Ladies and Gentlemen,
We gather today to perform a formality. We gather to inaugurate the Governing Boards of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) as required by their enabling statutes and as approved by the President, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR.
As simple and formal as this event is, it has profound consequences.
One consequence is that it offers opportunity to the Nigerians who we inaugurate today to participate in the decision-making process that affect the lives of millions of people, who will partake and benefit of the prosperity that a Housing economy offers.
It is an opportunity whose importance is not to be viewed lightly. This is the opportunity to participate by rendering service, and it is the hallmark of liberal democracy.
Every so often, many of us complain that things are not heading in the direction we like, but how many of us volunteer our time, our skills and our resources to affecting the course of events?
More importantly, how many of us accept to serve with titles that are not headline grabbing like President, Governor, Senator, and Local Government Chairman; and how many will accept to serve without a title?
I have said before that you do not need a title to serve, and if we all pause to look beyond in elective offices, and the big titles, we will see an enormous field of opportunities for service beckoning on men and women of goodwill to step forward and contribute to nation building.
This is the profound decision all of you have taken by accepting these appointments to serve in these two important institutions.
On behalf of President Buhari, the Government and People of Nigeria, I thank you for accepting and for the service you will render to our people.
As to what your roles will be, please let me implore you to quickly avail yourselves of a copy of the respective laws setting up your agencies, where your functions and powers are spelt out.
But if a guide is required, let me say that you will individually and collectively be the conscience of these agencies for implementing the policies of Government, with respect to public housing and mortgage financing in Nigeria.
Some of the programmes and projects of these Agencies will come to you for approvals, and it will be your duty to decide whether to approve or not.
In doing so, you will have to decide whether the proposals are consistent with Law, whether they advance public good, whether they will bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people.
As you undertake this responsibility, please permit me to remind you that it is men and women who build institutions and not the other way around.
Therefore, good institutions are the aggregate of good deeds of good men and women, while unsalutary institutions similarly represent the aggregate of the unsalutary deeds of men and women who, perhaps, were never worthy of the responsibility they were entrusted with.
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Ladies and Gentlemen, since the FHA and FMBN were set up, they have experienced their fair share of challenges, while they have also become well-known brands within the country.
This is now your responsibility to reposition these brands and utilize them, by providing the guidance for the Managing Directors and Management teams of FHA and FMBN to enable them deliver service to Nigerians.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me state that the Policy of Government is to deliver Affordable Housing, acceptable to Nigerians and these agencies, whose brands you will now administer are the implementing arms of Government for: a) Housing delivery (FHA) and b) Housing Financing (FMBN).
The Managing Directors and their Management teams have the executive responsibility for carrying these out, subject to your Board oversight, approvals and advice, while the Ministry plays a supervisory role.
Therefore, we expect to see harmony, respect, teamwork and a healthy working co-operation between Board and Management.
On the part of the Ministry, I assure you that we will supervise but we will not interfere.
For your information, we are piloting a Housing Programme and currently constructing in 33 (Thirty-Three) States of Nigeria.
We do this to validate and test what type of housing design responds to Nigeria’s diverse cultural, climatic and religious needs, so as to ascertain what is acceptable and affordable.
We are at different stages of construction in different states, and we have commended these designs to FHA, without imposing them.
Our decision is informed by the evidence of previous housing initiatives that people did not take up and empty houses that still abound in almost every state of Nigeria.
These untaken houses, and the deficit of Housing, suggests to us that the untaken houses are either unacceptable or unaffordable or both.
We see housing as a product, and we take the view that before they can be delivered to market, we must know what the people want and what they can afford.
When our pilot is fully completed, these answers will become self-evident and this is when we can mass produce.
There is certainly nothing that stops FHA from undertaking other designs of housing if she can find a market for it, and she can deploy the income to cross-subsidize and make mass housing more affordable.
As for the financing side, this is critical to affordability and it is as much the function of FHA in cost management and delivery as it is that of FMBN in delivering mortgages of affordable tenures and costs. Since May 2015 to date FMBN has issued 2,724 mortgages worth N20.237BN to assist Nigerians buy their own homes; under the National Housing Fund.
Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, let me thank you for accepting to serve. The tenure and condition of service are contained in the letters of appointment that have been issued to you.
It is my honour and pleasure on behalf of Mr. President and the Federal Government of Nigeria to Inaugurate the Boards of the FMBN and FHA.
Please accept my best wishes for a successful tenure of service.
Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN
Honourable Minister of Power, Works and Housing