A lot was been made of the ministerial appointments by the Nigerian President, Ahmeɗ Tinubu. However, the appointments that caught the attention of many, especially in the housing sector, was that of the Housing and Urban Development Ministry, and the Ministry of FCT, headed by Arc. Ahmed Dangiwa and Nyesom Wike respectively. Dr. Okoruwa Anthony Ehikioya, the Vice Chairman of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), FCT chapter, gave his understanding of these ministerial appointments. Excerpts:
Can we have a brief introduction of you?
My name is Okoruwa Anthony Ehikioya. I’m the Managing Director of Planet Next Intermedium Limited, the owners of New Planet Homes, Excellent Courts. We actually have six estates in Abuja and one in Minna currently.
For how long have you been in real estate business?
I want to believe that I have gone round the entire route of real estate from 2002 or 2003, I had been in real estate as an employee and employer. So, I’ve been in the real estate sector for about 20 years now. I’m currently the Secretary, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) and the Chairman, Disciplinary Committee of the association .
What can you say of the appointment of Arc Dangiwa as the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development?
Dangiwa is an architect and for me, he’s an appropriate person for the housing industry, I’m particularly concerned about the sector.
He is someone who’s actually an architect and coming from the background on financing housing as the immediate past Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, I want to believe that he understands the issues and challenges bedevilling the housing industry and has what it takes to be able to weather the storm especially when it comes to bridging the housing deficit in the country.
I’m particularly happy that he is the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development Also, since the housing ministry has been detached from that of works, it makes the work more easier and able to focus and gives him a clear understanding of what his briefs are be able to work consciously to achieve housing goals in the country.
On Wike’s first press briefing as a Minister of Housing and Urban Development.
I took time to listen to Wike’s press briefing, he came out very strong. I’m not against anybody coming out very strong. That’s the kind of person he is, nobody can change that. I was impressed with his briefing but, people only trying to capture what he said in the area of demolition which for me was a passing remark by him. He was a bit specific on the kind of demolition or sanitisation, let me not use the word demolition, the kind of sanitation he wants to put in place because, he specifically mentioned some places like some unoccupied houses in Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse and other areas.
For me, it’s not about demolition, I really do not agree with demolition as it were because a lot of money has been spent on them. If the buildings are not properly placed, that tells you that same building can be converted to what it’s meant to be or adjustments could be made to accommodate the building. And if it’s a building that’s mistaken from the person who built it, I have no problem with that.
The problem we have in this country is there are no consequences. When we begin to apply consequences to our actions, we will have a better place to live in. Wike has been identified as a construction master. He actually mentioned something yesterday that struck me, which I never thought he would, which is the vandalisation of public properties, removal of roadside covers, street lights, removal of rails from bridges. These are painful acts carried out by people. If he knows that all these happen and he take care of that, I must tell you I will be his biggest fan. We cannot continue to build and other persons destroy.
And when you talk about the issue of open grazing, but I observed from his countenance that he may be doubting his capacity. He was doubting his capacity, despite saying he does not fear anybody. I think he has some level of reservation when saying that. As a sociologist by training, I understand when people do not mean what they say.
Even if he meant it, it seems he’s not too sure how to go about it. I will encourage him to take the bull by the horn because it’s an eyesore. Driving round Abuja and waiting for cows to pass is not what it’s supposed to be. Like he said, there are no grazing ground in town, they are outside the city. You can’t get farms in the sitting room. So, let them all go to the bushes. He should be courageous enough to deal with that and take care of the situation. I’m sure a lot of persons will applaud him for that.
The right network of professionals to work with
We are real estate developers, we need to change the narrative and adhere to the perspective of how things are done. I’m sorry to say this, listening to civil servants, they will mislead him. Will they give him the right information? He should work with professional bodies like the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Town Planners and other bodies. He must have the political will and should be sincere about it.
I came across a paper presentation I made in 2019, a retreat organized by the FCTA to address challenges of real estate development in the FCT. Majority of the buildings in the FCT are built by real estate developers. If the real estate developers were not there, I can imagine how the FCT would have looked like. So, he should work with the real estate developers. This idea of allocating lands to individuals and leaving developers out of it and the developers going to buy these lands from individuals should be discouraged. They should work with the real estate developers because they are the ones developing these houses.
I think he should take a cue from what Abba Gana did in 2002 and I can assure you if he does that.
We hope that everything will work out accordingly and I also think REDAN especially in the FCT should stand up to the challenges and interface with the Minister, give him a direction because they have the capacity to do such. More importantly, in phase 03, 04 and 05 of Abuja – phase 04 is reasonably developed in terms of infrastructure. 01 and 02 is well taken care of. I think where we have a problem in terms of deficit is phases 03 and 05 and this is where we have over sixty percent of people living in the city centre.
He should go back and look at the infrastructure provision, that will help him a lot. Talking about the area councils, do something about it, tinker with the master plan. That will decongest the city centre. I know it will involve a lot of finance but, partnering with real estate developers and coming up with beautiful suggestions from our end, I’m sure we will be able to weather the storm. That’s the only way for developers, residents and the government.