The housing sector is paramount for a country as big and diverse as Nigeria. Could you comment on Housing in the light of the Transformation Agenda?
Housing is one of the fundamental needs of man. When we came on board in 2010, the President gave us a clear directive, to try and cover the 17 million housing deficit. We is very passionate about this subject.
The FMBN is supposed to drive the housing sector. We looked at the entire country and we realized we had to do our own internal transformation first. We started by computerizing our operational process. In each of the 36 states of the Federation the type of service we provide is dual: we provide construction finance and the mortgage link. Since the start of this term, we have built 56,000 houses and provided 21,000 mortgages. This commissioning is going on. We are also moving into cooperative schemes and attract the diaspora for financing here in the country.
There is a lot to be made. The money required to close the gap for the 17 million units is not available. The Government alone cannot do it, at an average of 3.5m naira a house, you will need 56 trillion naira. The country0s budget is 4.6 trillion, hence it would require almost 12 years of full allocation.
We discussed this with the MD of the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company and the need to structure new foreclosure and mortgage laws. Could you provide us your opinion on affordable housing?
Affordability is a function of income. Nigeria is a low per capita income country. We are trying to build houses among the affordability context. Most of the people don’t have the financial capacity because of the high cost of cement and transport. We successfully managed to negotiate with Dangote and other companies to provide cement at lower prices for a social function.
The local funding is not sufficient, the interest rates at 21-22% are not affordable. Currently we are the only institution that gives mortgages at 6%. We are now attracting FDI. We had recent negotiations with a company in Ohio, USA. We have spoken to the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. They opened a line of credit worth 4bn dollars to commence construction across the country. We are working on this as we speak. These are the efforts we are doing across the globe, to attract firms that will deliver the house.
You mentioned the Chinese. They have been active in Africa for a long time and provide high speed solutions in terms of construction, a clear example is their work in Angola.
Our difference with Angola is population. We have 50 times more demand. I have visited Angola and seen their advances and we plan to replicate this here.
17 million homes mean 68 million people under a roof. This represent 30-40% of Nigerian population. Bearing in mind the programs being enacted by the CBN to integrate people in the banking sector, how do you see the next four years for the housing sector?
FMBN’s target for the next 4 years is to focus on the construction side. We need to make houses available for mortgages to be created. The deficit is not an effective demand, it continues to grow. We must make sure that construction beings so NMRC can go to the market and raise capital. In the next 10 or 15 years the population will continue growing and we will have challenges. It is expected that by 20-25 years Nigeria will grow to 400 million people. The Housing emergency will be there and we are discussing extensively with the CBN Governor to focus all the attention on housing, which drives the economy and can create jobs.
You mentioned to key points: cement and power. In your view what do you think is the most attractive selling point for the housing market to international investors?
Our best selling point is what we are doing. We have a project called “The Goodluck Jonathan Legacy Estate”. It’s being built by an International consortium. They are delivering 1000 units for us. It’s the first of its kind in Africa. The settlement will generate its own power using waste. Located in Abuja, we are seeing something innovative which we want to replicate in other parts of the country. It gives the international investors’ confidence that all can be delivered. The payment arrangement is with the CBN to increase assurances.
How do you feel to be at the helm of FMBN?
I feel happy. Results are coming about. We are increasing our acceptance ratios. At the same time it makes me sad when I travel to developed countries and see what is happening, when I come back I see the gap is still too big.
How confident are you at your work?
We are very confident. The Chinese took me to Angola, and to 9 different sites in China. If you see the speed with which they build you will be impressed. This is very important. When I speak with my Minister I talk to her with confidence in terms of housing delivery. My travels around the world show me it’s possible. We can do this in a very short period of time. Housing can create jobs and contribute to peace and stability.