Dr Aliyu Oroji Wamako is the vice president of Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) and CEO of Jedo Investment Limited. In this interview with CHIKA OKEKE, he spoke on issues affecting the built industry and why it would be difficult for the private sector to address Nigeria’s housing deficit. Excerpt
Stakeholders are optimistic that it will take government next 18 years to bridge the housing gap. What is your take on this?
Most estates were built by private developers. We have been contributing our quota to make sure that we reduce the 17 million housing deficit. We expect the government to help in augmenting our efforts or possibly grant us special subsidy to enable Nigerians get a roof over their head.
For instance, the federal government owns the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) that are governed by rules and regulations. All these agencies need funds to sustain their programmes because you cannot engage in building construction without funds. The building industry is capital intensive and private initiative is not enough to bridge the housing deficit. Without government’s support, there will be hiccups within the industry in terms of government’s regulations towards taxation, land acquisition and funds.
A developer cannot obtain a loan from the bank with an interest rate of 28 per cent and expect to build a house and sell it for N5 million.
How accessible is construction finance for developers?
If you collect loans from the banks, you will end up working for the banks. Because the government is more concerned about the middle income earners who constitute majority of the working class, so if houses are extremely high, the objective will be defeated. We cannot take loans from commercial banks at 28 per cent interest rate and provide affordable housing. That is why we are seeking for government’s intervention on counter-funding so that we can move the position of building industry forward and reduce housing deficit.
The way forward is for the federal government to relax some of the land acquisition procedures and make it accessible to developers. If they want to give counterpart funding, they should give it to the existing institutions that provided the funds earlier at 10 per cent which is the FMBN.
For instance, if 1000 people are contributing N5000 in one year, they will only contribute N60 million. There is no 3 bedroom house that is sold below N8million to N10million. How do you expect FMBN to provide mortgage for four million people when contributions from the NHF contributors are like peanuts? That is why we are calling on the federal government to provide adequate funds for FMBN, streamline the idea of housing provision, cut down bureaucracies involved in accessing mortgages and re-organise the mortgage procedures in Nigeria, otherwise, we will be wasting our time.
Foreign investors are running away from doing business in Nigeria due to infrastructure deficit. How do you think this can be addressed?
Let me use housing industry as a case point. Once a layout is done whether by the federal, state or local government, there should be an existing infrastructure on the layout because infrastructure is supposed to be provided by the government and not private developers. Since residents of Asokoro, Maitama and Wuse 2 enjoy free infrastructure, why is it impossible for people living in Lugbe, Gwagwalada, Bwari or Kuje to enjoy the same infrastructure. If the government cannot intervene in the provision of infrastructure in these satellite towns, I don’t think they are boosting the morale of FCT residents no matter how fast the city is growing.
Can the built industry provide the needed jobs for unemployed youths?
There is no better place for the government to create jobs than the building industry. For instance, if you want to build one house, you will provide jobs for 15 people. If your building 1000 houses, you will also be giving jobs to over 15, 000. The APC government is promising Nigerians 1 million houses annually which is over 15 million jobs, so if they are trying to create jobs, they are expected to fund the building industry so that more jobs will be created.
Stakeholders in the industry are calling for the review of Land Use Act which they believe is obsolete. What critical areas do you think should be included in the new Act?
The entire Act is obsolete and it needs to be reviewed. REDAN have made several moves and we are still making the moves especially in the National Assembly so that the Act will be reviewed and it will help to liberalise the building industry. Up till now, it has not passed first reading. We met the then House committee chairman on Housing, Hon Gaya, but unfortunately, we have not received any positive response. We will keep pushing until the Act is reviewed to represent the modern day Nigeria. We are 55 years away from the Act, so it needs to be reviewed.
Why the delay?
There are procedures before they pass a bill in the NASS which is best known to the legislators. We are only appealing to their conscience because we are in the industry and we face a lot of obstacles due to obsolete land use Act.
Can you proffer solution on how best contributors to the National Housing Fund can access the funds?
We are suggesting that FMBN should be re-organised. Let the contributors, Primary Mortgage Banks (PMBs) and real estate developers have a representation at the board room of FMBN, so that they will know how much is contributed and distributed. Recently, the FMBN in collaboration with Sokoto State government flagged-off the construction of Caliphate Housing Estate. We are appealing to them to fast-track their efforts to ensure that the estate is built because they promised to fund the project and we are holding them on their promise.