When Ahmed Dangiwa, an architect, took over as Managing Director/Chief Executive of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) a year ago, his main focus was to ensure some of the objectives of the National Housing Fund (NHF) achieved within the shortest possible time. Some of these objectives are: to mobilize funds for the provision of affordable housing in Nigeria; supply loans for building, purchasing and improving residential housing; incentivize capital market investments in property development and provide long-term loans to mortgage institutions for on-lending to contributors to the Fund. And on the anniversary of his one year in office, the House of Representatives gave him a huge present. The house asked the Federal Government to recapitalize the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to the tune of N500bn. It said this was necessary to make the bank more vibrant and responsive to its functions for effective housing delivery in the country. The bank currently has a capital base of N5billion.
This recommendation followed the work of the house committee on housing investigated the non-compliance with the National Housing Fund Act and the inability of the government to deliver housing to the citizenry. The committee, which is chaired by a member of the All Progressives Congress from Katsina State, Mr Ahmed Baba-Kaita, had observed that a major shortcoming was the failure of contributors to the Fund, including the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks and insurance firms, to perform their duties. The committee recommended that such contributors should be compelled to provide funds for the NHF as provided in the Act. The committee also recommended that the FMBN be given necessary government support in areas like guarantee, recapitalization and allocations to empower the bank for maximum productivity.
There are several bills before the National Assembly seeking to reposition the FMBN and the mortgage industry in the country, which have been starved of necessary funding over the years. The house committee on housing organized a public hearing last year to get stakeholders’ input into the bills. The public hearing was well attended largely due to the sensitization and mobilization done by the management of FMBN. During the hearing on a bill for an act to establish the Institute of Mortgage Brokers and lenders of Nigeria (IMBLN) and a bill for an act to repeal the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria Act, Cap F16, 2004, stakeholders in the mortgage industry called for the repeal of the existing Act establishing FMBN to give room for its comprehensive re-establishment and strengthening of its board.
They made strident calls for the recapitalisation of the FMBN from the current N5 billion to at least N1 and the inclusion of the critical stakeholders who are contributing to the National Housing Fund as members of the board. They also sought for the establishment of the regulation of the sector’s activities to instil professionalism. The stakeholders maintained that the establishment of regulatory institute in the mortgage industry will help to instil professionalism, eliminate fraudsters, remove speculators, provide regulatory framework, entrench sanity and decency, and provide training programmes for practitioners in the sector, among others.
On the repeal of existing FMBN Act and the re-enactment of an Act re-establishing and strengthening the management and board of the bank, they stressed that it will embolden the bank to carry out its functions unimpeded. They specifically called for the recapitalisation of the FMBN from the current N5 billion to at least N1 and the inclusion of the critical stakeholders who are contributing to the National Housing Fund as members of the board.
These have also been the position of Dangiwa when it comes to taking the mortgage sector to the next level. He was in the vanguard of those calling for the establishment of Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders of Nigeria to provide standards and professionalize the estate business. Apart from supporting the repeal of the FMBN Act, he also proposed that the share capital of the bank should be increased to N500 billion to improve its liquidity. Lack of liquidity had prevented the bank from performing its role as the apex mortgage bank in the country. Contributors to the NHF have complained of inability to access housing loans, and this is because deductions from the fund are not remitted as and when due by the relevant institutions. But since coming on board, the Dangiwa led management had made several initiatives to grow the customer base of the bank to improve its liquidity. The objective is to expand its coverage to capture the potential 50 million-market sizes and contribute significantly to the target of creating one million new mortgages on an annual basis, while maintaining the single-digit interest rate. It is also targeting the market below the lower medium income bracket; increase mortgage sector contribution to national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), meet the changing mortgage landscape and remain relevant in the face of other mortgage financing developments in the Nigerian Housing Sector.
It is the hope of the current management of the bank that FMBN would become wholly owned by the Federal Government instead of the current arrangement which makes the CBN and the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund shareholders of the bank. It is inexplicable how regulators in an industry could also be owners of an institution they’re supposed to regulate .When the National Assembly eventually passes the Bill re-establishing FMBN, it will not only enhance its liquidity, but will remove unnecessary interventions from the Ministry of Finance and eliminate incident of having another agency carrying out the function of the FMBN or managing the National Housing Fund. This will no doubt eliminate the administrative bottlenecks that have hindered the efficiency of the fund.
It is a credit to the professionalism and commitment of the management of FMBN that it is able to rally stakeholders towards finding common solutions to the myriad of problems confronting the housing sector. It is almost unbelievable that stakeholders such the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade
Union Congress, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Council of Registered Builders, Nigeria Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Federal Government Staff Housing Board, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, among others, would spearhead a common cause to salvage the housing sector.
Johnson-Idemeto wrote in from Abuja