NMRC and Modern Shelter Partner to Deepen Access to Affordable Housing

The Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), Nigeria’s foremost mortgage underwriter has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Modern Shelter Systems and Services Limited (Modern Shelter),a pioneer mortgage brokerage and real estate marketing firm to leverage their respective comparative advantages to address the removal of barriers to home ownership for offtakers. These barriers include but are not limited to issues such as equity contribution constraints, access to mortgage loans and delivery of qualitative and affordable housing.

The partnership agreement, which was executed on the 25th of January 2018 will see NMRC and Modern Shelter working together towards the provision of housing finance, training, research, advisory and project structuring to increase housing stock that will drive mortgage creation and penetration in Nigeria, using alternative financing mechanisms that align with NMRC’s underwriting standards. The agreement is also expected to promote knowledge, technological transfer and support that grants Modern Shelter access to and use of NMRC’s flagship Housing Market System (HMS) as a means of mortgage prequalification and source of investment for construction finance.

According to NMRC’s Managing Director/CEO, Professor Charles Inyangete, in driving mortgage penetration and influencing housing stock development the company has invested substantial sums of money in providing and improving policy requirements and Information systems’ infrastructure that will assist market players like Modern Shelter and Brains and Hammers to make affordable housing delivery and access to finance scalable hurdles, as a result of the refinancing support that the agreement will prov
ide through NMRC’s member lending financial institutions.

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

On his part, the Managing Partner of Modern Shelter Mr Abdulmalik Mahdi noted that Modern Shelter considers NMRC to be a major stakeholder and pillar in driving home ownership through mortgage refinancing in addition to innovative technology. He further stated that the partnership with NMRC would facilitate access to alternative finance investors and improve Modern Shelter’s ongoing engagement with Sterling Bank and Jaiz Bank using non-interest mortgage banking structures. He added that Modern Shelter has partnered and works closely with reputable developers such as Nigeria’s foremost housing developer Brains & Hammers Limited, Earthpoint Development Services and others to ensure availability of good and affordable housing stock for clients of different income brackets.

The Chairman of Modern Shelter, Mr. Adebola Sheidu who is also Chairman of Brains & Hammers, noted that the MoU and engagement would tie in with the proposed delivery of various projects by Brains & Hammers. The company is working to deliver over 5,000 housing units over a 5-year period across key states in Nigeria. These include, Brains & Hammers City Abuja, Jubilee Estate, Iganmu Lagos and a proposed housing spin – off of the landmark Kano Economic City project. He assured of Brains & Hammers capacity to deliver the housing stock needed to fuel this partnership.

The partnership has the huge potential of improving mortgage finance standards, particularly for the informal sector; it will also better enable NMRC’s member Banks to further create assets that will in turn drive refinance activities, add value and expected outcomes to first time home owners and attract non-interest investors into the housing and real estate sector.

Save the environment: Build homes with mud, not cement

Architect Revathi Kamath explains the economic and ecological benefits of using mud to construct homes


Architect Revathi Kamath believes in adhering to green ideologies. Delhi-based Kamath, is hailed as a pioneer of mud homes in India. “Mud is cheap, is a ‘breathable’ material and helps to maintain fairly even temperatures inside the house. Besides being eco-friendly, it is malleable and offers better insulation than concrete structures,” says Kamath, explaining the benefits of using mud to construct homes. Moreover, it reduces dependence on the traditional supply chain of construction materials, as mud can be procured locally. Mud bricks are also strong and last for years, adds Kamath, who left no stone unturned, in building a sustainable home for herself.

Setting an example

Her two-storeyed mud house in Anangpur village, Haryana, is situated on a one-and-a-half-acre abandoned quarry. It has been constructed, through a rearrangement of natural materials found on the site and its surroundings, along with minimal and prudent use of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and fossil resources, like metals, stone and cement.

“It used to be a barren land. Now, there are over 200 trees, all around the house. We used mud from our land, moulded the bricks on site and sun-dried them. During the warm summer months, earth-based houses are naturally insulated. So, the home is cool in summers and warm in winters,” Kamath explains.

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

There is no air-conditioner in her house. A green roof, with live grass and vegetation, covers the house. Atomiser sprays in the courtyard, keep the home cool naturally. The air in the courtyard, which is cooled by the atomisers, is drawn into the living spaces by low-speed blowers, through the traditional wet ‘khas tati’ (a curtain made of khus-vettiver roots).

The drainage system of the house, has a natural recycling process that purifies the waste water through an anaerobic chamber. Above the chamber, plants draw up the water and purify it, as well. Three such anaerobic digesters, treat the entire waste water produced by the household and discharge the clean treated water to an earthen embankment, to irrigate the land.

Creating sustainable habitats

Kamath is a post-graduate in urban and regional planning, from the School of Planning and Architecture, in Delhi. She and her husband set up Kamath Design Studio in Delhi, almost three decades ago and have built eco-friendly projects across the country. Three of her projects were nominated for the Aga Khan award. Her famous designs include the Mud Resort in Madawa, Rajasthan; the Museum of Tribal Heritage in Bhopal; the Lakshman Sagar Resort, the Jiva Ashram animal shelter in Delhi, and many others.

Kamath has also designed the Gnostic Centre on the outskirts of Delhi, entirely out of bamboo and mud. She is presently working on a healing centre in greater Faridabad, which is designed using bamboo extensively.

“Architects should realise that the purpose of humanity, is to give dignity to all forms of life. Sustainable architecture is the need of the hour. It is important, to use materials that least destroy our environment. Everything should go back seamlessly, from where it has come. Mainstream developers and architects, have to be ecologically-sensitive and create sustainable habitats, using construction standards that focus on conservation of water, energy and materials,” maintains Kamath.

Kamath, who is known for conceiving the ‘Evolving Home’ concept for redevelopment, also has several suggestions for individuals:

  • It is better to avoid synthetic paints. Instead, opt for biological products, such as plant-based and water-based colours.
  • Bamboo can be used for door and window frames and window shutters.
  • Grow plants at home, wherever possible.
  • Use solar cooking devices.

“Do not do things today that make tomorrow worse. Man and nature should live harmoniously,” she concludes.

Author:  Purnima Goswami Sharma

NMRC EMPOWERS 45 INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDP)

In the bid to meet up with the 17 million deficit in the Housing sector in Nigeria, the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC) graduated 45 Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP) trainees as part of its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), the Skills Empowerment Training which covered three sub sectors within the building construction industry were in Masonry (Block Making/Laying), Plumbing and Electrical installations.

The training which was sponsored by NMRC and coordinated by the Industrial Training Fund Abuja Area office is first of its kind in the series by NMRC. The event kick started and was declared open with a welcome address by the Executive Director of Policy & Strategy, Dr Chii Akporji  followed by  the head of the Industrial Trust Fund (ITF) represented by Mrs Evelyn Irabor  who charged the trainees to utilize the opportunity which will help them chart a new cause for their lives especially  when they get back to their respective locations. The CEO/M D Prof Charles Inyangete advised the trainees to take the skills they have learnt to heart as a valuable asset that can take them through the next phase of their lives. The MD also said that the empowerment training will be a continuous exercise.

Prof Inyangete  promised to create opportunity for internship for the graduands in other to enable them horn their skills as the two months training was short and not enough to fully equip them with the rudiments  needed in the construction industry as well as provide market for the skills acquired.

Mrs Evelyn Irabor presented the certificates to the graduands alongside the M D of NMRC,  Professor  Charles Inyangete  which was also followed by the presentation of working tools for the trade.

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

The trainees thanked NMRC and ITF and also suggested that the same gesture should be extended to other IDP camps in Goru and in other camps.

One of the displaced persons, Enoch Yohanna, an assistant coordinator of Nelson Mandela skills center located within the camp thanked the organizers on behalf of the graduands for their support but called on the federal government to do more in alleviating their sufferings as the government has not provided the camp with any form of infrastructure. He stated that the camp lacks basic infrastructure as the only source of portable water was provided by NMRC two years ago. At the end of the event, Mr Philemon Emmanuel coordinator of the camp also thanked  NMRC.

The IDP camp is located in Kuchingoro part of the F C T and houses the Internally Displaced Persons who were sacked from their village of Goza in Borno state and Muchika in Adamawa state by the most dreaded terrorist group Boko Haram. The camp is made up 4,000 refuges comprising of  450 Children, 1573 Women and 1977 Men respectively.

By Martha Habu

‘Housing corporations suffering from under-funding, neglect’

The famous Abraham Manslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places shelter as a basic need of every human. In other words without shelter man is less bothered about social activities, self-esteem or other offerings of the society. Sadly, what should have been a basic provision has become a luxury in Nigeria. To resolve the deficit in Nigeria’s housing sector, efforts to increase stocks are being curtailed by under-funding from state governments. In this interview with Victor Gbonegun, the National President of Association of Housing Corporations of Nigeria (AHCN), Mohammad Baba Adamu, spoke on issues mitigating efforts to reduce the housing deficits among others

AHCN has a mandate to increase availability of residential estates in Nigeria. How much of this mandate have you achieved, do the shortage of trained artisans in housing industry affected your mandate?
Our vision at AHCN is to ensure the increase and availability of dwelling houses across the country; we have been doing this over the years. Until recently, there is no doubt that the impacts of the Association were felt in all the states of the federation with its members setting the pace for real estate development especially in the state capitals. Most developments in most of these state capitals today were orchestrated by the state housing corporations after the creation of those states. The Nigeria real estate market has been challenged by myriad of problems in the last twenty years, which has slowed down the growth of the sector in contrast with what is obtainable in developed economies. Shortages of trained and experienced artisans/masons were not the main challenges of the housing sector and these have not affected our mandate. Housing Corporations all across Nigeria, as specialized organizations responsible for mass housing provision, are equipped with qualified human resources and experienced housing professionals with potential to engage in mass housing and most of our members have provision for training of artisans/mansions to execute our projects. The Association noted and recognized the challenges and dearth of artisans/masons in the housing sector and we have taken a proactive measure to arrest these issues as we are starting a practical training programme in March to train professionals that supervises artisans/masons on site to ensure quality delivery of houses. This, we believe, will help to arrest building collapse and guarantee quality housing production in the country. Looking at the current housing shortages in the country, we may not have done enough to address the shortages but we are not resting on our oars.

There has been political interference with activities of the agencies, which grossly in most cases affects on-going projects. How can this be curtailed in states?
Political interference with activities of most of our member organizations is a regular phenomenon that differs from one state to another. As an Association, we don’t have a firm control of what transpire in each of the states and this is because states government created state housing corporations and he who pays the piper dictates the tune. However, whenever there is interferences and politicking, projects suffer and this has been affecting many state housing agencies. As an Association, we have been trying our best to manage some of these situations and one of the ways we do this is by persuasion. When necessary, we visit governors to highlight the significance and benefits of using their housing corporations to execute their housing projects. Some of these governors do not really understand the importance of state housing corporations and what we do is to educate and so far it has been working.

AHCN has continued to decry usurpation of the statutory responsibility of housing corporations in building construction and development for the state by the ministry who are supposed to formulate policy and monitor its parastatals to ensure policy compliance and accomplish. What plans do AHCN have to arrest the situation? This still boils down to political interference. We have National Housing Policy that clearly highlights the statutory responsibility of housing corporations and ministry but unfortunately some state Chief Executives disregarded these provision. We have been working underground to see how we can influence and arrest this situation in some of the states where this situation is currently happening. However, we are planning to take this further to the Governors forum and the national assembly and it is hoped that our leaders will see reasons and dangers of such practice to the development of the housing sector

There have been concerns lately on the need to review laws establishing housing corporations and the need for their commercialization. Why these calls and what are the benefits?
Most housing corporations today are neglected and under-funded by state governments and because of the laws that established them, they are unable to source commercial funding without approval from their state governments. We are looking at a situation where housing corporations will be self-sustaining without absolute dependency on their state government before embarking on housing development, this, we believe will assist most redundant housing corporations to be active. The benefits are numerous, as it will help to provide adequate housing for the people and generate employment opportunities for many job seekers.

Housing Corporations across the country are not without any peculiar challenges. Do you think that States governments should establish appropriate agencies and utilize State Housing Corporations to execute the public housing programmes?

There is no doubt that state housing corporations are the best agencies in Nigeria today that can effectively execute the public housing programmes. This is the primary reason for the establishment of these corporations. Aside, housing corporations are structured in such a way that they are equipped with all professionals in the housing sector. Establishing parallel organizations to embark on housing provision and performing primary roles of housing corporations in a state where it exists is an unnecessary wastage and reckless duplication of government apparatus.

Withdrawal of some state governments from the National Housing Fund (NHF) contribution have put the Housing Corporation of such States at disadvantage in accessing funding from the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.  How do you ensure Mortgage banks assist state housing corporations in disposing some of their housing units?
Mortgage has a prominent role in expanding housing market in Nigeria and the impact is yet to be felt by most Nigerians. Our mortgage system is evolving and very few people have benefitted in the mortgage funding of their housing. Ideally, mortgage banks are supposed to be working with housing corporations in creating mortgages for houses developed by housing corporations but this is not the case. The problem here is lack of database as reference for creation of mortgages for housing units. The Association is however embarking on educating Nigerians to embrace mortgages and one of the ways we hope to achieve this is through creation of off-takers data base for all Nigerians through which mortgages could be created for intending people to secure their desire houses. We are embarking on collation of off-takers database in all the states of the federation and use the data to pre-qualify intending home seekers for mortgages in houses to be developed by our member organizations in their states. With this development, we shall be working with various mortgage banks to qualify the people for mortgages.

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

Housing experts have overtime called for seed money for mortgage banks to ease housing delivery. What is the position of AHCN on this?
There is no doubt that housing finance has remained the greatest challenge in housing provision over the years. This, of course is affecting the sector both in the supply and demand chain. Developers could not access fund to mass produce housing; and the few available developer that dare all consequences to build are finding it difficult to sell because those who will buy are not empowered to pay out rightly with lump sum outside mortgage. The solution to this scenario lies in adequate injection of money into both supply and demand chain of the housing market. Funding mortgage banks with seed money will not be a bad idea if only such injected funds are not diverted.

Tell us about your membership drive and what benefits do members derive by joining the association?
Currently the Association has about fifty member organizations and it comprised; the federal and state housing agencies, mortgage institutions and private property developers. There are so many inherent opportunities in joining the Association as we serve as the ears and eyes of our members. We unite as a family to surmount challenges and assist one another to ensure increased availability of dwelling houses for the people. This unity is what has kept us floating over the years despite economic woes and uncertainty that characterized housing sector in time past.

Obasanjo attacks Buhari, asks president not to run in 2019

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Tuesday, in a blistering and excoriating 13-page statement has called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election in 2019.

Mr. Obasanjo, in a special press statement entitled, “The Wat Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement” said Mr Buhari has performed far below expectation and should honourably “dismount from the horse” to join the league of the country’s former leaders whose “experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.”

Mr Obasanjo, a two-term president on the platform of People Democratic Party (PDP), said he feels disappointed by Mr Buhari, whom he supported during the 2015 election over then incumbent and candidate of his former party, Goodluck Jonathan.

Mr Obasanjo had written a condemnatory open letter in December 2013 titled “Before it is Too Late” where he highlighted the numerous failings of the Mr Jonathan administration.

Mr Obasanjo argued that his decision to go against Mr Jonathan, at the time was the right one as events in the last three years have since proved, was for the good of the nation and nothing personal.

“Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard,” Mr. Obasanjo said.

“He has a role to play on the side line for the good of Nigeria, Africa and humanity and I will see him as a partner in playing such a role nationally and internationally, but not as a horse rider in Nigeria again.”

Likening the state of the nation to lice-invested clothes, he said the country’s fingernails is stained with blood as it tries to kill the lice by pressing them in-between two fingernails. According to him, in other to make sure that our fingernails remains blood-free we must do what it takes rid our clothes of lice.

“The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today,” he wrote.

“With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of ‘blood’,” he added.

While thanking Mr Buhari for the effort of his administration in rolling back the Boko Haram insurgency and his fight against corruption, Mr Obasanjo said Mr Buhari has ultimately failed in other areas where he had thought he would be efficient.

The octogenarian, who bagged a PhD over the weekend, admitted he knew Mr Buhari was weak in handling the economy, he went ahead and voted for him because at the time “it was a matter of ‘any option but Jonathan’” and because he thought Mr Buhari would appoint qualified Nigerians to help out in that area.

He slammed Mr Buhari for turning a blind eye to corruption within his government saying it amounted to condonation and cover-up saying whoever is “going to justice must be with clean hands.”

He also berated Mr Buhari for allowing the clashes between herdsmen and farmers to go “sour” and messy saying the endorsement of the President by some governors to seek re-election barely 24 hours after 73 people who were killed by herdsmen in Benue State were given mass burial was “a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness.”

But Mr Obasanjo reserved his harshest words for what he described as Mr Buhari’s clannishness, lack of understanding of the dynamics of politics, and his tendencies to pass the buck of his government’s inadequacies to the immediate past administration.

“But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him.  One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court.  This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation.  It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest.  What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action?  How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?

“The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics.  This has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced.  It also has effect on general national security.

“The third is passing the buck.  For instance, blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for devaluation of the naira by 70% or so and blaming past governments for it, is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility.  Let nobody deceive us, economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today.  If things were good, President Buhari would not need to come in.  He was voted to fix things that were bad and not engage in the blame game.”

Buhari and the APC do not have the answer

Mr Obasanjo thus argued that neither Mr Buhari nor his party, the All Progressives Congress hold the solution to the country’s problems. He suggested that Mr Buhari was not healthy enough to withstand the rigour associated with running a country like Nigeria neither does his party capable of providing the answer needed to sail the country through its difficulties.

Mr Obasanjo said Buhari should step down at the end of his first term with honour and dignity and attend to his health and should not listen to the his “self-serving so-called adviserswho would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say.”

“President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.  His place in history is already assured.  Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.

“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age.  I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service.  President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice.  But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward,” he said.

“I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling.  I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise.  If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction.  The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria.

“To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgement for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger.

“If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do?  Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice; it’s like a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.”  We cannot just sit down lamenting and wringing our hands desperately and hopelessly.

Coalition of Nigerians

Having ruled out the PDP and the ruling APC of possessing the panacea to the malaise that ails the country, Mr Obasanjo therefore called for a movement he termed Coalition of Nigeria, which he offered to be a part of, to wrest power from the present ruling class and lead the country into the path of rebirth.

“We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves.  It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and ourselves and our children and their children. We need moral re-armament and engaging togetherness of people of like-mind and goodwill to come solidly together to lift Nigeria up.  This is no time for trading blames or embarking on futile argument and neither should we accept untenable excuses for non-performance.

“Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the administration and its political party platform agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us.  They have given as best as they have and as best as they can give.  Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving.  To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth.

“The development and modernization of our country and society must be anchored and sustained on dynamic Nigerian culture, enduring values and an enchanting Nigerian dream.  We must have abiding faith in our country and its role and place within the comity of nations.  Today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck.  All hands of men and women of goodwill must be on deck.  We need all hands to move our country forward.

“We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong.  That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress.  Coalition to salvage and redeem our country.  You can count me with such a Movement.  Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request.  This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us.  Of course, nothing should stop such a Movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections.  But if at any stage the Movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring Movement for elections, I will bow out of the Movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position.  Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.

“This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward.  It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women.  It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress.  It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.  Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead.  Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.

“The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality.  What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden.  It is our human duty and responsibility so to do.  Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.”

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

BELOW IS THE FULL STATEMENT

THE WAY OUT: A CLARION CALL FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIA MOVEMENT
Special Press Statement
By
President Olusegun Obasanjo
———————————————————————————————-
Since we are still in the month of January, it is appropriate to wish all Nigerians Happy 2018. I am constrained to issue this special statement at this time considering the situation of the country. Some of you may be asking, “What has brought about this special occasion of Obasanjo issuing a Special Statement?” You will be right to ask such a question. But there is a Yoruba saying that ‘when lice abound in your clothes, your fingernails will never be dried of blood’. When I was in the village, to make sure that lice die, you put them between two fingernails and press hard to ensure they die and they always leave blood stains on the fingernails. To ensure you do not have blood on your fingernails, you have to ensure that lice are not harboured anywhere within your vicinity.
The lice of poor performance in government – poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed – if not outright encouragement of it, lack of progress and hope for the future, lack of national cohesion and poor management of internal political dynamics and widening inequality – are very much with us today. With such lice of general and specific poor performance and crying poverty with us, our fingers will not be dry of ‘blood’.
Four years ago when my PDP card was torn, I made it abundantly clear that I quit partisan politics for aye but my concern and interest in Nigeria, Africa and indeed in humanity would not wane. Ever since, I have adhered strictly to that position. Since that time, I have devoted quality time to the issue of zero hunger as contained in Goal No. 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. We have set the target that Nigeria with the participating States in the Zero Hunger Forum should reach Zero Hunger goal by 2025 – five years earlier than the UN target date. I am involved in the issue of education in some States and generally in the issue of youth empowerment and employment. I am involved in all these domestically and altruistically to give hope and future to the seemingly hopeless and those in despair. I believe strongly that God has endowed Nigeria so adequately that no Nigerian should be either in want or in despair.
I believe in team work and collaborative efforts. At the international level, we have worked with other world leaders to domicile the apparatus for monitoring and encouraging socio-economic progress in Africa in our Presidential Library. The purpose of Africa Progress Group, which is the new name assumed by Africa Progress Panel (APP), is to point out where, when and what works need to be done for the progress of Africa separately and collectively by African leaders and their development partners. I have also gladly accepted the invitation of the UN Secretary-General to be a member of his eighteen-member High-Level Board of Advisers on Mediation. There are other assignments I take up in other fora for Africa and for the international community. For Africa to move forward, Nigeria must be one of the anchor countries, if not the leading anchor country. It means that Nigeria must be good at home to be good outside. No doubt, our situation in the last decade or so had shown that we are not good enough at home; hence we are invariably absent at the table that we should be abroad.
All these led me to take the unusual step of going against my own political Party, PDP, in the last general election to support the opposite side. I saw that action as the best option for Nigeria. As it has been revealed in the last three years or so, that decision and the subsequent collective decision of Nigerians to vote for a change was the right decision for the nation. For me, there was nothing personal, it was all in the best interest of Nigeria and, indeed, in the best interest of Africa and humanity at large. Even the horse rider then, with whom I maintain very cordial, happy and social relationship today has come to realise his mistakes and regretted it publicly and I admire his courage and forthrightness in this regard. He has a role to play on the side line for the good of Nigeria, Africa and humanity and I will see him as a partner in playing such a role nationally and internationally, but not as a horse rider in Nigeria again.
The situation that made Nigerians to vote massively to get my brother Jonathan off the horse is playing itself out again. First, I thought I knew the point where President Buhari is weak and I spoke and wrote about it even before Nigerians voted for him and I also did vote for him because at that time it was a matter of “any option but Jonathan” (aobj). But my letter to President Jonathan titled: “Before It Is Too Late” was meant for him to act before it was too late. He ignored it and it was too late for him and those who goaded him into ignoring the voice of caution. I know that praise-singers and hired attackers may be raised up against me for verbal or even physical attack but if I can withstand undeserved imprisonment and was ready to shed my blood by standing for Nigeria, I will consider no sacrifice too great to make for the good of Nigeria at any time. No human leader is expected to be personally strong or self-sufficient in all aspects of governance.
I knew President Buhari before he became President and said that he is weak in the knowledge and understanding of the economy but I thought that he could make use of good Nigerians in that area that could help. Although, I know that you cannot give what you don’t have and that economy does not obey military order. You have to give it what it takes in the short-, medium- and long-term. Then, it would move. I know his weakness in understanding and playing in the foreign affairs sector and again, there are many Nigerians that could be used in that area as well. They have knowledge and experience that could be deployed for the good of Nigeria. There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it? Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands.
I thought President Buhari would fight corruption and insurgency and he must be given some credit for his achievement so far in these two areas although it is not yet uhuru!
The herdsmen/crop farmers issue is being wittingly or unwittingly allowed to turn sour and messy. It is no credit to the Federal Government that the herdsmen rampage continues with careless abandon and without finding an effective solution to it. And it is a sad symptom of insensitivity and callousness that some Governors, a day after 73 victims were being buried in a mass grave in Benue State without condolence, were jubilantly endorsing President Buhari for a second term! The timing was most unfortunate. The issue of herdsmen/crop farmers dichotomy should not be left on the political platform of blame game; the Federal Government must take the lead in bringing about solution that protects life and properties of herdsmen and crop farmers alike and for them to live amicably in the same community.
But there are three other areas where President Buhari has come out more glaringly than most of us thought we knew about him. One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation. It would appear that national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest. What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence, dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public? The second is his poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics. This has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced. It also has effect on general national security. The third is passing the buck. For instance, blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for devaluation of the naira by 70% or so and blaming past governments for it, is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility. Let nobody deceive us, economy feeds on politics and because our politics is depressing, our economy is even more depressing today. If things were good, President Buhari would not need to come in. He was voted to fix things that were bad and not engage in the blame game. Our Constitution is very clear, one of the cardinal responsibilities of the President is the management of the economy of which the value of the naira forms an integral part. Kinship and friendship that place responsibility for governance in the hands of the unelected can only be deleterious to good government and to the nation.
President Buhari’s illness called for the sympathy, understanding, prayer and patience from every sane Nigerian. It is part of our culture. Most Nigerians prayed for him while he was away sick in London for over hundred days and he gave his Deputy sufficient leeway to carry on in his absence. We all thanked God for President Buhari for coming back reasonably hale and hearty and progressing well in his recovery. But whatever may be the state of President Buhari’s health today, he should neither over-push his luck nor over-tax the patience and tolerance of Nigerians for him, no matter what his self-serving, so-called advisers, who would claim that they love him more than God loves him and that without him, there would be no Nigeria say. President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured. Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.
I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age. I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward.
I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling. I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction. The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria. To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgement for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger. If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do? Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice; it’s like a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.” We cannot just sit down lamenting and wringing our hands desperately and hopelessly.
I believe the situation we are in today is akin to what and where we were in at the beginning of this democratic dispensation in 1999. The nation was tottering. People became hopeless and saw no bright future in the horizon. It was all a dark cloud politically, economically and socially. The price of oil at that time was nine dollars per barrel and we had a debt overhang of about $35 billion. Most people were confused with lack of direction in the country. One of the factors that saved the situation was a near government of national unity that was put in place to navigate us through the dark cloud. We had almost all hands on deck. We used people at home and from the diaspora and we navigated through the dark cloud of those days. At that time, most people were hopelessly groping in the dark. They saw no choice, neither in the left nor in the right, and yet we were not bereft of people at home and from the diaspora that could come together to make Nigeria truly a land flowing with milk and honey. Where we are is a matter of choice but we can choose differently to make a necessary and desirable change, once again.
Wherever I go, I hear Nigerians complaining, murmuring in anguish and anger. But our anger should not be like the anger of the cripple. We can collectively save ourselves from the position we find ourselves. It will not come through self-pity, fruitless complaint or protest but through constructive and positive engagement and collective action for the good of our nation and ourselves and our children and their children. We need moral re-armament and engaging togetherness of people of like-mind and goodwill to come solidly together to lift Nigeria up. This is no time for trading blames or embarking on futile argument and neither should we accept untenable excuses for non-performance. Let us accept that the present administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the administration and its political party platform agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us. They have given as best as they have and as best as they can give. Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving. To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth. Einstein made it clear to us that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the height of folly. Already, Nigerians are committing suicide for the unbearable socio-economic situation they find themselves in. And yet Nigerians love life. We must not continue to reinforce failure and hope that all will be well. It is self-deceit and self-defeat and another aspect of folly.
What has emerged from the opposition has shown no better promise from their antecedents. As the leader of that Party for eight years as President of Nigeria, I can categorically say there is nothing to write home about in their new team. We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the promised land. And that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement. Change that will give hope and future to all our youth and dignity and full participation to all our women. Our youth should be empowered to deploy their ability to learn, innovate and work energetically at ideas and concepts in which they can make their own original inputs. Youth must be part of the action today and not relegated to leadership of tomorrow which may never come. Change that will mean enhancement of living standard and progress for all. A situation where the elected will accountably govern and every Nigerian will have equal opportunity not based on kinship and friendship but based on free citizenship.
Democracy is sustained and measured not by leaders doing extra-ordinary things, (invariably, leaders fail to do ordinary things very well), but by citizens rising up to do ordinary things extra-ordinarily well. Our democracy, development and progress at this juncture require ordinary citizens of Nigeria to do the extra-ordinary things of changing the course and direction of our lackluster performance and development. If leadership fails, citizens must not fail and there lies the beauty and importance of democracy. We are challenged by the current situation; we must neither adopt spirit of cowardice nor timidity let alone impotence but must be sustained by courage, determination and commitment to say and do and to persist until we achieve upliftment for Nigeria. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and we believe that our venturing will not be in vain. God of Nigeria has endowed this country adequately and our non-performance cannot be blamed on God but on leadership. God, who has given us what we need and which is potentially there, will give us leadership enablement to actualize our potentiality.
The development and modernization of our country and society must be anchored and sustained on dynamic Nigerian culture, enduring values and an enchanting Nigerian dream. We must have abiding faith in our country and its role and place within the comity of nations. Today, Nigeria needs all hands on deck. All hands of men and women of goodwill must be on deck. We need all hands to move our country forward.
We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. That Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country. You can count me with such a Movement. Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request. This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us. Of course, nothing should stop such a Movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections. But if at any stage the Movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring Movement for elections, I will bow out of the Movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position. Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.
This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women. It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair. Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.
The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality. What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden. It is our human duty and responsibility so to do. Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.
Some may ask, what does Obasanjo want again? Obasanjo has wanted nothing other than the best for Nigeria and Nigerians and he will continue to want nothing less. And if we have the best, we will be contented whether where we live is described as palaces or huts by others and we will always give thanks to God.
I, therefore, will gladly join such a Movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria, CN, taking Nigeria to the height God has created it to be. From now on, the Nigeria eagle must continue to soar and fly high. CN, as a Movement, will be new, green, transparent and must remain clean and always active, selflessly so. Members must be ready to make sacrifice for the nation and pay the price of being pioneers and good Nigerians for our country to play the God-assigned role for itself, for its neighbours, for its sub-region of West Africa, for its continent and for humanity in general. For me, the strength and sustainable success of CN will derive largely from the strong commitment of a population that is constantly mobilized to the rallying platform of the fact that going forward together is our best option for building a nation that will occupy its deserved place in the global community. May God continue to lead, guide and protect us. Amen.

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SOURCE: Nicholas Ibekwe

Investment in mortgage will help reduce housing deficit – Ayere

Sonnie Ayere is the Founder of Dunn Loren Merrifield, an investment firm, and Chairman of Mortgage Warehouse Funding Limited. In this interview with MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI, he says stakeholders are doing everything possible to open up the mortgage market 

Why do you think Nigerians still buy houses with cash despite all the efforts put into the development of mortgage in the country?

It is the issue of interest rate on mortgage; it is very high and makes the process very expensive.  So that even with a tenor of about 20 to 25 years, people are reluctant and those who take mortgages pay it up as quickly as they can.

In other words, any little money they get, they put it into paying up their mortgage loan, because it is just so expensive at about 22 to 25 per cent interest rate. Secondly, when you calculate the payment with the income ratio, it is also very high; a lot of people cannot afford it.

When you look at the percentage you have to pay to the banks and the percentage of the income you have, it becomes difficult. Let’s say you earn N1, 000, under normal circumstance, your mortgage should not be more than N300; but when you calculate the interest rate of these mortgages, they take up about 60 to 65 per cent of your income, and you can’t use that much to repay mortgage loans.

So, that is one of the reasons why people still use cash; the real issue is the interest rate. But we are working on solving the problem now. For instance, the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company has been set up to provide long-term financing to mortgage banks with 20-year tenor.

The second is the setting up of the Mortgage Warehouse Funding Limited, which is there to provide short-term local currency, competitively-priced funding to mortgage banks in a bid to enhance their mortgage origination. Most people do not have mortgage bank accounts and therefore it is difficult for mortgage banks to sort out mortgage funds. In commercial banks, people always deposit money so it is easy to get funds, but mortgage banks do not have that kind of privilege to provide short-term funding to investors.

So, the MWFL goes to the market, raises money and gives to the mortgage banks to create mortgages, which will work for about six months before the NMRC will do a refinancing by then giving the mortgage bank 20-year money. We are also creating a very comprehensive mortgage and foreclosure law and some states are beginning to pass these laws. The Managing Director of the NMRC, Prof. Charles Inyangete and his team got Kaduna State to pass the law, so when people don’t pay their mortgages by defaulting, the bank can retrieve the property and put it back in the market to get back their funds.

What we intend to do with the mortgage warehouse is also to qualify developers and ensure that they can get off-take letters to enable them obtain financing from commercial or merchant banks to build houses. The MWFL now has eight mortgage bank members that are willing to provide mortgages to all buyers of the developers to give comfort to the commercial or merchants to provide construction finance.

The most important thing that will now help the market to open up is to get the interest rate down.

How can that be done?

It is difficult, in the sense that basically it is all based on economic realities. But, again the government is looking for offshore funding and this is now helping to drive down interest rates. It also depends on the Central Bank of Nigeria. These are some of the things that are being done but again, we have to look at some other ways to resolve the matter such as coming up with innovative ways of encouraging pension funds to support the sector on a win-win basis. That way, mortgage banks can get liquidity.

Stakeholders are doing everything possible to open up this market so that people can pay for houses on a pay-as-you-earn basis and not with cash because it is difficult to buy a house for N30m when you earn N7m a year. We are trying to move the country away from that. Mortgages should be able to help people to create wealth.

 There appears to be low awareness on how mortgage works. What are stakeholders doing about this?

Most people are aware of how it works; the thing is that just like the way banks are able to advertise regularly about their products, mortgage banks are not able to do the same thing. The reason for that is because the industry itself has not been boisterous. When mortgage banks start making good money and growing, I am sure there will be lots more educative messages because it is in their interest for people to know about mortgages.

It is because they don’t have the funding capacity to create mortgages and when people hear of the interest rate, they run away. We need to find a way to make it attractive to people. Imagine if someone advertises 20-year mortgages at 8.5 per cent in the newspaper, most people would jump at it. It is about having a package to sell to the people. It is not like people don’t want the mortgages but they have to have something that is attractive; 20 to 25 per cent interest rate is not exactly attractive.

Read More: The man behind Dubai’s affordable Housing boom

 How effective have the initiatives you talked about been in addressing these issues?

NMRC has done its first refinancing, it is about to do another refinancing and the whole idea is that once MWFL launches and begins to do its first funding, then it becomes a continuous thing. What will happen is that mortgages will then have a one-month funding period. For instance, mortgage generated in January will be funded at the end of the month or say first week of February and those mortgages will remain on the bank’s balance sheet for a minimum of a six-month period, or say till the end of June after which it will then be refinanced by the NMRC. Then the next batch again in February will be refinanced in July, March will be refinanced in August and so on. It will create a situation where mortgage banks will feel confident to go out and market their products knowing that they have the wherewithal to provide the funding.

It will be good to add that by the end of 2018, we will be able to say this is what we have been able to achieve and as interest rates go down, mortgages will grow even more.

Going by all the initiatives, have there been any significant increases in the volume of mortgage origination?

The NMRC is designed to provide long-term financing to mortgage banks, so the reason it hasn’t had much impact is that it is waiting for the mortgages to come through. So, what is being done through the MWFL is help to create the mortgages; that is what it is there for. The impact of the initiatives will begin to show with the strength of the MWFL. As MWFL begins to seal mortgage origination, it will create the pool for the NMRC to refinance.

So the NMRC has begun to do its bit by refinancing the legacy mortgages that existed in the member mortgage at the time. So what they need is really consistent funding for the banks to be able to continue to create those mortgages. MWFL will do its first funding in January (This month) and will on monthly basis provide money to mortgage banks.

Hopefully, whether on semi-annual or quarterly basis, the NMRC will then refinance the mortgages long-term. I think at the beginning of 2019, there will be a much stronger impact in the mortgage sector than we have ever seen before.

 What plans are in place to get back the trust of property buyers who have lost faith in the system?

Even if this government doesn’t bother to bring down the interest rates, stakeholders are looking for other ways to see that this happens and it will be a collaborative effort between the mortgage banks, CBN,  National Pension Commission, Mortgage Banking Association of Nigeria, the Ministry of Finance and others. Even though the economy may not be right, they could say let us use these pool of funds to create mortgages and begin to get Nigerians on the housing ladder and on the road to wealth creation.

I agree a lot still needs to be done on enlightenment. When the system takes off properly, there will be literacy campaigns for the people to properly understand how it works and the repayment responsibilities.

The system is one I would love to see change and that is why we stakeholders are working to create a system of pay-as-you-earn. Except we are able to create something like this, it will be difficult to help people out of the pressure that they feel and how expensive it is for people to buy their homes which is why we are not getting the mortgage-GDP ratio that we require.

With the housing deficit we talk about in Nigeria, even if we are building a million houses a year, it will take 20 years to reduce is. So, it gives an idea of how enormous the issue is and how it is important that we get people unto the mortgage ladder and I believe that the process will begin this year.

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

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by Kunle Faleti

Expert urges Nigerians to key into FG`s housing schemes

The Group Managing Director of Alphea Mead Group, Mr Femi Akintude has said it is only when the people key into government`s housing schemes that it would be able to provide funding for the housing sector.

Akintunde further said for the government to actualize the set target of any social housing programme, private sector developers must be infused into such arrangement with the government providing a sizable chunk of the funding, while private sector balances up the difference.

He stated this in a paper presentation entitled “perspective on social mass housing infrastructure.”

He said, “The upper income is not where we have a problem; unfortunately, that is where the return on investment seems to be more attractive and that`s where we also see oversupply and under demand because of affordability.

“The middle income can be defined as the housing in the range from N10 million to 15 million. These are housing for middle income professionals those who are gainfully employed but cannot afford the luxury of buying houses of N100 million, N200 million without a loan. So, they must rely on mortgage facilities

“There is also the lower level that`s where the bulk of the gap resides about 50 or 60 percent of the gap is at this level. Houses in this range cost between 5million to 10 million naira. The people in this range can’t simply pay for any house more than N2milion.”

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

He noted that given the current economic situation, 2milion naira cannot conveniently build a quality house.  “This simply implies that something must give way or someone must pay the difference to enable the people in this category own houses and that is where the concept of social housing comes into play.”

Akintude said it is the responsibility of government to provide housing for people in this category.

He, however, said government`s approach to deliver housing should not be through government directly; else, it will not be  slow and inefficient.  He said The Federal Mortgage Bank, the Federal Housing Authority and National Housing Insurance must come to play here, and that is why government encourages people to participate in these schemes.

“It is only when the populace key into these schemes that government can provide funding that can support the counterpart funding from either the domestic or international finance market.

“But the critical question is when the people contribute to this course, how can the government guarantee the security of their contributions?”

by Mustapha Suleiman

CORBON, N-Power begin skills acquisition training

The Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) and N-Power have jointly commenced skills acquisition training for 100 Master Trainers in the ongoing ‘Train the Trainer Skills Acquisition Programme for Construction Artisans in Nigeria.’

At the end of the training, the master trainers will be sent to the 36 states to train other trainers who will in turn transfer skills to construction artisans.

Speaking to journalists at the training centre in Abuja, Vice Chairman of CORBON, Dr. Samson Opaluwah, explained that the training of master trainers included going to the states and zones across the federation to train other trainers who would in turn train construction industry artisans for the country.

He noted that the training progammme was “a major problem solver” because the artisanship level of the construction industry in this country was being taken over by foreigners while Nigerian youths remained unemployed.

He said, “The CORBON/N-Power initiative will equip Nigerian youths with the skills to win jobs and execute them competently and professionally in a competitive economy.”

He said no economy could be sustainable without home grown inputs and management specialists, adding that any nation which depended on foreign expertise would be disappointed because foreigners would migrate to locations of greener pastures as soon as they got better offers, but that citizens were likely to have residual interest that would make them stay in their country.

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

“So, it is best to train an in-country man, and that is what we are doing, and we commend the Federal Government for the effort,” he said.

Speaking on the impact the training will have on the economy, he said: “Nigerians will be trained at the tactical level, meaning the artisanship level of the construction industry, and they will be jointly certified by CORBON and the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) so that they will be competent to deliver world class services in the construction industry, especially in building and the allied industries.

“The training is also remarkable for the huge jobs it will create across the federation. It aims to restore the dignity of man in working with his axe.

by Mustapha Suleiman

‘Demolition should be last option, accompanied by relocation, compensation’

Barnabas Atiyaye is the Managing Director of Envicons Team Consultants Limited, a town planning firm based in Abuja. In this interview, he speaks on how government can reduce slums without necessarily demolishing structures.

 

Rural-urban migration is over stretching infrastructure in Nigeria, especially in the Federal Capital Territory. What should government do to accommodate people without overstressing infrastructure?

The most important thing we need to ask is why are people coming down to Abuja? Why are people leaving a particular urban centre to another? There are so many factors; the first factor is security. People feel that Abuja is more secure than any other place in the country. For instance, Maiduguri in Borno State is still volatile and some people feel the best place they can run to is where the security situation is stable, and Abuja appears to be one.

The second factor is that most governments have abandoned the issue of urban planning. If you want to attract investment to your state and you neglect urban planning, you are invariably depriving or driving away investors.

So, even indigenous Nigerians find it difficult to operate in such environments, how much more of people that are coming from outside. Therefore, foreign direct investment (FDI) will be absent. What we are saying is that the political will must be there, but unfortunately too, most of our political leaders want a quick win, meaning that within their tenure, they want to see results. That does not really happen when you want to do something that is sustainable. It has to have a base and a subsequent leadership can come and build from what you have done

Many planners have been engaged in preparing master plans and at the end of the day such master plans are just left on the shelves. Subsequent administrations will not go back to them. Meanwhile, the cities are decaying, infrastructure is not just there, access to economic activities are blocked, crime is on the increase and there is nothing to attract people to such places. This has resulted in some people trying to create new cities within their own environments. We don’t need that, all you need is to come up with very good urban renewal strategies, come out with good master plans that can be undertaken even if they are going to be in phases, and at the end people will be willing to be where they are.

The next is the ability to know the direction of growth of cities: each city has a direction of growth, either to the East, West or South, and there must be a favoured direction. Government should pay attention to such places, provide the infrastructure and all the services, and people will remain where they are.

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

I have seen areas where infrastructure and services have been provided and nobody is there. Meanwhile, areas where people are living are without any infrastructure. Therefore, the question is what happened? It is a misplaced priority as far as I am concerned. I have also discovered that those in executive positions don’t take advice from professional bodies. Assuming you want to establish something, you need to contact people that know about the terrain to professionally give you advice, but they will come with political correctness and they just think on their own and say “I want to do it here” even if you come with a superior argument.

Governments have said they always consulted and engaged professionals from the civil service before embarking on any project. Will this not make governments to easily emasculate them into their own political agenda?

There are two approaches to it: professionals in the civil service and also professionals outside have roles to play. There are certain things that professionals in the civil service don’t have the capacity to execute, and even if they do, the content of work is overwhelming that they may need to have people from outside to assist them. That apart, the truth is this, before government professionals are involved, in most cases, the authorities already determine what they want to do. In fact, people that dare to go against particular political decisions are either moved or sidelined or transferred. We have had so many instances. The Minister’s Hill for instance, that is being bastardised is supposed to be a green area. There was a reaction to it, and what happened? The executives eventually had their way and the civil servants had to cooperate. This is just one out of many.

What is the way out so that professionalism will reign supreme in project execution?

What always happens is that for professionals that know, they will put it into writing because there is a limit to which the professionals can go. If the minister or the governor decides to go the other way, that is left for him because the outcome of that can now be traced to the executives and not the professionals because the professionals must have given their professional advice.

Non civil service professionals have the capacity to tell the truth. However, unfortunately, because of the economy, professionals outside that are called by government to come and do a particular job become subservient in the sense that they feel it is an opportunity for them to get jobs, so they wouldn’t want to lose that opportunity because if they refuse to do it, another person is ready, so these are the critical issues we are being faced with and except we restore discipline we cannot get anything right. That is where I think institutions like Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria (TOPREC) must come in.

Let’s go to the issue of demolition: what should lead to demolition in the first place?

Demolition can be done only on two to three environmental issues. Firstly, if the people are living in an area where it is dangerous to their lives, demolition can be carried out, government can go ahead. However, government should provide an alternative land because you cannot just go and throw them away just like that. If you know that where they are living is dangerous-such as river banks that are liable to flooding or areas prone to slides, they should be relocated.

Secondly, when they occupy a place that is meant for a project and government wants to use that place, government can remove them. The problem is that government allows people to stay in a place for too long without talking to them. Anybody who has stayed in a place for over 10 years has a right to that place and if you want to remove him, provide an alternative. That is why even demolished sites are still being inhabited. People have come back to stay there because the moment you leave it vacant they will surely come back.

I have come to realise that people that are living in slums, most of them don’t even own that place. The rich men in the city own the slums, and in fact it is like a business for them.

Even in Lugbe, a lot of them are not living in their own houses. Lugbe is a combination of indigenes and settlers. If government wants to demolish it, with the population it now has, it will really attract international outcry because a lot of people are going to be subjected to serious hardship.

by Malikatu Mukaila

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