Hon (Chief) Modestus Umenzekwe (Onwa Achina) a Chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and member, Federal Housing Authority (FHA). In this interview with CYRIACUS NNAJI in Lagos recently, spoke on what the present board and management of FHA inaugurated in 2021 have been doing to transform Nigeria through housing. He commended the Chairman of the Board, Senator Shuaibu Lawal and the Chief Executive of the Authority, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, saying they have translated the housing vision of the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) into reality. Excerpts:

Do you think the Federal Housing Authority is doing enough to ensure affordable housing for Nigerians?

Yes, the answer is yes. Right from the Ministry of Works and Housing, they are doing a lot. Low cost housing is springing up here and there and the new management now at FHA is doing a lot to reposition FHA. You can see the MD, with the approval of the Board, Moving from one town to the other, reclaiming the lands, assessing the property, repositioning some dilapidated estates, taking stock of those estates to make them more viable. So FHA is doing a lot of work now. When you come to Buwari you see skyscrapers springing up there, Zuba is about to be commissioned, Ajoda Estate in Ibadan is going on, we are even trying to open up Kano, Owerri Estate is been resuscitated as well as the land at Umuahia. The Amansi Project in Anambra is having some hiccups but in no distant time the hiccups will be removed, and very soon we are going to have a chat with the Governor of Anambra State, God willing, and all the notable stakeholders around that place. So it is a lot of work going on in almost all the six geo-political zones of this country to make sure that housing is available and affordable to the people of this country.

At Festac lands are being reclaimed, structures are being touched to reposition then housing scheme, roads that were blocked with houses are being removed and allottees are getting regularised because in this country a lot of irregularities, land grabbers and all that, so they are regularizing all those irregularities. So there is no cause for alarm. The only thing is that it could take time but we will be there very soon.

And I must commend the present board headed by Senator Shuaibu Lawal, and the management, headed by Senator Gbenga Ashafa, they are doing a lot of work. And I believe before the life-wire of this administration expires Nigerians will be happy as far as housing is concerned.

Now there is this much talked about Smart City being built at Kabusu, Shisipe II in Abuja, what is the thinking of FHA when they embarked on this project?

Yes, it is going to be the smartest and most beautiful city in the whole world, where you come and relax, all facilities in life will be there; and FHA is working day and night to see that the city is properly opened up, and before this year runs out it will be opened up, infrastructure will be there, the roads will be there and people will be allowed to start erecting building there. It will be the smartest and most beautiful smart City on earth.

It is obvious the present FHA is working hard to bequeath the nation with affordable housing, but what do you think is the secret, the magic?

Competence, capacity, experience, supervision. Just permit me if time would allow it, let me wow you a little with a list of places, estates, the Chief Executive has visited just recently, many of them unscheduled visits, not guided tour, just to witness things for himself, and at the same time make his on-the-spot assessment, make recommendations, corrections, reprimand erring contractors, all aimed at standardizing the operations of the Authority.

Senator Ashafa has visited the Trans- Amadi Gardens Estate; that was on Wednesday, 18th January, 2023, an unscheduled visit to the estate where he met with officials of the Estate’s Residents Association. Addressing the Association members, the MD told them that he was in the estate to get first-hand information on the situation of things, having received reports from relevant officers. What he saw made him to commend the Association for their maintenance drive of the infrastructure in the estate as well as the adequate security they maintain. In the end the Exco of the estate thanked him. They said “We thank you for having time to visit us without prior information. That was a mark of humility and readiness to work.” Are you following?

Senator Ashafa also inspected the Authority’s site at Rumukrushi. The land which was originally 200 hectares and later reduced to 175 hectares has been seriously encroached on, and he has swung into action to determine the level of encroachment.

In November, 2022, the Honourable Minister of State for Works and Housing, Umar Ibrahim El–Yakubu, in company of the Managing Director and Chief Executive, Ashafa, members of the EMC and other staff of the Authority, embarked on a four-day tour of FHA’S project sites within the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The tour started from the FHA Mass Housing estate Zuba and then took the Honourable Minister to Bwari, Apo/Guzape, Kabusu, FHA proposed head office site at the Central Business District and the Lugbe extension.

The Zuba estate sits on 18 hectares of land and consists of 75 blocks of various house types, with a total of 748 units. It include 16 units of 1-bedroom blocks of flat, 33 blocks of 2-bedroom flats, 16-blocks of 3-bedroom flats and 5 blocks of 3-bedroom Terrace duplexes.

The Honourable Minister learnt that all associated infrastructure in the estate are functional, ranging from the 2.7 kilometers of paved and asphalted internal roads, to the Independent Water Stations and an Injector Power Station dedicated to service the estate. The Project Manager also informed the Honourable Minister that as a form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the Authority constructed the link road to the estate from the Kaduna – Lokoja Expressway.

Of course the Minister in his reaction commended Management under Senator Gbenga Ashafa for its operations and zeal to provide housing for all, not only in the FCT, but across the country. He commended the quality of work in the estate, noting that the estate will go a long way in ameliorating the accommodation problems in the FCT.

The visit also took them to Bwari site where the Authority is currently working on delivering 337 housing units, the Managing Director, Senator Ashafa informed the Minister that FHA management is propelled by the cardinal program of the manifestos of President Muhammadu Buhari towards providing houses for Nigerians both in rural areas and hinterland.

The Bwari housing project is proposed to sit on about 300 hectares of land on completion, to be delivered in phases, out of which the phase 1 covering 54 hectares is on-going. It consists of 337 units of mixed developments of 2-bedroom, 3-bedroom flats and 3-bedroom terrace duplexes.

On 16th November, 2022, they were at FHA Apo/Guzape Estate. The estate is on 100 hectares of land, while on November 22, the Senator Ashafa and the Minister continued the inspection with a visit to Kabusu, Shisipe II in Abuja metropolis; the site for the proposed FHA Smart City project, this project is on 700 hectares of land. The MD noted that the proposed development with its serene and natural endowments, will compete favourably with most notable smart cities in the world.

There is not much time, I would have continued to reel out, I didn’t tell you that on 24th November, 2022 they also visited the proposed permanent head-office complex of the Authority at the Central Business District, Abuja. The site which is 6000sq meters is expected to have a 12 storey building complex, and the project billed to start as soon as both the BPP and ICRC arrangements are concluded.

The FHA Lugbe extension project which is on 190 hectares of land given to the Authority even though it has been reduced to 160 hectares by encroachers.

Ashafa on Wednesday, 14th December 2022, was on a working visit to FHA partnership site. The FHA Ajoda GRA scheme is a partnership project started in 2020, expected to deliver a total of 896 units of various house types.

Senator Ashafa later visited the Authority’s Crystal Estate in Oshogbo GRA, Osun State, where he read the ‘Riot Act’ instructing all the Partners to return to site immediately. He showed serious concern over the counter-activities of illegal sale of land by Land Grabbers that are encroaching into FHA’s parcels of land in various parts of the country. He charged the South West Zonal Team to do all the needful in achieving the set goals of the Authority in the Zone.

So what you are saying is that the Management is doing a tremendous job

You must bear in mind that the Management is actually the implementers and executors of the mission and vision of the Board, therefore we must not forget that the board draws the roadmap which the management of FHA is following. From the Chairman of the Board, Senator Shuaibu Lawal, and other members of the board including yours sincerely, are living no stone unturned to work out implementable plans for the management to carry out.

Senator Shuaibu Lawal and the Chief Executive of the Authority, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, and their groups have indeed translated the housing vision of the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashiola (SAN) into reality.