Big Interviews

Escalating cost of building materials affecting mass housing schemes- Akinderu-Fatai, Lagos housing commissioner

Lagos State Commissioner for Housing, Moruf Akinderu-Fatai, speaks on plans to unveil new schemes as well as the challenges being faced in the building sector as a result of the escalating costs of materials occasioned by the free naira fall, among other issues, in this media parley with journalists. Deborah Onyofufeke captures



When will the state be unveiling new housing schemes?

We are still on course, and if you recollect during the first term of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration, a lot of effort was focused on bringing on new housing estates, especially for low-income earners. This year and in the next three years, we have a lot of activities that will be coming up. For this year, we planned that we should be able to get the Sangotedo Phase 2 done.  We are also thinking of how far we can go with the Epe scheme; Tamarin in Epe. We are, by God’s grace, going to commission the first phase of the 270 Egho, and also we just started Phase 2. We are going to escalate that. And also, we are going to do a lot of work in Ajara; the 480 units in Ajara. We are also pushing many of our partners to finish up the projects this year. Most likely, we are going to have 130 units from Abraham Adesanya later this year, maybe in July. So, we are not resting. We are doing what has to be done. When we talk about Egho, as you know, it is very complicated. It used to be 660, a sort of non de populae. And we do not allow our citizens to go into a place that we are not assured will be safe for them. When we try to do that kind of thing, most of the time, it can be more expensive in the sense that we have to put down some buildings and things are now going up. That is why we are now divided into places as well as increasing the numbers from 630 units to almost 800 units. So, we are not resting, we are now working quietly behind.




How can the state meet up with the housing deficit in the metropolis?

Talking about the housing deficit in Lagos, yes, it is a challenge. But when you look at it, you will see that the high net of engineers are well served. The low-income earners are the ones that have this challenge. How do you now calculate the deficit when everyday people come to Lagos? Lagos is a sub-national, I do not like throwing unnecessary figures there. The only thing that we can do under this leadership of Sanwo-Olu is to try and see how we can serve that segment of our people. As we speak, people are coming in; they don’t have where to stay, and they are not planning on going back. So, we can say that Lagos is suffering from its prosperity, especially when you look at how the more you try to make Lagos liveable. It gets more attractive to people from other areas to come and live, and we cannot just wait. We continue to strive to be at the top of that deficit.



How is the high inflation rate affecting the sector?

The only challenge is funding. When you look at it, the challenges we are facing now in the building sector are inflation and forex exposure. Some people bought cement about seven days ago around N5,500. Today. They are talking about N15,000. The iron which is also a major component of the building has also escalated by 100 per cent, and that is a challenge. Even with the budget of the Ministry of Housing, we can only work with what we have. The budget cannot meet up with our plans, and that is the reason why we have to move into a situation that will continually escalate our relationship with the private sector. If you are talking about the private sector, we also have to find a way to convince most of our major players in this sector to look at the other side of this sector, which is the low-income earners. Some people are coming on board. We are in discussion with business ventures and some of them are deliberately looking out for how to be a player. The players in the low-income segment, as we speak, Imota, we talk about Ipaja; these are places that we want to build in thousands. In the Ipaja scheme, we have plans on how we can collaborate with the private sector to increase it to 1,000 units, which are in one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom segments. In Imota, if you recollect, we have a plan that we are supposed to have started with the private sector, to build 3,500 units. The more you see these external factors in terms of inflationary rate, the more it affects building for the poor, because when you look at the income of the average Nigerian – I am talking of the minimum wage – when you look at the mortgage part of it, you discover that you can be talking about their earnings. Why the mortgage is not working because, even for a building of N5m, N6m, it will take a level 14 officer in the civil service to pay over the next 10 years. So, it is something that is a challenge, and the indices we had – let’s say over a year ago we started discussion; units that we are supposed to deliver at N13m or N14m, we are now talking of almost N20m to N25m. So, this is also a big challenge, and it is worrisome. So, how do we now cater to this set of people whose income is not going up? It is something that we need to talk about.




Is the state considering partnerships with foreign investors, just like some northern states are doing, to get funding for schemes?

On the issue of foreign donors, I do not have details on how the arrangement scaled, but I can tell you that we are open. It is not that people don’t approach us, it is not that we cannot get money from outside this country to build houses. The one we did in Idale, the company that built it happens to be a company backed by an American company, but the challenge is this;  when you are bringing in money from outside, you are naturally exposed to the forex dollar rate, and we also must ensure that the money is used because we are trying to have a good relationship with the private sector since we are moving towards making sure that the collaboration we have with them will be more than the budgetary allocation for building houses in Lagos. So, when they come out with their proposals, it is also important for us to hear them. If you had approached the ministry about a year ago, and you are bringing the money in dollars, your finances as of that time, and your finances now. So, this is something that is out of our control, and we encourage money from the outside, but we also advise you that this money coming is to stay in Nigeria. What do I mean? Are you coming in for one transaction, and at the end of it, you take your money and leave? If that is what you are coming to do, then we cannot do business with you. We advise you to take your money and go because that tells you we are most likely not going to get anything out of it. But if your money is going to stay, you have come and you are ready to stay, you have a long-term plan to stay in Nigeria, and we will embrace you because, with that money, we can continue to do more business in Nigeria. But if you have to take it out, most of the time, we will advise, not encourage, that because you are most likely to come out negative.



What about donor agencies?

As for the issue of getting donors, I will not call them donors. They are people from Qatar ready to work in Kaduna or Borno state; they may have their programme. If we have that type of arrangement and we see that it is suitable for the purpose, we would key in but don’t forget that a Lagos product is different from any other product in Nigeria. You have to look at the land and the texture of the land. On most of our lands, we have to do so many things before it gets off the ground. Most of the land is not solid, and it gets very expensive to start. So, we have to look at that, and if you are talking about the Northern part of the country or upper Nigeria, it’s easy. That is why some of the products that the Federal Government was trying during the last administration’s FHA, were unable to because we tried to ask them to bring in the product. As of that time, we were trying to push them to N8m. They were supposed to work at Imota. So, at that particular time, it was N8m for Imota because they were talking about N3m for a two-bedroom. You cannot use N3m for a two-bedroom in Lagos. So, we were at that particular point before things started to go up again and the financials started getting more complex, just as the Renewed Hope Agenda is. In the housing sector, as we speak, we are working with the Federal Mortgage Bank and the Federal Ministry of Housing to see how we can collaborate to build houses that through the Federal Mortgage Bank, people can key into. We are not just looking at it from one direction; we are looking at it from all angles. We are looking at the budgetary provision, and we are not stopping. The governor has been gracious, and the state house of assembly too has been gracious enough to continue to support us.



How are the schemes allotted to owners, and what happens if there are breaches by the allottee?

On the issue of allottees, we have rent-to-own; those that are supposed to be first-time buyers, and they are supposed to pay five per cent and move in, and pay for over 10 years. We have a situation where people still do not see the magnanimity on the part of the governor- first of all, reducing the price to make sure that people can afford it. You see, some people benefited from it- even moving out of that place to go and rent it out just to make money, sometimes we ask ourselves; why do we have to go to this extent, but for the governor, in his wisdom. One of those estates, the one in Igodo, 75 per cent of the units there are for rent-to-own, and there are processes that you have to go through with the Lagos mortgage. Most of them end up renting them out. When you rent such a thing out, already, we have gotten a directive that those that are not occupied; that are under rent-to-own, will have to be forfeited. We have rules to follow, and if you don’t, then we have to seal your apartment up and take it off. The worst that can happen is to collect your money back. I am using this opportunity to tell everybody who lives in Lagos State to look at the kind gesture from Mr Governor trying to reach out to those who are vulnerable within the society and help to make sure that, not only is the standard kept, but also to take ownership of these estates. That is why we have an association for the estates. That is why we have a facility manager in place. People that are not supposed to live there, if you identify some particular people as yahoo’, what is the duty of the association and the facility manager? Why can’t they call in the security people to come and look into it? Why does it have to go back to the Ministry of Housing which is not a security outfit? What I am trying to say is that we should take ownership.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please turn off Adblocker or whitelist this website in your Adblocker to enable us display ads