Barrister Festus Adebayo is the Chief Executive Officer of FESADEB Communications, organiser of Abuja Housing Show. In this interview, he chronicles how the annual housing show emerged and germane issues in the housing sector.
How did you start Abuja Housing Show?
I started my career as a banker and I was in Lagos. Due to some challenges I had in the area of housing, I was able to switch into housing instead of practicing as a lawyer. I got to know very early that there is an effect of good housing on the productivity of workers. A man who sleeps very well will surely perform optimally; otherwise, he will be sleeping at work. If he is sleeping, there is no way he can deliver his service. There is also the effect of housing on the health of people. If you sleep very well without being bothered by mosquitoes, you can be very sure that the hospital will be the last call. So, I chose a crusade for better housing then in Lagos called “Housing Development” in NTA7 Lagos. We then moved to Abuja NTA, and to God be the glory, 14 years after, the programme is still on air. We have been consistent and getting good feedbacks. Apart from talking on radio and television, we engage stakeholders individually and that is why we have the “Abuja Housing Show.”
You said you engage the stakeholders, how do you influence them in taking proactive decision in tackling the country’s housing deficit?
The issue of land title and access to land are big issues. I wonder how a free gift from God has become something that’s very hard to get. The government has refused to let go of lands and as such made the process so cumbersome. Also, as I’m speaking to you, there’s no clear cut policy on housing and how can you be talking of affordable housing when there is no single bank apart from Federal Mortgage Bank (FMBN) that’s giving loans at single digit interest rate. Most are in double digits. Let’s go to Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa and learn from their experience on how they tackled housing deficits. Issue of housing finance has to be properly addressed. Housing finance is the number one problem on housing. We have several institutions that have not helped in financing housing even when that was their purpose. So, the government must sit up and make all these agencies like Federal Mortgage Bank, Family Homes Fund, NMRC and the likes to work together towards the common goal of providing affordable housing at all cost and most importantly make funding available on single digit interest rate. They should ensure that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) gets involved in a form of intervention like they did in the agricultural sector, otherwise, that means we are not yet serious about solving our housing problem.
What is the focus of this year’s edition of Abuja Housing Show scheduled for July?
This year’s Abuja Housing Show has as theme “Solving Nigeria’s housing challenge through innovative funding and infrastructure solution.” But under this theme, we shall be looking at the appraisal of the National Housing Fund and that’s a quarter of a century’s appraisal of the Fund. We will look at the extent to which the NHF has benefitted the workers it claims to have been set-up to benefit. We shall be looking at perspectives of labour, professionals and general public. We shall also be looking at whether we need any law to assist the NHF in performing their operations. We will look also at the new management at FMBN and how to assist them in reaching their set goals. We will also look at several housing schemes in different ministries and agencies like FISH- which is a laudable idea, they have started well and we will look at how we can assist them in doing better. We will be spending a whole session on that. We are also going to look at ways of getting funding from CBN and capital market and also bonds. Experts from the capital market will be storming the event to brainstorm on the way forward on the issue of asset collapse and what have you. Banks also ask for titles and we will love to look into that.
Last year’s edition of Abuja Housing Show attracted top shots in government and private sector, would that be replicated this year?
Let me say that the Abuja Housing forum is the largest housing event in Abuja and everybody who loves housing wants to identify with the brand and as such we are always guaranteed the presence of men of caliber at the event. Having established a good brand that has integrity and objectivity, we can assure you that we will be having more and more people this year. The Speaker of House of Representatives (Yakubu Dogara) will be at the forum, and we also have the assurance of five ministers who will be there. Some of them are from the housing sector in their background and in different disciplines and we will be bringing all of them. Former governor of Cross River, Donald Duke, former Governor of Akwa Ibom Obong Victor Attah will be there too. Head of Service will be there too and we will ensure a melting of ideas from different people and professionals.
Have you been able to ensure that the deliberations of the previous editions are implemented by those at the corridors of power?
Abuja Housing Show, I must make it clear is not a talk show. It is a practical ground where we don’t deride. We are bringing people who have done it somewhere and people who are doing it here together coupled with governors and policy makers that will implement them face to face. AHS is the platform for dialogue and policy research. For you to know how important this show is, the Nigerian Economic Group is supporting the show, having seen the importance of the deliberations to the economy over the years. Any of our discussions at the show always come out with a communiqué and a follow up team that sees to the implementation of the resolutions with every necessary organ of government. We have done very well.