Controversy has continued to trail Federal Government’s Home Ownership scheme, as beneficiaries of the first phase are yet to access their mortgages, heightening speculations that the scheme may have been stalled. OLUFEMI ADEOSUN reports
In its renewed bid to address the nation’s growing housing deficit, the Federal Government in 2014, established the Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company, NMRC.
Under the refinancing model, low income earners are expected to have access to mortgages at a long term and flexible repayment plans. During the launch of the first phase of the project, aimed at providing 10, 000 housing units for low income earners in Abuja.
The then Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had during the flag off of the project in Abuja, said the housing initiative as aimed at addressing the supply side of home ownership, advising subscribers to apply on a portal created by the company for home of their choice.
The Minister had noted with optimism that the process would be simplified under a new framework that would reduce the processing of application for mass housing project from 18 months to about six weeks.
Okonjo-Iweala however explained that with the inauguration of the NMRC and its subsequent take-off, the financial barriers to accessible and affordable housing schemes in the country would be removed.
According to her statement, “We want Nigerians to own their houses at affordable cost. The NMRC’s mission is to provide long term funding for the housing sector.
Since the ability of banks in providing mortgages is limited by the fact that 80 per cent of all deposits are on 30-day period, which does not ensure great level of sustainability in providing resources for the housing sector, the NMRC’s gives tenure for financing up to 10 to 15 years.
“So instead of people not being able to own houses as they would have to pay-up in 12 or 18 months, we are changing that now, so that for 10 to 15 years, people can pay for their own houses.”
However, despite assurances of transparency as well as expression of optimism on the potential of the project to address issues of access to finance for home ownership, beneficiaries to the first phase of the 10,000 housing scheme, have described it as being politically motivated.
Some of them, who express their displeasure over the scheme, said the project appears to be one of those political gimmicks, designed to sway votes from the electorate, rather than genuinely geared towards addressing perceived housing challenges in the country.
One of the beneficiaries, Mr. Tolu Odebunmi told National Mirror that, he applied for a two bed-room apartment and was eligible for mortgage, but he has not heard from the mortgage firm attached to him n the last one year.
According to him, the best he has heard from the firm was a text message and a follow-up mail, informing him that his application was successful.
He said, since he could not locate the address of the mortgage firm in Abuja, where he resides, he had failed to fill a heap of documents sent to him by the company for fear of being duped.
“When the project was advertised, informing anyone interested in affordable home to apply on a special portal created for it, I first took the news with a pinch of salt.
However, I decided to give it a shot based on the assurance by the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the project will not be hijacked by moneybags as well as the cronies of people in government.
“When I received a text message from a mortgage company which I would not want to disclose its name for security reasons, I was so elated, heaved a sigh of relief that at last my dream of owning a home of my own was about to come to fruition. But I was wrong as unfolding events since then later revealed.
“Contrary to my belief that the houses were on ground, I was jolted when I was asked to go and look for a house of my choice in the FCT. When I eventually got a 3-bedroom apartment at a cost of over N10 million, they told me that I am entitled to only N3 million loan’’, he narrated.
Another beneficiary, who would not want her name in print alleged that the housing programme was a scam. According to her, since she was notified that she won a slot for a one-bedroom apartment, nothing has happened beyond that.
“As I speak, I am still awaiting correspondence from the Federal Government as to the next line of action, “She stated However, commenting on the project, the National President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, REDAN, Rev. Ugochuckwu Chime explained that it would be wrong for anyone to say the housing project was a scam, urging those who had subscribed to it, to exercise some patience and allow the new government to settle down “The scheme exists and I believe it is going to work.
What is required is restructuring. For instance, within the last one month, there was a meeting of housing stakeholders, involving the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development; Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, FMBN,, Nigeria Mortgage Refinancing Company, NMRC, Mortgage Bankers Association of Nigeria, MBAN, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC’’, he stated. The aim of the meeting, according to him, is to coordinate and harmonise approach to some of issues.
“We believe this is the right thing to do, instead of engaging in an undue criticism which will not add any value to the growth and development of the housing sector.
We believe it is through constructive coordination and engagement of one another that can unlock the potential in the sector.
Chime, who expressed optimism that the current administration would tackle head-on, various constraints in the housing sector, however assured that REDAN would monitor the project to ensure its workability.
Source: National Mirror