What is the problem with real estate in Nigeria?
It is now a common knowledge that Nigerians have been suffering from severe housing crisis for several decades and the more effort we think as a nation we have made, the less the impact we see on ground. Over the years, a number of policies and programmes have been rolled out and to what extent have these policies and programmes really impacted on the landscape. However, the general scarcity of houses in Nigeria can be linked to the factors that are responsible for the abysmal housing situation in Nigeria. The fundamental ones we have pointed out from time to time are that Nigeria as a country has always been guilty of policy somersault from one regime to the other and if there is any sector of the economy where this has gotten much passion is the sector. One regime does not want to follow what its predecessor in office has initiated. Secondly all informed stakeholders in the housing sector know that until we take the bull by the horns and we challenge certain things, no amount of policy roll out can actually help us. What are the basic issues? The Land Use Act, must be overhauled, the document has all the good intentions in the world but when it comes to implementation, government agencies see this documents as a means of making money. Why would a man or a woman struggle to get certificate of occupancy? Until we challenge that and resolved it, we won’t move further. Nigerian economy up till today has being characterized by cash and carry mentality, countries, small in comparative term as Tanzania and Ghana have more credible mortgage regime than Nigeria. In fact South Africa is an epitome of viable and viral mortgage institution, why would a young man and woman working and earning income fear to go into home ownership when if he can save 10 per cent of his/her income for a number of years can own a building of his own. Until government takes it as a matter of national priority, we will just be talking about mortgage system without achieving anything. It would be recalled that when the National Housing Form was rolled out, which is supposed to be an auxiliary to the mortgage institution, the entire programme was converted to something else by putting the funds in the conventional banks and instruct that this was meant for mortgage, which was not used for the purpose and instead, lent out to Alaba Market operators that would pay back in 30 days. The health of a society or the nation is dependent on access to basic shelter, all other efforts, being made in the areas of security, fight against corruption, empowerment would come to nothing, without shelter.
What’s your thought on Dangote Cement’s Expansion Across Africa?
With Nigeria having 17 million housing deficit, and until we look at the issues of price and affordability, we cannot get anything right. The two major factors that affect cost of housing delivery are the land acquisition, which can be tackled through the review of the Land Use Act and of course the cost of construction in Nigeria which is the most exorbitant in any part of Africa. A bungalow that will cost about N5,000 per square meter to build in Ghana, will cost about N15,000 per square meter to build in Nigeria and the reality is that if basic housing unit cost goes beyond the reach of the poor, then the rich too is at risk. The role of cement is that we see a drop in price on the supply side, and we have noticed the competition, between giant players like Dangote Group and Larfarge, all these will translate to reduction in the price of the products and also lead to high quality of the cement. The awareness of the people that they can have access at the nearest location to the point of consumption, this is key and so I doffed my hat for the president of Dangote Cement Plc, Alhaji Aliko Dangote for his visionary leadership in this sector of production of cement which we must all acknowledge is unprecedented in Africa.
What about the crash of the price of cement in Nigeria?
We must look at all these issues from short term to middle term and long term scenario. I have participated in construction activities when price of cement in Nigeria is one of the highest price in the world, but as time goes on, we would have more capacity in terms of production. Everything will follow the economic law of demand and supply. When increase in supply and demand remain at what it is today, it will lead to fall in price. As far as the issue of power is concerned which has been a major setback for all manufacturing companies in the country, the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari is building on efforts of the past government and tasking stakeholders to double efforts in ensuring improvement in power supply.
The Code Of Conduct Bureau, what can you say about this?
Right from my tenure as president, we find out that the fundamental law and implementation of Code Of Conduct Bureau is defective in certain regards. In the past, a young man coming in as governor can just present a paper, authenticated by anybody, it is when the case of the present Senate president, Dr. Buloka Saraki came out now that people can see the battle that the professional body has been fighting for the past 10 years. If declaration of any asset must carry value, title and ownership, it must come from professional association or authenticated by professionals people, otherwise when you leave this sensitive matter to the whims and caprices of those that are seeking public office what you have in most cases is garbage in, garbage out. But I believe that what is happening now is for the good of the entire country.