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KUALA LUMPUR DECLARATION ON CITIES 2030

We, the participants of the Ninth session of the World Urban Forum — representing  national, subnational and local governments, parliamentarians, civil society, older persons, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities, grassroots groups, indigenous peoples and local communities, private sector, foundations and philanthropies, international and regional organizations, academia, professionals and other relevant stakeholders — gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to localize and scale up the implementation of the New Urban Agenda as an accelerator to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Led by a strong spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation, we share our aspirations for the future of Cities 2030 as the Cities for all where no-one and no place is left behind.

To this end, we call for the deployment of all efforts, means and resources available towards the operationalization of the concept of cities for all, ensuring that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all.

We believe that global, regional, national and local implementation frameworks of the New Urban Agenda being formulated since its adoption should be supported by key enablers capable of unlocking positive transformation, such as:

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  • Strengthening the role of subnational and local governments, urban governance systems that ensure continuous dialogue among different levels of government and participation of all actors, and increasing multilevel and cross-sectoral coordination, transparency and accountability.
  • Encouraging sharing of creative solutions and innovative practices which enable a shift in mindset necessary to drive change.
  • Building inclusive partnerships and strengthening age and gender responsive environments to ensure meaningful participation and engagement at all levels.
  • Adopting integrated territorial development, including through appropriate urban planning and design instruments, to ensure sustainable management and use of natural resources and land, appropriate compactness and density, diversity of uses, and revitalization of cultural heritage.
  • Deploying monitoring and reporting mechanisms, including assessment of impacts, that encourage best practices for effective policy making.

We draw attention to the persistent challenges faced by our cities and human settlements, such as:

  • Limited opportunities and mechanisms for youth, women and grassroots organizations, as well as other civil society organizations, local, subnational and national governments, international and regional bodies to work together in planning, implementation and monitoring;
  • Inequitable access to the city, including to decent jobs, public space, affordable and adequate housing and security of land tenure, safe, efficient and accessible public transport and mobility systems, infrastructure and other basic services and goods that cities offer;
  • Insufficient protection from human rights violations, including forced evictions, and inadequate inclusion of people living in poverty, persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups in urban planning, design, and legislation processes;
  • Gender inequalities in urban economic and leaderships spheres.

We recognize that today we face emerging challenges that require urgent actions, including:

  • Recognizing that crises are increasingly urban, which calls for inclusive urbanization tools adapted to local contexts and to the nature of natural and human made disasters and conflicts, as well as to guide humanitarian assistance, fast track recovery, and contribute to building and sustaining peace.
  • Managing the complexities of increased migration into cities, at all levels, leveraging positive contributions of all and using more inclusive planning approaches that facilitate social cohesion and create economic opportunities;
  • Understanding the impact of new technologies and potential of open and accessible data, which require governance and design models that help to ensure no one is left behind;
  • Addressing growing social and cultural inequalities, lack of access to economic opportunities, that are increasingly manifested in cities.
  • Responding to environmental degradation and climate change concerns.

Actionable recommendations

We, the participants of the WUF9, leveraging the advantage of the Forum, which convenes thousands of decision makers, key actors, stakeholders and communities, generated a wealth of ideas.

We encourage the acceleration of the implementation of the New Urban Agenda through:

Frameworks

  1. Encourage the formulation of implementation frameworks for the New Urban Agenda at all levels, including monitoring mechanisms, providing a coordinated space for an effective contribution from all stakeholders, aligning to the efforts and actions of the 2030 Agenda and other international, regional, national, subnational and local development frameworks.
  1. Support the creation and consolidation of inclusive platforms and agendas for dialogue among all levels of government, decision makers and stakeholders such as regional, national and local Urban Forums and committees that can strengthen policy review and assessment of impacts. These can also foster exchange of experiences and cooperation, as well as scaling up voluntary commitments and actions from all partners.
  1. Further develop and advocate for integrated territorial development, which includes integration of sectoral policies, institutions and investment; integration among the different spheres of government; spatial integration across the urban-rural continuum; improved coordination across actors; and enhanced alignment of national, subnational and local policies with international agendas.
  1. Adapt innovative and robust mechanisms for the diversification and expansion of the means of implementation, to cater for complex and integrated approaches promoted by the New Urban Agenda. Technological innovations and improvements, research, capacity building, technical assistance and partnership development, among others, may require enhanced resourcing.

Governance and partnerships

  1. Adopt multiple collaborative governance mechanisms that actively engage national, subnational and local governments, all groups of society, including youth, women and grassroots organizations and particularly the excluded, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. This work in solidarity is critical to promote more buy-in and co-responsibility in the activities towards sustainable urban development, and to ensure the sustainability of the results.
  1. Promote multi-stakeholder constituency-based coalitions to use the implementation of the New Urban Agenda to better prevent, prepare, and respond to urban crises.

Innovative solutions

  1. Foster a culture of creativity and innovation to be embedded in the way cities and human settlements operate.
  1. Develop monitoring and data collection mechanisms, including community generated data, to enhance availability of information and disaggregated and comparable data at city, functional urban areas and community levels. This would promote informed and evidence-based decision making and policy formulation, assessing progress and impact at all levels.
  1. Create an enabling environment and develop capacities for scaling up of good practices including municipal finance, sustainable private and public investments in urban development and job creation, and generating value while advancing the public good.
  1. Adopt accessibility and universal design as core principles into national, subnational and local action plans for implementing the New Urban Agenda through inclusive, accessible and participatory processes and consultations.

We, the participants of the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum, recognize the value of the Forum convened by UN-Habitat as an inclusive platform to collect inputs from a broad range of stakeholders and to feed these into annual and quadrennial reporting on progress in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

We call to further develop the role of UN-Habitat as a focal point in the United Nations system to support all countries and mobilization of stakeholders in the implementation, follow up and review of the New Urban Agenda, including through scaled up normative support.

We thank the Government of Malaysia, the City of Kuala Lumpur, and UN-Habitat for organizing the Forum, and commit to provide continuous cooperation to the next hosts, the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the city of Abu Dhabi.

Kuala Lumpur, 13 February 2018

Surveyors harp on facility management, specialisation

To improve the nation’s economy, estate surveyors have stressed the need to ensure that viable stock of infrastructure is constantly functional and sustainable.

According to them, this could only be sustained through appreciation and enthronement of facility management profession in the national lives.

They called for the establishing of a positive correlation between the infrastructure and economic development.

According to them, the more robust and qualitative infrastructure, the better; the depth of such nation’s economic development.

Setting the tune on the theme: “Facility Management and Economic Development in Nigeria’, at the 24th John Wood Ekpenyong memorial lecture held in Lagos by the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Values (NIESV), a past president of the institution, Mr. Dosu Fatokun, said infrastructure as a catalyst for development needs to be well managed to drive development.

Expressing dismay over Nigeria’s low ranking in human development index and public infrastructure gap as contained in some comparative critical macro economic and social indicators, Fatokun said, all hands should be on deck in terms of feasible ideas to develop her infrastructure with a view to promoting the desired economic development of the nation.

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Although, it is said that Nigeria has exited recession the reality, the facility management expert said, is that people are still suffering, hence the urgent need to galvanise the economy through facility management.

He said: “Based on our experience on real estate infrastructure, we will propose that appropriate facility management functions should be gainfully employed for other types of infrastructure within the country”.

He also called on Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN) to lobby the federal government to declare and dedicate a month in the year for infrastructure condition certification.

During this month, he said, appropriate professional bodies should be constituted into sub-groups to undertake technical visitations to representative of key infrastructure facilities in the country and issue yearly beneficial reports to government particularly on the operation and maintenance cycle stage of the respective infrastructure.

According to him, the report will complement the oversight function of the National Assembly and could provide useful and desired inputs for yearly capital expenditure budget of the nation.

Expounding further on the theme, NIESV president, Dr. Bolarinde Patunola-Ajayi said the topic was chosen because facility management will enhance, improve and sustain economic development.

According to him, since infrastructure is key for any economic development, there is the need to ensure that existing infrastructure is maintained and kept in good use.

Dr Patunola-Ajayi stressed that the lecture was instituted 24 years ago to appreciate the contributions of the founding fathers to the profession, especially using the first president, Ekpenyong as symbol.

The late Ekpenyong, who schooled at the prestigious Methodist College Uzuakoli and University of London have put the structure that had made estate surveying practice popular all over the world.

In related development, the institution urged members to focus more on specialisation rather than the general practice.

According to the body, such diversification would promote human capacity development, boost distinction in practice, improve member’s contributions to the profession and the society in general.

Dr. Patunola-Ajayi, spoke at the 2018 Fellows’ Induction and Awards held in Lagos.

He urged the 46 new inductees and honourary members to take the lead in laying the foundation for specialisation.

Stressing that human capacity is paramount in the delivery of services, the NIESV president advised them to shun act that could constitute precarious liability in the course of practice.

He said that the induction forms the highest grade of admission of membership into NIESV stressing that before they were considered, members must have been associate for 10-years.

Those honoured at the ceremony for their infrastructural strides and contributions to NIESV include; the special guest of honour; Alhaji Femi Okunnu, chief of staff to Governor of Imo State; Uche Nwosu, Air Vice Marshal Moses Akinsanmi, Governor of Gombe state and institutions such as Julius Berger PLC, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Dangote Group among others.

NSE President Says Buhari’s Order On Local Content Will Reduce Capital Flight

The President of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr Kunle Mokuolu, on Monday that President Muhammadu Buhari’s executive order on local content would drastically reduce capital flight.

Makuolu said in Lagos that the order would boost the capacity of local engineers to contribute their quota to the development of Nigeria.

He, however, urged Buhari to ensure that the order was obeyed to prevent Nigerians from continuously developing other economies and neglecting their own.
The order was signed by the president on Feb. 5 to encourage local content and initiatives in the economic sector.

The order, tagged “Executive Order 5’’, is to improve local content in public procurement with science, engineering and technology components.
The order also prohibits the ministry of interior from giving visas to foreign workers whose skills are readily available in Nigeria.

READ: 13 Reasons Why you Should Exhibit at the 12th Abuja International Housing & Construction Show 2018

It, however, notes that where expertise is lacking, procuring entities will give preference to foreign companies and firms with a demonstrable and verifiable plan for indigenous development, prior to the award of such contracts.

According to Makuolu, it is wrong for a foreigner to sign a contract with the Nigerian government.

“What is done globally is for government to give the job to citizens and allow them determine whether they have the capacity or not to execute the project.

“Those who doubt the capacity of local engineers is like questioning the capacity of a woman to get pregnant.

“If we are not given the chance to prove our competence in our country, am I going to London, America or Ghana to prove myself?

“I can only prove myself and get experience in this country and the time will come when those people who are not competent will leave.”

He said that corruption was the origin of the practice of giving out jobs to foreigners, hailing Buhari for reversing the trend.

“Have you ever seen a man who would say my children cannot eat so give the food to foreigners who know how to eat?

“When you get your nationals to execute projects, you are only doing yourself a favour because whatever benefits foreigners bring would be wiped out later.

“There is no structural facility that would not need improvement.

“If you get a foreigner to execute projects when you are buoyant, he would not remember your commitment when you are broke, that is why government must engage its nationals and encourage in-house capacity.”

Mokuolu said that the NSE would soon open branches abroad and set up a database for Diaspora engineers in order to create opportunity for exchange of ideas for the development of Nigeria.

New strategy to build cities tops World Urban Forum agenda

Four billion people likely to move to urban areas globally before 2050 Urban demand for resources could rise by 125 per cent without intervention

As urban areas around the world continue to grow, cities are placing an increasingly heavy burden on the environment.

Policymakers should therefore treat resource efficiency as equal in importance to climate policy if they want to move towards a sustainable future, according to a new report from the International Resource Panel.

The Weight of Cities: Resource Requirements of Future Urbanization calls for a new strategy to meet the needs of 21st-century urbanization, one that would result in cities that are low carbon, resource efficient, socially just, and in which people can live healthy lives.

Unless the world’s urban areas make optimal use of their resources, cities will soon demand far more resources than the planet can sustainably provide, placing a huge burden on agriculture, energy, industry and transport. In the next 30 years, 2.4 billion people are likely to move to urban areas, bringing the proportion of the global population living in cities by 2050 to 66 per cent.

The annual amount of natural resources used by urban areas could grow from 40 billion tonnes of raw materials in 2010 to 90 billion tonnes by 2050, an increase of 125 per cent, if changes are not made to how cities are built and designed.

The report, the 25th from the International Resource Panel, an eminent group of experts set up by UN Environment in 2007 to examine natural resource use, was one of two summary reports launched at the 9th World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur (WUF9).

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Slightly more than a third of urban growth is expected to come from three countries: India (expected to contribute 404 million new city-dwellers), China (292 million) and Nigeria (212 million). At the same time, currently one in three urban residents lives in a slum or informal settlement, often without access to proper housing or basic services.

The increase in urban population will require the building of new cities and the expansion of existing ones. Building and operating these new cities, and supporting the urban lifestyles of those who live in them, requires billions of tonnes of raw materials, such as fossil fuels, sand, gravel, iron ore, wood and food.

Historically, existing cities have been spreading at a rate of two per cent a year, increasing global urban land use from just below one million square kilometres to 2.5 million in 2050, and putting agricultural land and food supplies at risk.

To achieve a transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient, socially just cities, the report recommends: ONE: Monitoring the flow of resources entering and leaving the cities to understand the local situation and to help develop resource-efficient strategies.

TWO: Planning cities to have compact growth, to avoid urban sprawl and so economize on the square kilometres of asphalt, the concrete, the electricity and the water wasted in spread-out cities; Better connections by efficient and affordable public transport (light rail, bus rapid transit) and liveable neighbourhoods where design encourages people to walk or cycle.

Other factors are resource-efficient urban components, such as car sharing, electric vehicles and charging point networks, efficient energy, efficient waste and water systems, smart grids, cycle paths, energy-efficient buildings, new heating, cooling and lighting technology as well as infrastructure for cross-sector efficiency, such as using waste heat from industry in district energy systems and industrial waste materials in construction, such as fly-ash bricks.

The report also recommends establishing a new model for city governance and politics that supports imaginative business propositions and experimentation.

“There are already far too many people around the world who are already being poisoned by breathing dirty, dangerous air in the cities they live in, and it’s alarming to see that this trend is set to worsen,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim.

“We can and need to do far better. We can design better cities, where people can walk or cycle instead of having to use cars, where waste is recycled rather than burned or tossed into landfills, and where everyone can access clean fuels and energy.”

In October 2016, representatives from 167 countries joined together in Quito, Ecuador, to adopt the New Urban Agenda, a United Nations agreement to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable amid rapid urbanization. WUF9, is a continuation of the efforts to implement the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency Najib Razak, opened the World Urban Forum in an official ceremony today with participants celebrating the energy building for implementing the New Urban Agenda.

Speaking at the opening, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Shariff said: “With its genuine openness and inclusive nature, the World Urban Forum is a chance for stakeholders from all over the world to contribute to the global conversation about our cities and human settlements.”

The World Urban Forum opened with more than 25,000 registrants from 185 countries attending more than 500 events and was celebrated as the most inclusive to date with 90 per cent of least developed countries represented.

Stakeholders Chart New Path for Financing Low-Income Homes

With housing production estimated at 100, 000 housing units per year, experts in housing industry have called for adequate housing finance for the low-income group, which constitutes larger part of the population.

According to them, the lowest recorded interest rate on a mortgage in Nigeria is 19 per cent, as of September 2016, while mortgage access requires at least a 25 per cent down payment and mortgage penetration is at 0.58 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

However to change this narrative, the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Nigeria (hbs) and Arctic Infrastructure (AI) last week convened a training programme in Lagos on “Public Private Partnership for Affordable Housing and Housing Finance”.

At the training attended by representatives from the relevant government establishments, private sector housing developers, civil society organizations, community groups, academia and professional associations, stakeholders noted the acute challenge in fundraising for housing projects.

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They said, there is need to enthrone sustainable housing finance models in order to meet the housing needs of the low-income groups.

While noting the continuous increase in population and the impact of cities like Lagos, which has been dubbed the “mega-city of slums”, they called for more innovative ways to get funding through public private partnership for housing projects.

Leading discussions on Public Private Partnership (PPP) for Housing Projects, Executive Director at the Center for Ethics and Sustainable Development, Dr. Olajumoke Akiode, said Nigeria is one of the many countries that have adopted PPP in the provision of housing at various levels of government across the country.

According to her, the PPP in housing provision started in Nigeria in the early 90s, after the 1991 National Housing Policy, which supported and promoted private sector participation in housing provision.

However, in practice these, she noted, have not always been achieved due to inadequate risk assessment and management as one of the major reasons for failures of PPP in housing.

“Like any other construction business, PPP arrangement is prone to risk. In fact PPP projects are perceived to have more inherent risks due to the involvement of many stakeholders with varied interests in addition to the economic, political, social and cultural conditions where the projects are to be undertaken.

“This, therefore underscores the importance of risk management in PPP projects which have been adjudged to be riskier than the traditionally procured projects”, she added.

Dr. Akiode however mentioned transparency, respect to the contracts’ specifications, value benefits to stakeholders, thorough risk analysis and stakeholder’s engagement as some of the factors for ensuring success of PPP.

Also, the Country Director of Cromwell Professional Services International, Mr. Sola Enitan, who facilitated the housing finance session, said over time, housing in Nigeria’s urban centres has been a subject of concern to every government as there always seem to be a shortfall.

This, he said, is especially true for Lagos as a state leading to several reforms and policy measures, which have addressed the housing needs to an extent.

He however, listed lack of strong political will, economic limits, ideological limits, lack of provision of construction materials, administration of construction process, nature of labour process, system financing as some of the limitations.

“Of all these limitations, it has been agreed that the one that stalls the effectiveness of most housing schemes is lack of a political will. When this is addressed, then financing a housing scheme will not become as tedious as it is in recent times”, he added.

By Bertram Nwannekanma

Enitan outlined innovative building technology, tax holiday, off-taker mandates and removal of negative equity syndrome among others as, some of the strategies to be considered in enthroning sustainable housing finance models for Lagos and Nigeria in general.

Earlier, the Project Director of Arctic Infrastructure, Mr. Lookman Oshodi said the training becomes necessary in view of the acute challenge being faced by stakeholders in fundraising for housing projects.

He emphasized that the training programme exposed the participants to innovative and creative approaches of financing projects rather than full focus on conventional system.

On her parts, Mrs. Monika Umunna of Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Nigeria said the training was convened to strengthen the understanding of participants on PPP structuring, approaches, potentials and challenges now that many housing projects in Nigeria are being packaged using the PPP model.

Some of the participants at the programme expressed satisfaction with the new knowledge obtained including crowd funding for housing project, need for compensation fee or rejection fee for the bidders that are not successful in the bidding process and layers of housing acquisition loans and support mechanism that could be available in an organized but diverse housing market such as Lagos.

BSTAN Charges FG to Provide Housing for IDPs

Property developer has expressed dissatisfaction over inability of political office holders to provide adequate housing for Nigerians.

The Managing Director of Bstan Homes, Bekky Damilola-Oke urged politicians to provide houses for internally displaced persons as well as train them.

Lamenting the increasing rate of IDP camps across the states, she said government should pay adequate attention to the housing sector, which could boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) by 40per cent.

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She stressed that Bstan Home has put in place measures to reduce homelessness in the country through the provision of mass housing for Nigerians.

Damilola Oke pointed out that in its bid to assist access its houses, the company had carved out the Bstan Savings and loans that enable people who are part of the cooperative acquire their mortgage loan at zero percent interest rate.

She said although the state and the federal government are doing their best, but there is an urgent need for private players investment in the sector.

According to her, the reason there are empty housing estates across the country is the inability of Nigerians to secure mortgage loans due to high interest rate.

He also blamed developers for building houses, which are not affordable.

“Most families are faced with problems of paying rent or having shelter over their head, but the moment they can access a good housing program with zero interest rate, then you have solved 50 per cent of problems of many Nigerians, it would increase standard of living in the country, reduce death rate, improve employment”, she said.

Why mortgage access eludes many adult Africans

There are many reasons access to mortgage will continue to elude many adult Africans. Poverty is one of such reasons. There are others reasons which, experts argue, are as profound as poverty working against majority of the black continent population.

With low gross asset value of its real estate estimated at just €113 billion, Africa is said to be economically underweight with high-level poverty among its people, and this is in spite of its large population size. High level poverty is reason for the low standard of living and sub-human conditions in which some of the people live.

The continent’s €113 billion gross asset value of real estate represents only 1 percent of the world’s total value, pushing it very low relative to other continents. In Nigeria, for instance, the situation is bad. Only 5 percent of the country’s housing stock estimated at 13 million units are in formal mortgage.

The remaining 95 percent are said to be ‘dead assets’. But analysts see positive upsides in this because, according to them, this has made the continent an attractive prospect for investible funds in real estate.

Home ownership in most parts of Africa is almost a luxury because houses are available and are inaccessible and unaffordable to many people because of their high prices. These prices can only be afforded by a few who have the means.

The World Bank estimates that only 3 percent of the African population, about 15 percent of the world’s 7.3 billion population, has income viable enough to qualify them for a mortgage, underscoring the level of poverty in the black continent where some households live below poverty line.

Nigeria is the continent’s most populous nation and is touted as its largest economy, yet about 70 percent of its 170 million people lives below poverty line, which explains the low home ownership level in the country which is a little above 10 percent of the entire population.

It is also estimated that about 90 percent of houses in Nigeria are self-built with less than 5 percent of them in possession of formal title registration. Mortgage loans and advances in the country stand at 0.5 percent to GDP in contrast to 30-40 percent in emerging economies and 60-80 percent in advanced economies.

Major obstacles to mortgage finance also include dearth of long-term funds, absence of a secondary mortgage market, inadequate branch network of Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs), among others which is why a great deal of work remains to be done to grow housing finance in the country.

The growth of housing finance in Nigeria, according to Guillaume Roux of Lafarge Africa Group, needs the support of the small micro-finance institutions in their efforts to expand and diversify their offering, adding that the growth would also come from the large commercial banks which are becoming more and more attracted by the low to medium income segment of the housing market.

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Roux’s argument was that both the micro-finance institutions and commercial banks need support to develop housing products and build up projects which would positively affect the low income segment, urging organization and institutions to help one another to achieve these goals.

Nigeria needs to grow housing finance through such initiatives as ‘Housing Micro-finance Academy’ which Lafarge launched in 2014 in partnership with International Finance Corporation (IFC) and African Finance Development (AFD).

Training sessions need to be organized to promote housing micro-finance and develops the capabilities of banks in that field. Roux sees governments as critical stakeholders required to create the regulatory framework that would make the housing market work for the low income segment, noting that the setting up of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) and the institutions for housing finance, including micro-finance and mass housing financing, with the support of the World Bank, is a good example of a platform which would facilitate the growth of initiatives there.

“This will progressively enable a decrease in interest rates in the mortgage industry. However, more support from the government is needed to lower the interest rates for the funding of affordable housing and social housing projects. Today, they represent a cost of up to 30 to 40 percent of the construction, which is borne by the end user”, Roux said.

It needs to be stated that there is a need to improve the affordability of construction itself in which case social housing projects should be setting the stage by showcasing new construction techniques that could improve quality, deliver faster and reduce the cost of construction.

African governments need to creatively innovate in order to improve the living standard of their people through the provision of affordable and mortgage-backed housing programmes. Also, the mortgage system has to be improved to make it not only accessible but also affordable.

UK Asset Forfeiture: Nigerian Property Owners Panic, Bombard VAIDS Hotlines

Nigerians, who own property in the United Kingdom, have inundated the Federal Ministry of Finance’s Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) hotlines with calls, causing the lines to crash on Friday.

Federal Inland Revenues Service (FIRS) and Ministry of Finance sources confirmed to our correspondent on Sunday that the unprecedented level of calls was not unconnected with the new UK regulation with regard to Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs).

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The sources disclosed that the confidential hotlines that were provided to enable the booking of appointments had received massive calls and frantic requests from tax payers in the last 72 hours, asking for extension of time to complete their VAIDS declaration forms.

It will be recalled that the UK Government had last week introduced a new law that requires foreign owners of properties in the country to explain the source of their funds or risk forfeiting them to the Government under UWOs.

According to the new law, the UWOs can be obtained for any property or combination of properties valued at just £50,000 (about N25 million) or more, for which the owner is unable to explain legal source of funds.

Our correspondent learnt that data already in the possession of the VAIDS Office in Federal Ministry of Finance reveal that many UK property owners have under paid their taxes before transferring funds overseas to buy property.

“Concerted efforts are ongoing to restore the hotlines following the crash on Friday.

“Most of the calls received are from high net worth individuals, including company executives, bankers and even a governor. All seem to be in panic over the prospect of losing their investments,” said a source within the VAIDS Office.

The official noted that some of the apprehensive Nigerian property investors in UK stormed the Federal Ministry of Finance last Friday without appointments, requesting to see the Minister and also the Head of the VAIDS Office.

The source explained, “Most of the enquiries are about seeking assurance from the Nigerian Government that the VAIDs programme can protect them from potential asset forfeiture to the UK Government. Others requested to know if their names had appeared on the lists from overseas.”

Efforts made by our correspondent to speak with the spokesman of the Minister of Finance, Oluyinka Akintunde, were unsuccessful. Text messages sent to him were yet to be responded to as at the time of filing this report.

The UWO law, coupled with the revelation that many foreign governments are automatically sharing bank and property information with Nigeria, has resulted in an upsurge in enquiries about the VAIDs programme.

VAIDS allows Nigerian tax payers to restate their income and assets without limit and thus could potentially allow those who own property that cannot be explained by their previously declared income to regularise by declaring and paying the correct taxes.

Stop Transaction On Area Councils’ Titles, FCTA Advises

Abuja – The FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has expressed regret over the illegal activities of touts and advised the public to desist from transaction on plots of land allocated by the Area Councils until title regularization process is concluded.

The FCT Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary and Chairman of the FCT Land Use & Allocation Committee(LUAC), Mr. Chinyeaka Christian Ohaa made this disclosure at the weekend during the meeting of the Committee in Abuja.

He stated that this action has become necessary to reduce the knotty cases of illegal land activities being perpetuated at the Area Councils of the Territory and thereby defrauding unsuspected members of the public.
According to him, “The confirmation of titles of the Area Councils can only be conducted after completion of the ongoing Area Councils’ title regularization exercise, and therefore the general public is hereby advised to desist from transacting on the said titles until conclusion of the regularization exercise”.

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Mr. Ohaa remarked that by the virtue of Section 297 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Sections 18 & 1 (3) of the FCT Act respectively has absolutely vested the entire 8,000 square kilometers of the land in the Federal Capital Territory to the Federal Government of Nigeria, and is being managed by the FCT Minister under a delegated responsibility.
He further stated that, “the Administration has observed that with the recall of Area Councils’ Zonal Land Managers and Zonal Planning Officers back to the mainstream, as well as the suspension of Land allocation by the six Area Councils of the Territory, the illegal activities still persist”.

The Permanent Secretary however recalled that the FCT Administration in 2006 had directed the Area Councils to discontinue allocation of land and requested that they update and forward their records of allocations to AGIS for the commencement of the title regularization for thorough cleaning and validation.

He therefore regretted that the Administration has spotted some illegal allocation papers being backdated by fraudulent ex-FCT officials and ex-Land officers at the Area Councils; fake letters of allocations and Certificates of Occupancy in circulation as well as Farmers, Village Heads, Community Heads selling land in the Area Councils, thereby duping unsuspecting members of the public.

Mr. Ohaa warned the general public to be wary of these illegal activities by fraudulent people; reiterating that all lands in the entire Federal Capital Territory is vested in the FCTA and can only be accessed through application to the Hon. Minister.

The Permanent Secretary used the opportunity to announce that the FCT Administration has several thousands of Certificates of Occupancy (C of O) as well as Rights of Occupancy (R of O) for Federal Capital City (FCC) titles unclaimed in the Department of Lands Administration and therefore, called on the beneficiaries to come forward with necessary documents for collection.

By Toyin Adebayo

NEED FOR COLLABORATION AMONG STAKEHOLDERS IN THE HOUSING FINANCE / REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT SECTOR

Despite growing optimism and bright forecasts following the introduction of various investment-friendly policies by the government to drive the growth of the property sector in the past decade, the sector’s performance in 2017 was rather disappointing for the housing finance / property development industry in general, and for the federal government in particular.

The Nigerian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to decent accommodation, but the state has largely failed in securing this right amid rapidly rising demand. Demand is driven not just by national population growth, but particularly by the influx of domestic migrants to the industrial heartland of the country – Lagos, as well as to the Federal Capital Territory – Abuja.

Nigeria requires approximately 800,000 new housing units every year, according to numbers being thrown around. In addition, the country needs to address a backlog of some 17million units, which will provide decades of work for real estate developers. High mortgage rates, down payment requirements, taxes and recordation costs, and the increase in building raw material prices continues to make it even more difficult for middle-low income consumers to own a home in Nigeria. Another obstacle is the poor implementation of deregulation policies initiated by the federal government at state/local government level. Most local governments complicate or delay the permit application process and impose illegal levies on housing projects.

Robust data is fundamental to successful policy formulation for Affordable Housing. In Nigeria, budget deadlines and political decisions force policymakers to endorse programs without a system for monitoring and evaluation.

Private Sector Stakeholders, in particular, must COLLABORATE and support all efforts towards the establishment of a Housing and Real Estate Data Bank, whose primary role is to collect, collate and analyze data on housing supply and demand and serve as a think tank for the housing stakeholders: public and private housing providers, academics, and civil society organizations.

In addition, the Mortgage Banking Association of Nigeria (MBAN) must COLLABORATE with regulatory authorities with a view of engaging the services of “THOROUGH BRED” mortgage experts who will be able to provide international best practices that strengthen credit assessment, mortgage underwriting, and risk management practices.

Furthermore, it has been established that modular structures, where major components for walls and roofs are produced off-site and assembled on-site, can reduce both the cost and time of construction. This should be rigorously pursued.

Finally, sluggish advancement in the provision of low-cost housing could be blamed on red tape and graft. As mentioned earlier, affordable housing policies are initiated at the national level, while their implementation rests largely with state & local authorities, and coordination between the two levels of government is often left wanting. Real Estate Developers continue to complain that overlapping regulations and other bureaucratic hurdles affect particularly the low-cost segment, driving a lot of companies to alter their focus to the middle-income segment instead. Most, however, remain committed to the low end of the market.

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