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National Pension Fund to bridge housing deficit

The National President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Rev. Ugochuckwu Chime, the Executive Director, Policy and Corporate Strategy, Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), Mrs. Chika Akporji and stakeholders in the housing construction sector on Thursday called on the federal government to channel part of workers’ contribution into the National Pension Fund, which presently stands at N4.9 trillion to bridge the country’s 17 million housing deficit.

Speaking at the sideline after a one-day multi-stakeholders Interactive Workshop on Housing Development in Abuja, Chime and Akporji averred that the National Housing Fund (NHF), which has been workers’ contribution to own their houses through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) and the Pension Fund be coalesced into a pool to create jobs in the sector and at the same time bridge the housing deficit in the country.

The REDAN boss said: “The NHF and the Pension Funds are funds created to ensure that while in service or retirement, the average Nigerian worker is catered for. We know that three elements form the basic needs of man that is food shelter and clothing and now government have been intervening in the issue of food where we now have single.

“Unfortunately policy makers have not deemed it necessary to implement some of the provisions of the NHF. The provisions of the NHF and the Pension Funds  which is now the contributory scheme were all dovetailed into the welfare of the worker and there must be a linkage because if you contribute money the value of the money at the point of contribution is not comparable to the value of the money at the point of retirement, you will find out that inflation have eaten up the money so that whereas what you are getting at the point of retirement as pension fund and retirement savings account  is only a negligible percentage in terms of its purchasing power.”

Chime stated that government must adopt a more creative strategy to see that the Nigerian workers who are contributors to the pension fund reap from their long years of labour, adding: “Now we are saying that we have to have a creative way of doing these things, because if we can invest in food without Nigerian begging in the streets why must we allow Nigerians to be homeless and suffering in the squatter settlements before we a critical look and restructure and reform the housing sector and then inject the needed fund.

“We in REDAN are saying that there are supposed to be four sources of contribution to the NHF, but it is only one source that has been working, the banks, government and insurance companies are supposed to be contributors to the NHF. Unfortunately these three are not contributing and the burden is left on the Nigerian worker and it is not fair. This is not fair because it will take a worker to contribute up to a  thousand years before what he has contributed is sufficient to be able to provide him accommodation baring inflation.”

Chime also frowned at the government’s undercapitalisation of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria FMBN).

He asked why are development financial institutions like FMBN highly under-capitalised?

He said there must be a synergy between the NHF and the pension fund, adding: “We are saying that let there be linkage and  synergy between the NHF and pension fund to ensure that the trillion of naira in the pension funds is brought to bear on the welfare of the worker at a time that welfare will make meaning to them now not on retirement when the purchasing power of that money would have depreciated very alarmingly.”

While speaking on the need for a common  pool of funds for housing development, Akporji said: “On the Pension Funds I totally applaud Chime for actually coalescing all the contributions made by workers to a pool of funds putting it at 25.5 percent as that is the figure that needs to be looked at and be able to discuss with policy makers on moving and to see what stakeholders can do to reduce those contribution at least even if those contributions and what returns on that investment made by the workers.

“Because the whole idea of pension funds is not just to keep contributing as workers are supposed to make returns on the investment because they are investible funds and they need to enjoy some returns on it and see the linkages between the NHF and Pension Fund.”

Source: THISDAY -Dele Ogbodo in Abuja

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