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 the 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 Secretary 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. We have and are currently developing 6 different estates in Abuja and in Minna, Niger state. I am currently the FCT chapter Secretary of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria.
For how long have you been in real estate business?
I have had the opportunity and privilege of being in the real estate business both as an employee and an employer since 2003, which means that I have been able to acquire sufficient experience for about twenty (20) years now.
What can you say of the appointment of Arc Dangiwa as the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development?
Ach. Dangiwa as a professional and an administrator seems in my opinion, he is an appropriate person for the newly created Housing and Urban development ministry. Coming from the background of housing financing and as the immediate past Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), I believe he understands the issues and challenges bedeviling the housing industry and that he has what it takes to be able to weather the storm especially when it comes to increasing the housing stock in the country and the FCT in particular. I’m particularly glad that he is the new Minister of Housing and Urban Development. Also, since the housing ministry has been detached from that of works, it make it easier and for him to able to focus and gives him a clear understanding of what his briefs are and be able to work consciously to achieve housing goals in the country.
On Wike’s first press briefing as a Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
I took time to listen to Wike’s press briefing, he came out very strong on making the FCT safe, decent and beautiful. I was impressed with his briefing but, people only tried to capture what he said in the area of demolition which for me was a passing remark by him. For me he was specific to the extent that distortion of the Abuja master plan is the handy work of the privileged in the society living Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse and the likes and that ensuring that Abuja is what it was meant to be. Personally, am not in support of any form of demolition exercise, because a lot of fund must have gone into developing such property and that demolition such property is not an option.
If the buildings contravene the land use, such building must be revised to its original use either as residential or commercial. Adjustment and conversion of buildings should be encouraged to avoid loss of property and funds. The problem we have in this country is there are no consequences.
When we begin to apply consequences to our actions, we may begin to see things work differently. Wike has been identified as a construction addict. He actually said something that struck me, which I never thought he would, which is the vandalisation of public properties, removal of roadside drains covers, street lights cabals, rails from bridges. These are painful acts carried out by unscrupulous people. If he aware that all this happens is a pointer to the fact he is conscious of the happenings in the environment. It is not proper that the government continuous to makes effort to build and other persons sabotage same effort. And when you talk about the issue of open grazing, I hope he will have the courage and the political will to stop open grazing. I sincerely wish he meant what he said about stopping open grazing in the city, because it has been a menace to the society. Cows now the right of way anywhere you go in the city.
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 grounds in city. Grazing should be in the bush and not in peoples rooms. 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.
What are the right networks you think he should work with?
As 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, civil servants may not feed him with right information because they are majorly the problem of appointed persons they mislead them. Will they give him the right information? I honestly doubt it 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, on retreat organized by the FCTA to address the challenges of legal issues in land administration in the FCT. About 90% of houses developed in the FCT are done by some members of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) One can only imagine how the FCT would have looked like without the massive contribution of some REDAN members.
It is my considered opinion that he should work with the real estate developers. This idea of allocating mass housing and housing estate lands to individuals and leaving developers out of it, is the result of non access to affordable and decent houses.
This is due to the fact that these lands are acquired by developers at prohibitive prices. He should work with the real estate developers because they are the ones developing the city and increasing the house stock in the Abuja I also think he should take a cue from what Engr. Abba Gana did in 2002, when he decided to allocate lands to private estate developers under the Development Lease Agreement (DLA) ranging from 25 hectares to 400 hectares depending on the capacity of the developer.
This is the genesis of mass housing by the FCTA then MFCT, which resulted in the provision of decent and affordable houses in the FCT and opened up access to mortgage loan to home seekers in Abuja. 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 so. More importantly, the minister should take a look at the provision of infrastructure to phases 3 and 5 of the FCC. About 30 to 40% of the residents in the city centre lives in this areas.
He should take a look at the infrastructure provision, especially in the areas mentioned above and the satellite towns as well as the area councils. Abandonment of infrastructure projects in the FCT is particularly very sad. For instance, the construction of a 3 kilometer Kabusa Gardens road have been on since 2018, that is 7 years and less than 20% of the work has been done for reasons best known to the contractor and government of FCTA. The minister should make efforts to decongest the city centre by providing infrastructure and allocating lands to REDAN members in some of the area councils.