Housing is a major problem in Nigeria, particularly in big cities like Abuja and Lagos. In Abuja, for instance, there are thousands of empty houses, with no occupants and government appears helpless on how to fix the issue.

That is not all. Although not officially confirmed, it is believed that over 60 per cent of Abuja residents are not home owners. The problem in Abuja is further worsened by unavailability of affordable mortgage schemes for residents.

Chief executive officer of Fesadeb Communications, producers of Housing Programme on AIT and Housing Time on Raypower and promoter of Abuja Housing Show, Mr. Festus Adebayo, is an expert in the real estate sector.

His annual Abuja Housing Show is the biggest in West Africa and one of the biggest in the world.

In a recent interview with FRED ITUA, Adebayo proffered solutions on how to fix the deficit in the housing sector. He also spoke on the forthcoming housing show and countries expected to participate.

Speaking with Abuja Metro on how this year’s edition of his popular housing programme would be different, he said it would be an avenue where solutions would be proffered.

His words: “This year, the Abuja Housing Show will be different. People have always asked us what we have done with the ten previous editions. This year will be unique. This year’s edition is not a talk shop. We will be gathering to look for practical solutions to housing problems, which we could not address during the 2016 edition of the show. There are a number of issues on ground regarding housing in Nigeria but one of the biggest issues is affordability. The houses that are available, Nigerians cannot afford them.

“Check the salary of civil servants. Look at the salary of a director in a government ministry and tell me which of them can afford a house of N30 million. We will be looking at how to address the issue of the National Housing Fund. This scheme will be 24 years old this year since it was established. We want to do an appraisal of what the fund has achieved. It was a fund that was established with the objective of making available funds for Nigerian workers to get homes.

“This means, they are expected to pay just 10 per cent and then spread the rest within a 25-year period. How many Nigerian workers have accessed that fund? Is there anything wrong with the scheme? These are the questions that will be answered during the show. Our main focus is on how to solve the Nigerian housing problem through innovative finance and infrastructure solutions.

“We cannot talk about housing and leave out the issue of infrastructure. People live in Gwagwalada. Coming to the city centre is a challenge. How do we address these infrastructural deficits? Abuja Housing Show will be like a Mecca this year, where people will find answers to housing problems. So many Nigerians travel to America to attend builder shows. Some go to the United Kingdom to attend construction expo. Abuja Housing Show is what we are using to attract investors. This year, there will be over 400 exhibitors. There are over 10 countries participating in this year’s show.

“Some of our brothers and sisters want to own homes in Nigeria. They know that they will return to Nigeria one day. But they are afraid to give their money to their brothers. They do not want them to snap another man’s house and pretend that they are building it for them. How can they get homes here?

“Can we create a mortgage system for them? These are the issues we will be looking at. Governors will be involved. In fact, we are looking at how we can reorientate the attitude of these governors about the importance of housing. There is also the issue of sourcing for finance for housing projects in the capital market. We will look at this too. This is an area that has not been utilised.

“There are shares and dividends lying wasted. We can use these funds. Why can’t the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria, have an intervention funding for housing? You are not a man until you own your house. We have decided to invite an expert from the World Bank on bank guarantees for house financing.”

Adebayo is not leaving out the role of governments at all levels in contributing their quota to the development of the housing sector. He said the federal and state governments, as well as key players in the private sector will chart a new way forward.

He explained that: “We are working with (minister of Housing, Babatunde) Fashola’s ministry to ensure that we provide affordable houses for Nigerians. Through the Abuja Housing Show, we will look at what the Federal Government has been doing in that regard. We will look at how affordable the houses they are building are for Nigerians. We want to advice this government on how to solve the housing deficit. Remember we also have FISH, that is, the Federal Integrated Staff Housing, being anchored by the Head of Service. We will be collaborating with them too on how to solve the housing problem.

“We will specifically address the issue of deficient houses. South Africa, Singapore and other countries in Africa have got their housing scheme right. What is wrong with us? Why can’t we get our own right?”

Although there are several ways to access mortgage in Nigeria, many people appear not to be aware.

By FRED ITUA

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