing in your five-year strategic plan?

In line with our 2019-2023 strategic plan, Shelter Afrique will be willing to provide funding of up to $11 million for Public-Private Partnership projects for a maximum tenor of 10 years provided that the assigned property has a valid title document.
Also, I will ask advice property developers not to use substandard building materials for affordable housing units to gain more profit to reduce the rate at which buildings collapse.

Source: guardianng

Affordable Housing Challenges in Japan and Lessons Learnt From Europe

An interview with Kenji Hamamoto, Deputy Director at the Housing bureau of the Japanese Ministry for Land, Infrastructure, Transport & Tourism

Japan seems to be in a transitional period concerning its housing market. The increasing number of vacant homes and the need for a “safety net” for vulnerable citizens are posing demanding challenges to the authorities. A delegation from the Housing Bureau at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) visited Brussels last week to draw some inspiration from the way public, cooperative and social housing providers operate in Europe. As a follow up to a very interesting meeting between the delegation and Housing Europe Secretary General and Research Coordinator, Sorcha Edwards and Alice Pittini, we interviewed Mr. Kenji Hamamoto, Deputy Director at the Housing Bureau of the Ministry to know more about the housing reality in Japan.

 

Housing is considered to be in Japan “the indispensable base for citizens’ healthy and cultural lives”, as described in the Basic Act for Housing (Act No. 61 of June 8, 2006). The act also states that the government’s mission is to ensure provision, construction, improvement and management of good quality housing for citizens, now and in the future. It is also worth noting that housing is one of the main pillars of the national and regional economy: housing investment accounts for about 3% of Japan’s GDP.

How does the housing system work in the country?

Japan has a vigorous housing market. Typical choices for new families, for example, include ordering their house construction to manufacturers, purchase a pre-built house or a room of a condominium, or rent a room from a private landlord. In 2017, the construction of 965,000 new units has started.

As far as Social Housing is concerned, we have approximately 2.2 million units of Publicly-Operated Housing as of 2014. Publicly-Operated Housing is constructed and managed by local governments, with a subsidy from the national government. They account for 4% of the total housing stock in Japan.

 

What are the main housing challenges in Japan at the moment?

One notable challenge is the abundance of “vacant homes”, which refers to vacant or unused homes. Since a government survey in 2013 revealed that more than 8.2 million housing units stand unusedacross the country, the issue has been attracting nationwide attention. Among them, some 3.2 million are neither apartments listed for rental use nor secondary houses, which means they are already abandoned or could be in the near future, leading to negative impacts on neighborhoods and regions. MLIT is now working closely with local governments to encourage owners of such houses or stakeholders to either demolish abandoned homes, renovate and sell them to new residents, or convert them to commercial or community facilities.

Another recent development is the rising need to widen the housing safety-net for the vulnerable citizens. Many elderly people living on their own, or younger generation with stagnant paychecks now desperately need assistance in finding an apartment. An amendment of the law that came into force last year encourages local governments, NGOs and other relevant organizations to collaborate for providing such assistance.

What are the main housing-related policy priorities today?

In addition to working on the “vacant homes” issue and putting together the “safety net” new programs, we are trying hard to invigorate the existing, “second hand”, housing market. The mainstream of Japan’s housing market still lies on newly-constructed houses. As of 2013, existing house transactions account for merely 15% of all the transactions, considerably lower than in other developed countries.

We now see the signs of change, however. Homebuyers are increasingly choosing to buy second-hand homes, especially in the case of condominiums, than before. MLIT aims to accelerate the trend by helping establish a healthy market, where the existing houses of good quality would be evaluated and recognized accordingly.

What are the key partners of the Ministry?

For social housing schemes, our closest partners are local governments, i.e. prefectures and cities/towns. We are reaching out for more collaboration to local communities and NGOs, in partnership with the Welfare and Labor Ministry of the central government, which is in charge of assistance programs for those in need.

With regards to the broader housing policy in general, we work closely with the housing industry, which includes national and regional house manufacturers, condominium developers, operators of private rental apartments and architects. Among the national government ministries, we work with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Forest and Fisheries, to name a few.

What are your takeaways or even sources of inspiration from your visit to Europe?

We learned a lot about the housing markets and systems, especially on social housing, and the policy framework in the EU and its member States from our meeting with Housing Europe. In particular, the fact that various entities such as cooperatives and non-profit organizations provide social/affordable housing in Europe was something new to us.

Last but not least, we really enjoyed our stay in Brussels, where you have efficient public transport, lots of parks and a thriving city center. I definitely wish to visit again, maybe in summer or in autumn!

Housing Europe welcomes the Japanese delegation in Brussels

Housing Europe Secretary General and Research Coordinator, Sorcha Edwards and Alice Pittini welcome the delegation from the Japanese Housing Bureau at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The first meeting that was held on Monday, 12 March on the premises of Housing Europe has been an open exchange concerning the housing policies in Europe as well as the various schemes that are implemented in the different Member States. Housing Europe had the chance to share the views of its members and the key facts and figures from the latest ‘State of Housing in the EU’ report but also to learn a lot from its guests about the housing reality in Japan.

Mr. Hamamoto also received an invitation for a Japanese participation to the next edition of the International Social Housing Festival that will take place in June 2019 in Lyon, France.

Housing Europe has also accompanied the Japanese Ministry delegation to a meeting with the European Commission Directorate General for Regional Development (DG Regio), where the EU Urban Agenda Housing Partnership and the role of cohesion funds was the focus of the discussion.

Source: housingeurope

We have Resolved to Make Ogun No.1 on the Ease of Doing Business Index in Nigeria – Abiodun

Barely two months in office, Dapo Abiodun, governor of Ogun State, is keen at justifying the mandate of Ogun people with some actions already happening across the state. In this interview with some media executives at Iperu Remo, his country home, the governor unveiled his first four-year vision, among other related issues. OBINNA EMELIKE was there. Excerpts:

How has it been since you were sworn in as governor of Ogun State?

Well, because of the uniqueness of the political landscape in Ogun State and my emergence, to say the least, there has not been a dull moment.

Having won the primaries, we held on to that and begin to prepare for the main gubernatorial election. Our focus then was on how and what strategy to deploy to win the election. I am sure that it is needless to say that we operated in the most unfriendly circumstance, and in probably, the most intolerant administration. It was indeed a very charged atmosphere then. But we give glory to God because it was an opportunity for Him to avow his supremacy in our land. When God wants to do something, over a billion men cannot stand on His way. I did not have a doubt that I was going to win the primaries because I was not desperate to become governor, I was only desirous. I had a relationship with the then incumbent but the point of departure was when I said I would like to take over from him. I must have faced the biggest battle in my life to be here, the rest is now history.

What is your vision for the state?

I have a formidable team, and we want the state to grow, but our approach is different. We have articulated a vision for ourselves, which was based on our experience as we crisscross the state, going through the 20 Local Government Areas, 57 Local Council Development Area (LCDAs) to see situations on ground and to enable us plan effectively and give priority to areas of need across the state. Our visit also provided us opportunity to meet the people and to know the issues they have. Those issues helped us to articulate a vision for ourselves.

Our focus is to provide a focused and credible government, while creating an enabling environment with public and private partnership. We believe that if we do that, it will translate into the economic transformation and wellbeing of the state. If the state is economically transformed, there will be progress. So, our vision is to provide a focused and credible government. We are creating an enabling environment with public private partnerships for the economic growth of the state and wellbeing of its people.

Our mantra is building a future together, and it is derived from our vision of creating a focused government. We want the economy to grow and to achieve it, we will remain focused. Having put in place our first four-year plan, we will not only execute those plans but also have units that will ensure that as they unfold, they will be measuring our successes and ensure that we execute those plans as envisaged in our vision.

Beyond being focused, we also want to be qualitative, which means that we are going to be a good administration and that will ensure good governance, which is a consensus-oriented government. It means that we will be equitable, fair, effective, efficient, participatory, and accountable.

With that, we will now begin to send the right signals, give this government the right perception because if you want to create an enabling environment, those you want to attract need to see that you adopt public private [partnership (PPP), that you are accountable, participatory and transparent.

We also will ensure the economic welfare of not just the citizens, but also those who work for us to achieve our objectives and the core of those people are the civil servants. They do not need to beg for their rights in this administration. Our commitment to the people is to ensure stable government by paying salaries, arrears, and by making sure that pension funds are remitted to the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs). I have assured the civil servants that their salaries would be paid as at when due. The first thing I signed in the office was the wage bill.

This is good governance and it is necessary in order to achieve the ambitions of this administration.

What are your plans for providing adequate security across the state?

Next to good governance is the issue of security. Security is the most discussed and most disturbing of all the issues we have in the country today.

I remember the time when suicide bombing started and they said Nigerians would take part in it because they love their lives. Overtime, it has changed and now happening here. The issue of security is what we are taking seriously because you cannot create an enabling environment without security. Today, Ogun State has the largest number of industries in Nigeria. Lagos is now congested to a point that the next state to reckon with is Ogun. It is truly the Gateway State because you cannot go anywhere in the country without passing through the state, we border five states, Benin Republic and this has become a security challenge. If they chase criminals in Lagos, they run to Ogun State. Even, some criminals also come from Burkina Faso via some borders between Ogun and Benin Republic.

There is no way you can make the state an economic hub if you cannot guarantee the best of safety. Many companies are here because it is convenient and some were pushed out of Lagos due to congestion. This administration’s focus is to pull more of them to Ogun State and we are going to do that consciously. We have resolved to make Ogun No.1 on the index of the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria, but security is key. We are rejigging our security trust fund, a bill is being sent to the state house of assembly on it. It is an amendment of an existing bill. Already, there is a chairman, DG, stakeholders in place.

The objective of the bill is to pull more funds for the provision of necessary equipment for security operatives to function well and police the state better. We are going to buy drones, cameras, install surveillance systems, tracking devices, among others. We are going to do anything to discourage banditry, cultism, crime among other vices. For us, security is key.

You mentioned road infrastructure as one of your focus areas, what are your plans on roads?

After security, road infrastructure is key. You cannot attract investors to the state if access to the state is difficult. We are placing premium on roads that connect us to other states. We also going to pay attention to the township roads as attention is often given to the highways leaving out the township roads. How do you expect an investor to take you seriously when roads within the town are not motorable.

To ensure good roads, we are setting up Ogun State Public Works Agency. The agency will help in cutting the bureaucracy in the award of third party contracts, and allowing us to use direct labour, which benefit citizens through employment. The bill is in the house already. Though there are roads that the third party cannot construct because they do not have the expertise, yet there are roads within the township and rural roads that can be handled by the agency. They will open them up, grade them, do drainage, put asphalt, among others to make the roads motorable enough for the trucks to take goods from the hinterland to the market.

So, we a placing a premium on road infrastructure, seeing it as an enabler of our vision for creating an environment for public private partnership, and seeing it is also as an enabler for other things that we talked about.

To that extent, we are looking to award the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road very soon to ease the traffic on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which I learnt has enough budgetary allocation for completion. But even after completion, there will still be congestion because the population on the Mowe, Ibafo, Arepo axis has grown beyond the projection of those who planned the highway years back.

We are looking at alternative roads of which, the Lagos-Epe-Ijebu road is one, the Lagos-Ota-Abeokuta road, and Lagos-Shagamu-Ikorodu road. We are looking at partnering the federal government on the Lagos-Ota and Lagos-Shagamu roads. The moment these roads are done, the issues of connectivity and access to the state will be solved.

You also mentioned digital infrastructure, how will it boost socio-economic development in the state?

We will be looking at how best to conduct business in the state. We discovered that things are still done in the old fashion way and part of our growth is the digital transformation of the state. We believe that we must have digital infrastructure in place to help us monitor and plan better across our health sector, to take inventory of our pharmaceuticals, various primary and tertiary healthcare centers, monitor the number patients going to hospital, digitise the number of students we have in the state, give students PIN numbers that can be used to track them while in school, we can track the actual enrollment, monitor the curriculum that is being taught, and to ensure that teachers do their work among others.

Digital infrastructure offers data that enable other developmental planning, it can tell the number of civil servants, how efficient a particular agency is, monitor financial operations among others.

So, we are building a digital infrastructure that will be a background to all these things so that we can have a dash board to monitor our success and areas to pay more attention.

The digital infrastructure will also impact the ease of doing business in the state. We are also going to establish Ogun State Investment Promotion Agency, a one-stop-shop for investment. The agency will work to ease the requirements and stress of investors wanting to come and set up businesses in the state. The bill establishing the agency is also before the house of assembly. We are bringing someone who is versatile in the business of investment to head it; someone who the business community can trust.

How are you handling the political class on expectations on quick appointments?

You have seen that coloration in the choices we have made in the past few weeks. Some have been asking why I am not making noise, but the truth is that it is not in my nature to make noise, but to perform.

In the private sector, you do not perform by making noise, you strategise, plan and execute.

We are not in a haste to fill positions, we want competent people in place to help drive our vision and build the future together. We will not be arm twisted in doing what is not our focus. My appointments will be characterised by competence.

What are the pillars of your administration?

The first in our pillars is agriculture because we have the land, the people and the market. Our land is fertile, so we do not see why we cannot be the food basket of the nation and that is what we are striving to be. We are going to partner the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on some agric projects. We are going to allocate hectares of land to youths to farm, in the Anchor Borrower scheme. They will be given the seedlings, we will provide the extension services, and the CBN will provide the fertilizer.

It will be like the model farms in Ethiopia run by graduates. As well, Ethiopia makes more money exporting flowers than we make from exporting oil.

Education is another pillar for us because the decline in the education sector in the state is embarrassing. We are going to declare a state of emergency in education and overhaul the whole system. We are going to repair and refurbish one school per Ward across the state. We are also looking at vocational centres and turn some schools to tech hubs, and create a job portal to warehouse skilled youths for employers.

Health is another pillar. The health facilities across the state are in shambles and we are going to restore them to life saving facilities instead of death traps.

I have been to many of the health institutions, and they are not conducive for health personnel to work.

We are focusing on primary healthcare centres because they are the closest to the people and it will reduce pressure on public hospitals. We want to justify the mandate of the people by prioritising their needs. We are going to create industrial park to boost our development plans, as well as, focus on providing housing to people across the state, to all levels of income earners.

We are also focusing on physical planning. The Lagos State governor and I are putting up a joint development commission to ensure good physical develop in many areas we share boundaries.

We will also focus on the provision of good roads, good drainages, and efficient movement for citizens. It also needful because people live in Ogun and work and pay tax in Lagos, we need to resolve this.

We are looking at Agro processing zone, reviving the Olokola seaport, among other industrial clusters across the state to boost our economy and further the development of the state.

These are some of the visions for the first four years, but we need to monitor to see their execution or else you miss out on lifting people and fulfilling the mandate of the people.

‘Government Should Create National Minimum Planning Standards’

BISI ADEDIRE is the Chairman Lagos state chapter, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP). In this interview, he spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on the critical challenges inhibiting the implementation of development plan in Nigeria and other issues in the built sector.

There have been concerns lately on over centralisation of town planning system and process, which built environment experts believe are not the right way to go. What do you think should be the ideal procedure?
Well, looking at the planning administration and process in Lagos State for instance, we can infer that planning is controlled from the state level with little or no recourse to the local level. The ideal procedure is planning administration should be a bottom up approach. Planning process such as granting of development permit should start and possibly end at the local level while formulation of policies, preparation of model city plan, approval of layout plan can be carried out at the state level. With this, the impacts of physical planning will be more pronounced. When we look at developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, town planning is operated from the grass root. It should be the same for Nigeria, if we want to have rapid growth. So I call for decentralisation and a reinstatement of Local Planning Offices in Lagos State.

The standard of planning is very low in Nigeria, how can the nation develop national minimum planning standards and localize the new urban agenda?
Well, I won’t say that the standard of planning in Nigeria is very low. Maybe I can agree that it is inadequate but not very low. The truth is you can’t tell me that there are no impacts of physical planning in some cities in the country.

Yes, we still have a long way to go, however I think when we harmonise the planning standards obtainable in the states, we would move faster. So I am in support of the creation of national minimum planning standards. When I was the chairman of NITP Practice Committee, my team raised this particular issue but it wasn’t looked into by the executive council of the Institute. For us to develop this, the national body of NITP must decide to make this work. We can create a committee that would consider the planning standards applicable in the states. A review and workability of these standards can be looked into. After which the committee can decide on a unified standard that can be used. I believe if there is a minimum planning standard, development can be uniform and holistic.

For the localisation of the new urban agenda, the responsibilities lie with the executive and legislative arms of government with the town planners serving an advisory role. The new urban agenda basically looks at the creation of a just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cites and human settlements. While town planners are committed to the realisation of this, we can only advice and hope that the government follow suits. Government should localise new urban agenda for sustainable cities.

What are the challenges in implementing the Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning Law decree no. 88 of 1992 and the review of the Land Use Act 1978?
We need to know that the urban and regional planning law 1992 has several sections but generally, the law stipulated that planning activities should be carried out at the three levels of governments (Federal, State and Local government). It also specifies the responsibilities of the commission, board and authority that should be established. The law to some extents has been implemented by the states. However I think it is important we know that what drives a law is the regulation. If a law is in place but no planning regulation, it may be difficult to see the operation of the law. So the challenge to the full implementation of the law is the preparation of planning regulations for each state. Apart from this, inadequate personnel and equipment in town planning office, lack of funding are some other challenges.

For the review of the Land Use Act, I think the challenge is traceable to the authority (governors) that has been given the vested right to land. We have been clamouring for the review of the Act but these people are not forth coming. The question is, are the governors willing to let go of the vested authority that they have? As long as the governors are not ready for this, the review can’t be done. Today, many state governments are many huge financial gains from the sales of land, processing of certificate of occupancy, land regularisation and other land documents. This actually negates the provision of the Act, which stipulates that land should be made available at any given time for citizens at an affordable rate.

The impact of technology to practice of town planning is key, how are the practitioners leveraging on the innovations? 
As it stands today, town planners both in the public and private sector are using the available technological innovations in the practice of the profession. We now make use of drones for land use survey and mapping, GIS is also used for most of our planning activities. It helps us in generating accurate data needed. Also, town planners in Nigeria are in tune with the global call for smart cities. These are cities designed to function through technological means. We believe in this and we are ready to make use of all available ICT to achieve a livable and sustainable city.

With your emergence as the Lagos State Chapter Chairman of NITP, how do you plan to contribute to the evolvement of policies and programmes that could enhance physical planning practice, education and research development?
One of the major aspirations of our administration is to see the signing into law and implementation of the new urban and regional planning regulation of Lagos State. This regulation had been at the State Assembly for some years with no head way. My team believed we could do something to ensure it is revisited. With serious dedication and hard work, we have made a lot progress. The final reading for the regulation has been carried out at the Assembly and from the last update I got from members of the State House of Assembly; the regulation would be out for immediate implementation any time soon.

The reason we want this regulation in use is because it would enhance the practice of town planning in the state. I can’t tell you about the contents of the regulation yet until it is released but I can assure town planners that through this regulation, there would be improved standard of living for us. So we are contributing and we will continue to contribute to the progress of the profession.

We have plans and programmes in respect to physical planning and urban development already outlined for the state. As soon as the new Commissioner for the ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is appointed, we would visit him and make them known to him. Sometimes this week, the chapter would be paying a courtesy visit to the new Permanent Secretary. We are fully aware that when policies and programmes are viable, sustainable and financially inclined, the profession would be enhanced.

Nigeria still has huge deficit in the housing industry, how do you think critical stakeholders could really address this pervading challenge in the sector? 
There are basically two critical stakeholders in the housing sector. These are the government and the private developers. The government through its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) is expected to create enabling environment for the private investors. From the record, the housing deficit in Nigeria is between 17-20 million. The truth is, there is nowhere in the world that the government solely takes care of the housing needs of her citizen. They do their bit and then provide a conducive procedure, which makes investors or developer carry out their businesses easily. This should be applicable in the country. The difficulty in accessing land for usage should be solved by the government, the bottleneck experienced when processing for the landed documents, planning permit for development should be addressed, and reduction in the cost of construction materials should be considered. With these, the private developers would be encouraged to get involved in the sector.

Following recent upsurge in collapse of buildings across the country, there were concerns for quality and safety in housing sector. How best can the problem be tackled?
Well, I think it is quite simple. Developers should engage qualified professionals when constructing. Standard and certified materials should also be used for construction. In addition, there must be continuous monitoring and feedbacks during the construction process. Importantly, I think developer should be informed on the need for them to build in line with the planning permit received. We have discovered that some of the developers don’t comply with this. Imagine a developer who received planning permit for three floors going to the site to construct four or five floors building. This is very wrong. Finally, there should be post construction audit carried out on the building by a certified professional.

How is your association impacting the young members, especially those in secondary schools?
In the profession we have elders who have taken interest in the younger members. They are presently mentoring and encouraging them. Some of the young members are attached to the firms of the senior town planners; they are putting them through the various avenues available in the profession. For the students in secondary school, some of us visit the schools for career talk to intimate them about the profession. Few years ago, I was in Air force secondary school in Ikeja for sensitisation. Some of my colleagues are also doing same all over the country. In some cases, we have the privilege to speak during church programmes where little children are available, planning firms also sponsor Inter house sport of schools. These are means of public enlightenment.

Source: GuardianNg

Family Homes Funds’ Adewole Canvas for More Housing Initiatives in Nigeria

The Federal Government says it intends to invest N1tn in providing about 500,000 homes through the FHFL by 2023. How much of this fund has been spent so far and how many homes have been provided since you began operation?

First, we have to correct the impression about the financial commitment. The commitment is for N500bn and not N1tn. The N500bn fund translates to N100bn each year. So far, the government has disbursed N20bn. But the process for the disbursement of N45bn has been completed and that money will be disbursed within the next week or so. The reason for the shortfall is basically because there is no need to disburse ahead of the programme. So, the fund is just taking off and therefore the disbursement is in line with the progress of the fund.

I think the disbursement will accelerate as the fund accelerates too, and I think by the end of this year, we will start seeing that acceleration.  As of today, we have just over 3600 homes that are either completed or under construction. About 1,025 of them are fully completed and are in the market for sale.

In addition, we have what we call commitments. So these are projects where we have agreements but it has not started on site maybe because the legal agreements are not completed. If done, this will lead to another 2024 units.

There have been several initiatives by the government in the last few years targeted at addressing housing problems within the low income group. But some stakeholders have said the initiatives have not been very effective. What’s your take on this?

My take is that in Nigeria, we have an approach of impatience towards addressing important social issues. For housing, like many important social issues, it takes time for new initiatives to get up to speed. But sometimes because we are impatient, we want results tomorrow; we tend to act like a gardener who plants a seed and becomes impatient when he doesn’t see any plant after three days. Housing is a very complex project. It takes a while for any initiative relating to it to gain ground.

And it is important for it to happen that way because it builds the bases that will sustain it for a long time. So, I wouldn’t accept that many of the initiatives haven’t been successful; I think they have made contributions. Initiatives like the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, the National Housing Fund, Infracredit bonds, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company, Federal Government Staff Housing Loans Board, Federal Integrated Staff Housing and Federal Housing Authority have made a lot of contributions to housing in Nigeria. We can’t abandon them; rather, we need to support them. They are all playing critical roles. Our challenges are significant and one initiative alone can’t solve them. All of these initiatives need to be empowered and enabled to give us a chance of addressing the problem.

But there seems to be so many initiatives in recent times. Would there not be overlapping duties?

Yes there are many initiatives, but let me give an example: the United States has about 187 or so housing initiatives at federal level and at states level to address housing; and that is common in many countries because you can’t just have one.

Of course, when you have many initiatives, there are potential for overlapping, but that is a problem to be solved rather than one to be ignored. As those agencies and initiatives mature, you will find that those areas of overlap would be cleaned out. This is just a normal thing when you have different activities going on. It is just a build-up problem; it is not unusual.

If these initiatives are sustained, what’s your projection on how long it will take for the country’s housing deficit to be addressed completely?

Assuming we go by our famous housing deficit figure of 17 million, which is largely disputed, we have not really started. If you take the numbers, Family Homes Funds wants to do 500,000 homes over five years, which is about 100,000 homes every year. I believe the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria is doing about 20,000 to 25,000 new mortgages per year. If you put all of us together, perhaps we are doing 200,000 homes per year. How long will it take to cover a backlog of 17 million? You can figure that out. But we can’t just set our target on the 17 million.

We should also know that Nigeria is one of the fastest urbanising countries in the world. By 2050, our population will be just under 400 million. By 2030, we are likely to be about 250 to 270 million. Bearing that in mind, our planning should not be for today; it should be incremental to whatever figures we currently have because our cities are growing.

So, this is why I do not agree that there are too many agencies. In fact, we have too few of them. If we are going to have any chance of reducing the deficit, I think we even need to have about four times more initiatives than we have now. We probably need about four different Federal Housing Authorities, four Federal Mortgage Banks, and 10 Family Homes Funds if we are really serious about biting into this shortage.

What is the level of awareness among the people these initiatives are designed for?

As you are aware, we have just started. One of the things we are currently doing in that regard is to hold town hall meetings with our target audience. We have just held one in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, and I was glad to see the people who were there. They are the people we are actually targeting; mostly low to medium income earners. I think we need to do a lot more to improve awareness.

Stakeholders in the industry are of the opinion that affordability is relative when it comes to housing. How affordable is the “affordable housing fund” being provided through the FHFL and are those in the informal sector captured?

Everybody has access to the housing that we support, whether they are in the formal or informal sector. We make no distinctions. For affordability, I think it is a very difficult situation because we are currently banging on the door to improve affordability on a day-to-day basis.

One of the key measures we have taken is to establish what we call target cost indicators. So for example, we want to ensure that one bedroom unit should not be more than N3m; two bedroom unit should not be more than N4.5m, and three bedroom should not be more than N6.5m.

We think that this will significantly help in making the houses that we support affordable to people on low to medium income. I think we will not always achieve it, but our target is that at least 70 to 80 per cent of the homes that we finance are within that range.

How significant has the FHFL been in addressing some of these problems since its establishment?

We have only been here for eight to nine months now. But if I have to reflect, I will say that we have so far made about three significant interventions. The first one is the establishment of collaborative working.

The thing with housing is that it can never be a one-man show or one organisation show. So for example, our collaboration with the NMRC will see a significant increase in the mortgages to be issued in 2019, particularly through our Help-to-Own product. Without that collaboration, it is unlikely that the project will be successful. And I think that is what needs to happen.

We all need to come together. I think the initiative by Family Homes Funds to aggregate some of these agencies is a significant one. People may not see it, but it is a significant intervention.

The second intervention is that we are probably the only agency today in the country that is providing financing for affordable housing outside of the commercial banks where the interest rates, requirements, affordability and development costs are usually high.

The fact that we are able to provide financing at no more than 10 per cent per annum which is about one third of the market rate is also a significant intervention. The third intervention is awareness for states that are actually working with us and our partners that they can provide housing for their staff through the fund. That is a major achievement.

We currently have a very strong relationship with a number of states who have actually given land into the project. Borno State is the latest example, where we are expected to provide about 4,700 homes; 3,000 of those homes will be very low cost homes for Internally Displaced Persons. That is something we are going to achieve over the next couple of months. The sites have been identified; the drawings have been done, and we shall get on to that very quickly. I think those are very significant achievements.

Part of the FHFL’s policy is to support on-going dialogue on local content in building construction. What are the efforts towards implementing this?

Our target is that by 2021, we will make sure that 70 to 75 per cent of the inputs into the process of what we call the white input must be procured locally. Currently, I think we are just under about 50 per cent.

There are still a lot of white inputs (which are things like doors, wiring, light fittings etc.) being imported from countries like China. But we have now put in place in all of the contracts that where it is available, they must procure those materials locally. It takes time for that to pick up because you can’t make it automatic. The industry has to be there. But that is something that we have enabled in all of our development agreements.

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