Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Yemi Adelakun is the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NISH Affordable Housing Limited. Apart from being the Executive Chairman, Nigeria Integrated Social Housing Co-operative Society Limited and Managing Consultant, Skytech Institute Limited, he is also the President, Housing Finance and Investment Network and Convener of the Nigeria Housing Finance Conference on Affordable Housing.
A Chartered Manager and fellow of Chartered Management Institute, Adelakun joined the civil service in 1983 and retired as a Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
“When I retired, because of my experience in the Federal Integrated Staff Housing Programme (FISH), I decided to do a similar programme for non- civil servants and retired civil servants or people in the private sector. That was how we started NISH.
In three years, it has become an international organisation. We are being invited to Canada. We are being invited to Kenya to not only learn what they are doing, but to tell them our own perspective of Nigerian housing programme. So far, so good. It has been wonderful” he said.
The erstwhile Permanent Secretary told Daily Sun that his passion is to ensure that every Nigerian has a comfortable house to live in, adding that any house without water, light and good sanitary condition is not a house but a squalor and most Nigerians are living in squalid accommodations.
For him, the controversy surrounding the 17 million or 22 million housing deficit is not very important. What is important is that there is a huge housing deficit in Nigeria which must be tackled.
He made other allusions which are germane to the industry.
What prompted your going into housing development?
When you talk about poverty, it can be traced to housing. When you talk about health condition, poor living condition, it can be traced to housing. When you talk about unemployment it can be traced to housing. When you talk about economic development, it can be traced to housing.
When other countries want to achieve great things in these areas they concentrate on housing. When you solve the housing problem, people will live with less incidence of diseases; people’s wellbeing will improve and poverty will reduce and insecurity will reduce.
Those are the motivations that made me say, ok let’s see what we can do to impact the society. It is not that I am looking for house any more but I have children who are still growing up. They need houses. I have children of my colleagues who are looking for houses and they cannot get them. Even when my daughter got married, she was looking for a two-bedroom house to rent. It was not available. Unless we make concerted effort to complement government’s position, it will be very difficult to achieve affordable housing.
Three years ago, they were saying 17 million housing deficit, but today they are saying 20 million, may be 22 million.
Federal Government still contests the figure as illogical and lacking empirical evidence.
The figure is not actually the issue. Is it one million? How can we deliver one million? Is it 5 million? How can we deliver 5 million? If we don’t have data, that does not remove the fact that there is a problem. Even in the city if you see the kind of houses people are living in, you will know that that is not housing. Even in Apo, or in Wuye. Those are not houses.
What kind of houses do you consider good for habitation?
I am talking about decent liveable housing with amenities and utilities. If you don’t have water or light, you don’t talk about housing. If you don’t have good sanitation, it is not good housing. People still go on the streets in Abuja to defecate. Is that housing? Nobody should hide behind data to deny the fact that there is housing problem. The United Nations came here and concluded that there is housing crisis. They are no more talking of deficit. They are talking of housing crisis. So, forget about data. It is easy to come out with data if we are very serious about it. Just publish in the newspaper that you are giving people one, one- bedroom accommodation, you will see how many people that will apply. If somebody says that unemployment in Nigeria is so so million, will you say that it is not true because there is no empirical evidence? Just make an advertisement that you want to employ 1,000 people in the civil service, you will see the number of people that will apply. Will that not be a basis for your decision? So, if you want to know how many people that are in need of houses, let somebody say if you need houses within this period in so, so area apply. You will see how many people that will apply.
Government’s plan to let out empty houses in Nigeria
I heard that. I am not going to contradict the Minister. In fact, somebody has suggested that there should be a kind of taxation on empty houses. In some other countries if you leave a property and you are not utilising it, you will be subjected to tax. I think the same thing is what the government is trying to do. You lock up houses for years. If the government wants to do it for unoccupied houses let it also do it for undeveloped lands. There are potions of land allocated to some people still undeveloped several years after allocation. Tax it or recover it. If you don’t use it there is always a law that if you don’t develop your land within a certain period of time, or you forfeit it.
There are people that have been allocated land for mass land housing for 10 years and they have not even lifted a finger to develop it. Why is government not thinking of taking them over?
I am happy that the Minister is actually latching on to this co-operative idea. We started talking of co-operative housing three years ago. And that is what other countries have utilised to develop housing. So, it is a step in the right direction for the Minister to look at co-operative housing. But you will be surprised most co-operatives in Nigeria are for thrift and other multipurpose things. We need to create co-operative data strictly for housing. When you do strict co-operative housing, it is not the money you contribute today that you take tomorrow. It is a long- time contribution towards your housing.
How much interest do you subscribe for housing loan?
It must be single digit. Single digit must be below 10 per cent. Anything above it is not for housing.
What about the moratorium?
It must be long term. Somebody said that mortgage should be a minimum of 10 years.
In other countries they do 30 years, 20 years, 25 years.
What is your take on dubious estate developers?
We have not regulated that aspect of housing. There is no reason why anybody should go and pay money to a developer without guarantee, no bond, no security. So, that developer can go away with that money and nobody will ask him. Nobody can stop him. So, this is why we are talking about guarantees. If you are part of the savings scheme, we are advocating there is no need to give your money to a developer. Let the developer come to the system and collect housing voucher. It is housing voucher that you give to the developer and not money.
Experts advocate land registration, how do you want this to be administered?
If you listened to the Surveyor General of the Federation, they have to do cadastral mapping and creation of land registry and do it in a way that will not take time and will not be too costly. And that is why you actually make housing very dynamic. You can even use your title to raise money. If you don’t have title you can’t raise money. So, you have money locked up in land all over the country without the land being registered and titled.
Will title reduce the cost of building?
It will reduce the cost of building. It will create more access to people to get funding from outside. And possibly it will also be an asset to the owner of the land.
Stakeholders advocate that government should focus on policies and not on building houses. What is your take?
I subscribe to the position of funding. The government should intervene in terms of funding —-providing funding for the people. It could be Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN); it could be direct intervention fund. It could be done even from other banks. Once you give money to the off-takers, you will see developers that will come and try to build to attract that money.
Investing looted funds into housing. How will this affect housing cost?
That is a policy matter which I won’t want to comment on.