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.
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.
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.