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‘FHA will engage scientists to crash property prices’

You have just gone round the housing estate construction site of the ENL-FHA partnership. What is your impression?My impression is 50-50. A lot of resources…

You have just gone round the housing estate construction site of the ENL-FHA partnership. What is your impression?
My impression is 50-50. A lot of resources have been committed and work is in progress. But the pace at which we are going does not suggest that we can meet the speed required to overcome the Nigeria housing deficit. So more effort has to be exerted, more resources have to be put in, and a lot of other considerations have to be put in place.
We are determined to ensure that our partnership succeeds. Those companies that are working with us will get the necessary backing and resources they require to finish the structures so that Nigerians can occupy their homes.
This site is effort of the FHA to use its resources, energy, ideas and human resources to be in the field. It is not contracted out to companies as partners; rather we are doing it in-house.
You will agree that even the quality of the materials and the finishing are better than what we’ve seen earlier on. So we look forward to providing better services and better houses which are very affordable for Nigerians. This is mandate that we have from Mr. President. Certainly there will be transformation in the housing sector in time to come.

Regarding the ENL-FHA partnership, would you say ENL is keeping with the time length of project delivery?
I would say they are making effort to keep to it but we urge them to be faster because Nigerians can’t wait. We have to deliver the needed homes particularly in cities like Abuja, and the ENL-FHA project is one of the flagship projects that will showcase the capacity and good intentions of government for Nigerians in the housing sector.

You expressed displeasure over the inability of FHA to meet expectations. How do you think you will handle the problem?
It is painful that in the past 40 years of our existence as an authority, we were only able to provide 37,000 houses for Nigerians. That was why I said it was unacceptable and we have put some things in place to ensure that we succeed this time. Our target is to quickly provide mass houses that are affordable so that Nigerians can quickly own their homes and live comfortably in their homes.
In the last 10 days, we have had briefings from departments and we have established five strong taskforce teams that are looking into various areas of interest and conflicts. The five taskforces will work round the clock to ensure that the encumbrances to housing delivery in the country are solved.

As an authority for housing provision, what quick ends are you pursuing in the next three months?
As we speak, we have given our staff and contractors a marching order with well defined objectives that must be met within the next three months. To this end, we must all ensure that all completed houses are sold to Nigerians at an affordable price within a very good arrangement of mortgages.
Secondly, we have instructed that new houses which are a lot more affordable than existing ones must be designed and produced. This is in view of the fact that a house which costs N9 million or N10 million in a remote place will not be affordable to low income earners. So FHA scientists and engineers have been mandated to brainstorm and evolve housing design that will accommodate greater affordability.
As a matter of fact, there are alternative technologies that will help to produce more affordable houses that yet guarantee decency. It has to do with alternative materials which will be sourced to produce various house types. Once they give us their thoughts, we will look at them and utilize them toward meeting the housing needs of Nigerians.
Another thing we agreed to do is to defreeze some of the capital we have; to inject them into the system so that we can have enough liquidity to go into other areas that were given to us by government in FCT, Lagos and in some other parts of the country.
You mentioned a review of housing marketing strategy. Are you saying that previous marketing strategies are not effective?
At the ENL site which we just visited, ENL said sales are low. Consequently, the capital recouping strategy was poor. So I told him that the marketing strategy in both FHA and in his organization must be revisited. So what we are considering is to market our houses through proxies instead of stressing our limited staff and theirs who may not be able to reach a large number of Nigerians. So we intend to have agents to market the houses.
Yesterday, we decided to make our houses and holdings more visible for sale. This we will do by putting them on paper, small booklets and pamphlets in order to enhance publicity. The media will be distributed everywhere including five star hotels, airports and high profile ceremonies. This is what the review of marketing strategy is about.
A lot of money has been invested and we can’t help but create value for it. Mr. President is very eager to commission housing projects and so we must deliver the houses.
As you know, Goal Seven of the MDGs is Environmental Sustainability. Part of its strategy is to reduce the process of slum development. One of the strategies is to evolve new houses, new towns and we have to bring new structures on board, and that is exactly what we are doing.

Contractors argue that the FG has been unable to fulfill its part of the agreement and that it slows down construction progress…
No, that is not correct and I don’t agree with it. Before engaging or sending somebody to site, government actually provides enough funds but you cannot access them until when you are at a stage that is agreed upon for the capital to be disbursed. Contractors shouldn’t expect disbursement of funds when they are at stage 10. Rather they should reach the agreed 80 percent stage. So we will always give them the incentives before we release money.
There is no government in the world that is more favourable to contractors as the Nigerian government because Nigeria really needs to house its citizens.

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