Dare Arigbede is Chief Executive Officer, Castle Mews Limited, a real estate firm. In this interview with CLARKSON VOKE EBERU, he proffered solutions to some challenges in the built sector.

The biggest problem in the housing industry is substandard building materials, which professionals blamed for building collapse. How do we ensure quality materials are adopted in the sector?
REAL estate construction is a chain, from production to professional handling of structures. The professionals must order the right building materials to ensure standards. Material production must also adhere to the specifications of products.

By this, we can ensure improved building standards to avoid lapses or negligence in the industry. Also, the regulatory bodies must be up and doing. Above all, the government must be alive to its responsibilities. There was a time the industry was sane and there was no structural failure.

It should therefore mean that lapses have propped up and some persons or bodies may not be performing their duties creditably of late or in the recent past.

For me, we need to review the unpalatable situation and reinvent ourselves for a prosperous nation.

Moreover, Nigerians should be patriotic in all their dealings. Premium should be placed on the safety of lives above self-centeredness. Gains should be secondary. If we begin to internalise this, the nation will be better and reach its desired destination in no time. Let all hands be on deck to enthrone a working and sustainable built sector.

Besides, as obtained in other developed climes, the government must not be seen to formulate workable and friendly policies, it should also be perceived to lead in the area of implementation and effective monitoring with a view to delivering affordable housing programmes and projects.

More importantly, the government must prioritise low-cost housing for the teeming masses. Nigerians must be made to own homes in a manner that is less stressful. By and large, the relevant authorities must see to the construction of quality buildings to save lives and avert these needless catastrophes.

Also, people must be held accountable for noticeable lapses to imbue a sense of responsibility. We can’t keep losing lives, whereas no one is held to account. Building collapse would be a thing of the past once the political will is mustered to sanitise the industry. It’s not a difficult thing to do. I can only wish that the government took the gauntlet.

Many people have complained that the current housing policy is defective. Do you agree with or in support of the policy? What needs to be improved?
Truly, the current housing policy is defective and limiting urban development necessary for national growth and development. We are faced with inadequate infrastructure, poor housing financing and bureaucratic bottlenecks in governance.

The red tape must be slackened to engender growth. So many tedious processes that stifle homeownership. Policies should be tailored to allow private and public sectors to address the nation’s huge housing deficit. Mortgages should be readily available, not just in words, but also in practice.

The low and middle classes should be empowered to own homes through revolving facilities spread over some years. Attention should also be geared at diversifying the economy to make Nigerians more strong in terms of financial independence and productivity to acquire property.

Conscious efforts must be made by those in positions of authority to put in place platforms that encourage investments in the built industry with a view to encouraging personal development and making the sector one of the major contributors to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Besides, Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) should be encouraged through beneficial waivers to resolve the numerous challenges in the industry and local stockholding incentivised for a positive result.

In addition, rapid infrastructural development such as good roads, proper drainages, and electricity with proper maintenance culture would equally encourage housing development, which would, in turn, boost sectoral contribution to national income, economic growth and development.

Is the real estate sector vibrant enough to drive Nigeria’s growth?
Of course! In fact, real estate is one of the flourishing sectors that have the capacity to employ a larger percentage of our unskilled and semi-skilled labour. Real estate is where you can see somebody that is not educated working and paid daily, even the ones that government will not be able to employ, the real estate employs them.

In real estate, we have all forms of workers – architects, engineers, accountants and marketers. Before a house is completed, masons, electricians, carpenters, iron benders and plumbers will work to deliver the building. So, different people will work on a building, some will also supply iron rods and contribute to the construction industry, people will supply wood and roofing sheets and the money will go back to the furniture sector, and money will also go to the factory that produces nail, paints will be there and industries that produce other materials.

So, it brings a lot of industries together. Even in the media, there are people who draw and photograph, agents, a lot of them, who are graduates, are into real estate agencies.

We can say that real estate is an industry that feeds other major sectors. Real estate sector is not doing badly. I think the real estate sector has to be privately driven, but the government has to provide basic amenities for development.

When the industry is privately driven, it would bring about faster progress because the government already has its own functions, which focus on the provision of bridges, good roads and electricity that would grow the sector.

There are some functions that we believe that government should not really be participating in that much because those things can be better handled by private individuals, developers and investors, but the government is supposed to help industries to grow.

Is the government doing enough in tackling the menace of land grabbers, popularly known as Omo-Onile?
There are many challenges affecting real estate. Anywhere you get to, you must be a friend of the community, and you must do your background checks. There is no business that does not have a bad side, but you just have to keep pushing ahead.

As a stakeholder, what is the major sectoral problem requiring immediate attention?
The major challenge is that government taxes are on the high side. Maybe government sees it as a major source of income. Electricity, too, is posing a major challenge.

Source : The Guardian