Mr. Benjamin Onigbinde is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sigvent Property Trust Limited. In this interview with TOPE SUNDAY, he proffers solutions to some of the challenges confronting the country’s housing sector.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure will end this year. How will you access his administration’s housing policy and delivery in the last seven and half years?
Like all the previous administrations before this the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, the administration has a fantastic idea about how to solve the housing-poverty issues. However, frankly speaking; there has not been any significant improvement in the industry.
The Public-Private Partnership model of housing development has not proved to be working. All evidence has pointed to the fact that a more robust model needs to be employed to achieve a significant improvement. Efforts by the Federal Government to seek the special intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to support the Federal Housing Loan Board in reducing the financing challenges of the Federal Integrated Housing Fund (FISH) have not produced any significant result.
The collaborative approach to delivering affordable housing between the Real Estate Development Association of Nigeria (REDAN) and the Federal Government through the Rural-Urban Housing Initiative (RUHI-774) is still an ongoing process. The initiative is designed to deliver at least 100 housing units of affordable housing in each of the 774 Local Governments across the country for low-income earners.
Though REDAN has got some financial partners including The Family Home Funds and Shelter Afrique, there is still the challenge of land acquisition.
There is some level of improvement in housing delivery during this period, but not impressive at the national level. The Federal Government through some collaboration has delivered a sizable number of affordable houses all over the country, while some are still under construction. Impressively, some state governments are doing well in improving the stock of housing in their states, and just like Lagos State can claim the actual figures it has delivered within the period under consideration.
But, the new change in the leadership of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) is expected to yield a good result as time goes on.
As an expert in the built environment, what do you think should be done differently as regards the sector?
There is a lot to be done from industry regulation, policy reforms, design innovation, and technology to finance. I look forward to seeing a synergized housing policy among all levels of government as well as an acceptable model of affordable housing with a focus on customers’ needs and requirements. Lagos State is doing well in real estate regulation through its Real Estate Regulation Agency. I suggest its adoption by other state governments. Also, the Housing Funds platform of the Federal Mortgage Bank should be made more accessible to all economic segments.
The federal government through the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola has severally faulted the 22 million housing deficit figure in Nigeria. Do you agree with him?
According to the Minister, the source of the projection of the 17m to N22m housing deficit figure cannot be verified, which I agree with. But how much is the figure? If we cannot get an actual figure, how do we progress? Without accurate figures, our policy will be faulty and not workable. More digitization processes should be employed to get adequate housing statistics, and it has to be done now.
What are private developers like you doing to ensure that the huge housing deficits in the country are reduced?
Our company has been at the forefront of developing affordable housing both at the high and the low ends. We believe in the customization and lifestyle approaches to the housing market. Presently, we are working on the development of staff quarters for a high institution staff, and we have inspected a site at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso, Oyo state. On the project, the discussion will commence soon with the school authority in this regard. Also, we have a branded Lifestyle Community, ‘The City Avenue’ that will be launched soon.